by Prime Sarmiento
MANILA, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Developing Asian countries need to invest in disaster risk management as climate change is threatening sustained growth and poverty reduction.
This is especially crucial as typhoon Haiyan, locally named " Yolanda," has shown the devastation wrought by an extreme weather event caused by climate change. Haiyan killed over 5,000 people and damaged more than 30 billion pesos (685.40 million U.S. dollars) worth of crops and property in central Philippines. The country's economic managers also capped its growth target for the Philippines, hailed as one of the fastest rising emerging economies, to 7 percent this year in light of the damages caused by Haiyan.
Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization said while Haiyan's severity can't be definitively linked to climate change, the extensive damage caused by the storm surge resulted from climate related sea-level rise.
"Economic losses are already increasing because not enough attention is being paid to disaster risk (management). In fact, additional risk is being created on a daily basis," said Charlotte Benson, senior disaster risk management specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Benson said the problem with investing on climate change is that policy makers tend to invest on projects that will bring immediate relief, instead of planning for the long term.
"A lot of it comes down to money. If you have a choice between spending on something that reaps immediate benefits -- say, a new health clinic -- or something that may not reap benefits for many years -- such as building a sea wall -- then people often opt for the first one," she said.
Benson said there's a need to educate all stakeholders -- policy makers, the private sector, affected communities -- that investing in disaster risk reduction is important and will save lives -- and money -- in the long run.
Haiyan's devastation may in fact be the wake up call that the policy makers in Asia need to integrate climate change into their long term development plans.
The Britain-based risk analysis firm Maplecroft said South Asia and Southeast Asian countries are the most vulnerable to climate related disasters. This, Maplecroft said, poses obstacles to their sustained growth, and will hurt the poor the most as they're not likely have the resources to cope with these disasters.
Benson said there are several things that can be done now to prepare and mitigate losses that will be caused by disasters.
"We can begin by assessing disaster risk, drawing on local knowledge and experience as well as hazard maps and understanding the risk in our communities. We can take measures to ensure that our schools, homes, places of work and so forth are resilient, both by undertaking structural measures and through environmental measures," she said.
According to Preety Bhandari, head of ADB's Climate Change Program Coordination Units, governments across the board have included climate change plan into their development plans and are aware that climate change can influence growth.
Bhandari also welcomed the ASEAN countries' increased cooperation on disaster management and transboundary haze monitoring and their implementation of ASEAN Action Plan for Joint Response on Climate Action.
"This is a sign of their (ASEAN members) commitment and maturity in taking collective action," she said.
Bhandari, however, believes that global investment is needed to mitigate the damages caused by climate change.
She said the most important achievement in the recent UN climate talks is the establishment of an international mechanism to address loss and damage from impacts of climate change even if there were no new financial commitments or a road map to reach the 100 billion U.S. dollar target for this mechanism.
"But the call for a very significant scale of initial funding for the Green Climate Fund and additional pledges for Adaptation Fund is very much welcome," she said.
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