Experts push for collective climate action as Asia-Pacific leaders meet

Biena Magbitang, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 22 2022 03:11 AM | Updated as of Sep 22 2022 03:54 AM

BRISBANE, Australia - As strong quakes, heavy rains, and devastating floods hit the Asia-Pacific, a United Nations disaster management official has called for strong political commitment from the leaders of the world’s most risk-prone region. 

“We need to commit to enhancing our ambitions because that is the only way that by 2030 we can reach a world where nobody is threatened by disasters, and this is what we need to aspire for,” said Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, during a press conference at this year’s Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR).

The impact of calamities on vulnerable groups clouded the summit as more than 3,000 delegates from various governments, private sector, and civil society groups tackle how to mitigate disasters in the region.

“Risk is everybody's business, we need a whole-of-society approach to disaster risk reduction … we respond to disasters because we have to, but what we can do better is to prevent hazards, turning into disasters, tackling the hazards in terms of climate by reducing our emission and adapting better, but also reducing vulnerability,” Mizutori added.

Philippine Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, a climate advocate and disaster resilience expert, led the country’s delegation to the conference. She is joined by National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Usec. Raymundo Ferrer, former NDRRMC Chief Alexander Pama, who now represents the private sector, and other civil society organizations.

“This is very critical for us because we know that climate change adaptation (CCA), disaster risk reduction (DRR), and climate change mitigation, for that matter, are all part of a multi-stakeholder endeavor. The government cannot do this alone, it’s whole-of-society not just whole-of-government,” Yulo-Loyzaga explained.

According to Mizutori, the United Nations is also working toward system-wide interoperability to better connect disaster risk reduction and climate action.

“Ninety percent of all major disasters that have happened in the last decade are related in one way or another to (the) climate emergency. So if we cannot tackle the climate agenda together with the disaster risk reduction agenda, we cannot have a resilient future,” she said.

Last year, UNDRR and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) launched the Centre of Excellence for Disaster and Climate resilience, an information hub aligning efforts in CCA and DRR. 

Dr. Johan Stander, director of the WMO services department, said the Centre of Excellence aims to pool resources and ensure UN agencies work towards one common goal.

“It is no more just different aspects. If you talk about climate, you talk about disasters - it’s the same thing… So when we're talking about disaster preparedness, and risk mitigation, and risk maps, we've got to say, we've got to do all of those things because of the changing climate,”

The WMO is set to release its State of Climate reports in November at COP27 in Egypt.