Academic journal article The Public Manager

Global Lessons on Development Planning and Climate Hazards Reduction

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Global Lessons on Development Planning and Climate Hazards Reduction

Article excerpt

Climate change is a global reality. Shrinking glaciers and changing seasonal weather conditions point to developing differences in the norms of the 21st century and of the immediately preceding era. Starting in the1980s, international aid organizations such as the Swedish Red Cross and the Organization of American States noted developing vulnerability to the effects of rising sea levels and stronger hurricane and typhoon seasons. Likewise, Disasters by Design in 1999 and the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) "2010 World Disasters Report" focus on linkages between economic development and the built environment including cities, natural hazards, and disasters.

The exposure to climate hazards of urban populations at various locations around the globe has now reached crisis proportions, with development being a principle driver of vulnerability. Preventing catastrophic loss and responding to environmental disasters is increasingly the subject of development planning, as economic losses exceed the economy's ability to recover. Development is now identified as the much needed driver of climate risk reduction.

How can integration of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management into economic development be reflected in planning for economic, social, and natural resource infrastructure, as well as in the public administration and civil society processes that design, adopt, and implement those plans?

It is no longer proper to consider "disasters" as the climate hazard event itself or as a separate sector from line development. Rather, it is necessary to involve the owners, operators, and populations associated with vulnerable economic, social, and natural resource infrastructure in climate change risk reduction activities. The question "Who is vulnerable?" must always be asked. All development stakeholders--public and private--must be considered protagonists in vulnerability reduction.

Impact and Analysis

Addressing risk provokes a healthy debate, particularly when the discussion includes development related to natural hazards--and to climate change, climate variability, decadal variances, and atmospheric and hydro-logic events in particular. The exposure of populations is prompting calls for increased planning and expenditures to save lives. Land use planning and regulatory measures, no-regret approaches to structural mitigation, and transparency and accountability in public administration are increasingly cited as necessary actions to address atmospheric and hydrologic climate hazard risks.

This is particularly the case in urban coastal areas, and is a major consideration for where and how economic development takes place in public and private sectors. This is against a backdrop of local, county, and state jurisdictions often depending on federal legislation and programs to mandate risk-related measures, such as hazard mapping, permitted zoning, and wetlands and dunes protection.

Initially, coping with climate change focused on mitigation--reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions believed to be the drivers of global climate change. As this approach became politicized and controversial, the focus at the local level shifted toward climate change adaptation, which has held the attention of the economic development community.

Local governments across the globe have taken a two-pronged approach: trying to lower GHG emissions where possible while also changing development patterns and construction codes to acknowledge observed impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise. However, these local initiatives often fail to involve the owners and operators of vulnerable economic and social infrastructure in decisions.

Approaches to integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk management into economic development planning involves understanding risk, using risk indicators to inform decision making, and using development actions to reduce--not construct--risk. …

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