LAUTOKA, FIJI July 28, 2016 – A new World Bank report has highlighted the need for Pacific Island countries to better incorporate climate and disaster risk management into planning and development, while proposing priority investments and policies to boost resilience to the year 2040.
Launched in Fiji today at the Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation in the Pacific Region, Pacific Possible: Climate and Disaster Resilience considers the economic costs of climate adaptation, and proposes adaptation strategies for areas including infrastructure and buildings, coastal protection, water resources, flooding and agriculture, with special consideration given to the unique challenges of atoll islands.
“Climate change and extreme weather events have the potential to adversely affect coastal zones, water resources, health, infrastructure, agriculture and food security,” said Denis Jordy, Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank. “And if new investments are not properly planned, they risk exacerbating the impacts of natural hazards and climate change by increasing the vulnerability and exposure of those at risk.”
“This new report quantifies the potential costs of climate adaptation for Pacific Island countries, and targets ways in which decision-makers can effectively manage vulnerability and build resilience to reduce losses, protect livelihoods and save lives,” Mr Jordy said.
The Pacific Islands are extremely exposed to natural hazards and climate change impacts, facing threats including cyclones, floods, droughts and rising sea levels. Since 1950, natural disasters have affected approximately 9.2 million people in the Pacific Islands region, causing approximately 10,000 reported deaths, and resulting in approximately US$5 billion in associated damage costs.
The Pacific Possible: Climate change and Disaster Resilience report highlights the costs of making Pacific coastlines more resilient to climate change, which vary between one and thirteen percent of GDP across all Pacific Island countries, with higher costs in atoll island states such as Kiribati and Marshall Islands. The report suggests that to manage uncertainties around future climate change and shoreline behavior, flexibility should be incorporated in the design of coastal protection works by including a range of options such as coast protection structures, land use planning and the planting of mangroves.
The report provides evidence for policymakers considering incorporating climate adaptation activities into infrastructure development, demonstrating that taking steps now to ensure that buildings and construction activities can better withstand climate change-related events will reduce impacts in future years. For example, the report states that retrofitting buildings to withstand future cyclones can decrease expected losses by between 35 and 50 percent, and suggests a targeted approach to retrofitting to minimize costs.
It says the costs of adapting infrastructure to withstand climate change impacts would be an increase on ‘business as usual’ expenditure averaging between two and 20 percent across the Pacific Islands by 2040. However, these increased costs could be mitigated through reduced economic losses from climate change impacts.
“A single disaster can undo many years of economic development,” said Michael Petterson, Director of the Pacific Community Geosciences Division. “That this report incorporates risk and environmental hazard impacts as a core element in all development decision-making, allows us the chance to reexamine approaches to development.”
The new report is part of the Pacific Possible series looking at potentially transformative opportunities for Pacific Island countries that warrant further research, understanding and policy action. The series aims to inform government and stakeholder decisions on planning and long-term decision-making.