Working with Nature for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation. Let’s help nature to help us

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The recognition of the role of wetlands for disaster risk reduction was key at the lunch conference organized by Wetlands International European Association and the European Commission’s DG DEVCO on “Working with Nature for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation. Let’s help nature to help us”, on the occasion of the World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2017.

This year’s theme is Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and the event aimed at highlighting the importance of preserving and restoring wetlands for their services and their role in preventing natural hazards. How we manage wetlands is central to DRR, and should suit the site specific variability of landscape and climate.  Both Wetlands International and DG DEVCO showcased projects where Nature-based solutions provide sustainable, cost-effective, multi-purpose and flexible alternatives for adaptation to Climate Change and DRR.

Felice Zaccheo,Head of Unit – DEVCO C6 – Sustainable Energy and Climate Change, opened the event mentioning the World Wetlands Day and the importance of nature based solutions. He recalled the connection of Eco-DRR and Climate Change Adaptation to the three main global frameworks: Sendai, Agenda 2030 and Paris agreements

Wetlands International represented by Cy Griffin and Susanna Tol, joined the call of our CEO, Jane Madgwick, to the need to invest in wetlands to reduce disaster risks around the world, especially floods and droughts. As she said during the celebration of the WWD in Geneva, “The case is there, but the investment is not flowing, so now is the time to act.” We all recognize that climate change is contributing to extreme weather events, but what we have highlighted today is that 90% of natural disasters are water-related mainly due to wrong man made decisions, ill-development investments, Ill-informed spatial planning & development (dykes, dams, irrigation) degrading natural capital. Unfortunately 64% of the world’s wetlands have been lost in the last century and all efforts now should be addressed to reverse this trend.

Unless the value of wetlands as natural assets is recognised and supported in development, climate and disaster risk reduction strategies, these will surely fail to reach their goals. More has to be done to make ecosystem services and landscape interactions better understood, through a landscape approach. DG DEVCO is financially supporting several projects on ECO-DRR through the Global Climate Change Alliance plus. This is encouraging and more has to be done in order to make sure to scale-up investments in Eco-DRR/CCA.

What was also clear is that a multi-partnership approach is needed and we highlighted the role of Partners for Resilience in putting together humanitarian, development & environmental actors, an many local partners, complementing each other in building resilient communities. The Partners for Resilience believe that when reducing risk, this must be done throughout entire risk cycle, and across spatial and time scales and across sectors. And from immediate disaster relief to longer-term  mitigation and prevention measures. And this is where the importance of the collaboration between the different partners of Partners for Resilience proofs its importance.