06 NOV 2014
Learning from Typhoon Haiyan:Asian governments failing to respond to climate change – Oxfam
Learning from Typhoon Haiyan:
Asian governments failing to respond to climate change – Oxfam
A year after super-typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, a new report issued today by the international humanitarian and development agency Oxfam, ‘Can’t Afford to Wait’ reveals that Asian governments are not prioritising disaster risk reduction initiatives, despite projections that the region will suffer more from climate change in the future. Many countries in Asia, including Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines, should invest more in their governments’ capacity to protect their citizens given the region's vulnerability to climate change.
Asia is the most disaster-prone region of the world, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). In 2013, 78 per cent of people killed by disasters lived in Asia even though only 43 per cent of global disasters occurred here.Over the past 20 years, Asia has borne almost half the estimated global economic cost of all disasters, amounting to almost US$53 billion annually. Direct losses from disasters in the region significantly outpaced growth in GDP. Harvest losses alone related to flooding in Southeast Asia have an estimated annual value of US$1 billion.
If no action is taken, four countries—Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam—could suffer a loss equivalent to 6.7 per cent of GDP annually by 2100, more than double the global average loss, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). This is an abrupt reversal for many economies across Asia, which has seen an average GDP rate of 6 per cent increases every year since 2012.
If not adequately addressed, climate change could set back the region’s development and poverty eradication efforts. Oxfam analysed the Disaster Risk Reduction – Climate Change Adaptation (DRR-CCA) policies in all ten Member States of the ASEAN region and four Member States from the SAARC region and found, however, that many Asian governments are underinvesting in agricultural plans to improve their people’s resilience to climate change.
The report finds that most governments in Asia have established policies around disaster and climate change preparedness, but these plans have been implemented with varying success. Disaster risk reduction programmes often demand significant coordination between national ministries and local governments. Oxfam’s assessment finds that the latter are often unable to give local communities the tools to prepare, react and recover from disasters. The governments of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines have all had difficulty managing this coordination. The scale of the human cost of disasters in Asia is outstripping all attempts to even cope, let alone overcome, the threat that climate change represents.
‘When governments fail to implement climate policies well, the cards are stacked against poor people. In Asia, it is small food producers who often live in harm’s way, and who have no savings or assets to tide them over after a disaster, who will lose in the fight against climate change’, stated Mayling Chan, International Programme Director of Oxfam Hong Kong.
In its review of recovery one year after typhoon Haiyan, Oxfam found that while the Philippine government has shown leadership in the transition from humanitarian response, the impact of recovery might be dampened if the capacity of local authorities are not further resourced. Disaster risk reduction measures, such as updated land use plans and fully staffed DRR offices, are not always functional at local levels. The government’s US$3.9 billion Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) presents the opportunity to include a meaningful plan for capacity building at local levels, boosting the skills of dedicated DRR staff and ensuring all municipalities, including poorer ones, have the resources they need to effectively implement recovery and disaster management plans.
One year since typhoon Haiyan struck, despite the significant levels of humanitarian assistance delivered to the Philippines, families continue to struggle to find the resources to resume their livelihoods, with risks of deepening poverty in an already-poor region. Over one million coconut farming households and 200,000 fishing households have been affected, sectors characterised by already-subsistence level incomes.
Oxfam has worked across 32 municipalities since last November, investing US$42 million (of a US$65 million three-year plan) to help over 868,960 people with clean water supplies, community latrines, water pumps, cash vouchers for food and home repairs, fishing boat replacement and repairs, clearing coconut tree debris, and setting up sawmills to convert the debris into lumber for shelters.
If the population’s vulnerability that Haiyan rendered so starkly visible is not addressed, typhoon-affected communities will remain in harm’s way - exposed to future disasters and deeper poverty.
Asia is home to two-thirds of the world’s food-insecure population, who, ironically, are mostly small-scale food producers – farmers and fisherfolk. Sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion and flooding are now a constant threat for farmers along thousands of miles of coastline, potentially affecting some 3.5 to 5 million people in Asia. Adverse effects on food production are rapidly changing what food is available and whether government safety nets are inadequate.
Regional cooperation across Asia is crucial to deal with climate change as countries are often simultaneously affected. Oxfam’s analysis finds that regional institutions such as SAARC and ASEAN should do more to boost financing for national climate adaptation. Countries in this region also need to seize the opportunity to negotiate collectively to secure the financial support they desperately need, from rich countries, at the upcoming UNFCCC international climate meeting in Lima, Peru in December.
Oxfam considers that rich countries need to support Asia’s developing countries to enable them to protect their citizens against climate disasters. Every country should remember the devastation of Haiyan and learn a lesson, and to pledge to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Oxfam urges rich countries to commit US$15 billion by the Peru meeting, with a 50-50 per cent balance between climate change adaptation and mitigation.
In the face of predictions of more extreme weather, Asian governments and international donor governments are responsible to protect citizens by following through on their pledges and scaling up current programmes that help ensure resilience to climate-related risks.
- Ends -
Oxfam briefing notes:
Oxfam is a worldwide development organisation that mobilises the power of people against poverty.
For media enquiries, please contact：
Sarah Chu (Senior Communications Officer)
Telephone: + 852 3120 5280 / + 852 9276 0064