UN outlines disaster risk responses ahead of 2015 deal

Successful disaster risk reduction negotiations could provide a strategy for climate adaptation outside of Paris deal

Destruction left in Tacloban, the Philippines, following Typhoon Haiyan (Pic: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development)

Destruction left in Tacloban, the Philippines, following Typhoon Haiyan (Pic: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development)

By Sophie Yeo

The UN has released an initial draft of a proposed disaster risk reduction treaty.

Set to be signed off in 2015, the same year that the UN could agree a new climate change package and set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the voluntary disaster risk reduction framework will be key in designing future responses to climate impacts.

The so-called “pre-zero” draft published by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) will undergo numerous incarnations before it is signed in March 2015 in Sendai, Japan, with an intensive schedule of consultations taking place between now and then to prepare the final document.

Currently it remains unclear how the disasters risk reduction framework will complement the UN’s climate and SDG agendas.

The preamble says that they should be “mutually reinforcing and pragmatic”, but the main body of the document makes no specific demands about how this should be done.

This could change as governments become more specific in their demands, says Jerry Velasquez, UNISDR’s head of Advocacy and Outreach.

“At the moment, everybody is treading gently because the cards are not yet out … There is no specific or direct language yet but it may come and I think we have to be ready for that evolution of the document. But ultimately it depends on what the governments will agree on,” he told RTCC.

He added that it was important that attempts to create three complementary agendas did not slow down or derail each individual process, but that an agreement to work to common indicators could create a more cohesive climate and development strategy for the future.

Climate deal

The disaster risk reduction framework is being negotiated as a replacement for the Hyogo Framework for Action, which runs from 2005-2015.

Unlike the UN’s conflict-ridden climate deal, the framework for disaster risk reduction is expected to pass without much difficulty, largely due to its voluntary and regional nature.

This means the UN is likely to have a strategy in place to deal with the worst disasters caused by climate change, regardless of whether governments are able to sign an effective climate deal in Paris, 2015.

A successful deal on disasters could also help ease the fractious process of agreeing the 2015 climate deal, said Velasquez, as it highlights the need to hold everyone in society responsible for problems associated with climate change.

Currently, the various players in the climate game are debating who should take the brunt of emissions cuts, and who ought to foot the bill.

“Usually most UN documents only discuss the responsibilities of the state. This one discusses engaging everybody else, including especially the private sector, which I think is kind of unique,” he said.

“If in this framework, the private sector or local governments or civil society voluntarily commit to actions and hold themselves accountable to it then I think it’s a message that could be taken on board by the other two agendas.”

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