The world after 2015 – ecosystem management integral to climate-resilient development

27 June 2014 | Article

Human and financial losses caused by climate-related disasters have risen significantly over the past few years. The year 2011 saw the highest economic losses due to disasters in history, at USD 370 billion. These losses are expected to increase as climate change impacts intensify and development patterns expose more industrial and private property.

Healthy and well-managed ecosystems such as forests, river basins, mangroves and coral reefs can play a significant role in reducing the risk of disasters by protecting people from coastal storms, landslides, flooding and other hazards. Around the world environmental degradation is increasing people’s vulnerability to natural hazards but this is often not considered by the people designing risk reduction strategies.

This was the focus of a recent workshop held in Bogor, Indonesia. IUCN experts joined more than 70 researchers, policy makers and practitioners to explore how ecosystem management can link efforts to reduce the risk of disasters, adapt to climate change and guide development policy in the 21st century.

The workshop comes at a time when many governments are seeking approaches that allow longer-term ‘resilient planning’ and when the concepts of risk and resilience are being discussed in three major global policy agendas currently under negotiation: the post-2015 global framework on disaster risk reduction, the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, and the post-2015 global climate change agreement. Outputs from the workshop are expected help guide these agendas.

Indonesia is one of the countries most vulnerable to hazards. It is situated in one of the most active disaster hotspots where earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, landslides, droughts and forest fires frequently occur, putting 40% of the population (more than 90 million people) at high risk.

In Indonesia, coral reefs provide important coastal protection as they decrease wave energy by an average of 97%. Indonesia has the highest population in the world that might benefit from the ‘risk reduction services’ provided by coral reefs, with 41 million people living below 10m and within 50km of a reef.

“Strategies for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation cannot develop in silos, but need to inform each other. Ecosystem-based approaches that provide multiple social, economic and environmental benefits are one way to integrate the disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation spheres,” said Karen Sudmeier-Rieux, a member of IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management.

The event was organized by the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR), of which IUCN is a member, the Centre for Natural Resources and Development (CNRD), the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia (UNORCID).

A policy brief will be published following the workshop that summarises the main conclusions and emerging issues and recommendations.