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Minimizing disaster risk through climate action: Examples from the field


Mélanie Robertson

Senior Program Officer, IDRC

Lisa Hiwasaki

Program Leader, IDRC

Countless deaths and millions of dollars in property damage caused by climate-related disasters hinder the Global South’s development progress every year. Growing evidence shows that climate-related disasters are compounded by climate change — and they’re increasing worldwide. Climate change can increase an area’s vulnerability to disasters and reduce the effectiveness of sustainable development efforts. Climate change also contributes to seasonal temperature fluctuations that negatively affect natural resource-based livelihoods in the long and short-term.

Development policies at the local level address climate change by helping the most vulnerable. At the national level, efforts to support community adaptation to long-term climate change consequences have largely evolved in parallel with measures that tackle the shorter-term risks of disasters such as hurricanes. However, climate change and disasters are interlinked and therefore they must be tackled in conjunction to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

IDRC's approach to disaster risk reduction

The resilience of communities to climate-related disasters and climate change depends on response, preparedness, and prevention. Over the last decade, IDRC’s Climate Change program has informed development policies that aim to simultaneously support research into adaptation to climate change as well as climate-related disaster risk. The Centre supports a number of projects (including several examples below) that both develop the adaptive capacities of partners in the Global South to climate change and that promote disaster resilience through disaster management.

Researchers from Oeuvre durable who are working on the project Climate change adaptation in informal settings: Understanding and reinforcing bottom-up initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean identified promising flood-risk mitigation strategies that were recently adopted in Yumbo, Colombia. These strategies include new ways of building roads that apply “green infrastructure” principles. For example, paved roads are replaced with porous “green” roads that allow water percolation and reduce the urban heat-island effect. Results have shown that these roads significantly reduce localized flood hazards.

Uso de infraestructura verde para mitigar las inundaciones en áreas informales en Yumbo, Colombia

Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe) researchers who are responsible for the project Climate adaptive action plans to manage heat stress in Indian cities produced thermal maps to identify the differences in extremely hot locations within three cities: Bhubaneswar, Delhi, and Rajkot. Their heat-stress maps provided information about areas accumulating heat and where vulnerable populations (e.g., outdoor workers, women, and senior citizens) live. This map helps cities implement comprehensive measures to ensure disaster preparedness while increasing the climate resilience of urban dwellers.

Researchers from Ateneo de Manila University and the Manila Observatory, who are responsible for the project Coastal cities at risk in the Philippines: Investing in climate and disaster resilience, are leveraging results from a previous IDRC-supported IRIACC project about coastal cities at risk to create a multi-stakeholder (public-private-academic) partnership that addresses risk and builds resilience in the river-delta megacities of metro Manila, Iloilo, and Naga. The project explores the private sector’s critical role as a catalyst of economic growth, a contributor to reducing disaster risk, and a partner in building climate-related disaster resilience.

Representantes en el Foro del Mercado de Resiliencia del Departamento de Interior y Gobierno Local, 2018.
Ateneo de Manila University/ Emma Porio

Integrating climate action and disaster risk reduction: how can we accomplish more? 

Jointly managing climate-related disaster risks and adaptation strategies leads to sustainable development policies and practice. Efforts to adapt to and reduce risks from disasters improves the ability of communities to withstand and recover from crises. By taking an integrated approach, IDRC helps countries in the Global South implement the Sendai Framework on disaster-risk reduction and the Paris Agreement, bridging humanitarian and development solutions and helping communities achieve the SDGs.

Disasters can forge political will that integrates resilience and recovery measures with long-term development planning. Transformative change requires adequate, predictable, and long-term financing. Some countries prioritize investments and investment access, combining different funding sources to optimize implementation. Instruments like green bonds, innovative risk financing, and strategies to engage the private sector through public-private partnerships increase funding and incorporate much-needed expertise. By increasing such capacities and efforts, IDRC promotes approaches that progressively link climate and disaster resilience to broader development paths, ensuring funding is provided appropriately and used effectively.

While this overview focuses on IDRC’s experience in climate and disaster-resilient development, international organizations, national experts, civil-society partners, and multilateral and bilateral donors have also done extensive work in this field. Leveraging their experience and promoting close collaboration between professionals and researchers allows close alignment of necessary actions. When agencies are aligned, stakeholders are able to focus their work more closely on diminishing the vulnerability of the poor. 

IDRC continues to support research that supports the integration of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Recently the Centre strengthened its focus on social equity and women’s empowerment by supporting six projects that deal with the climate and disaster resilience theme and were developed from a recent call for proposals. Through this work, we also aim to ensure the alignment of stakeholders at agencies at local and national levels to increase the resilience of the most vulnerable.

Read the IDRC Adaptation Options catalogue for more about climate adaptation projects supported by the Centre.  

Mélanie Robertson is the senior program officer in IDRC’s Climate Change program and Lisa Hiwasaki is the program leader.