Category Archives: climate change

Fighting the tide

This post by Kathleen Dominique from the OECD Environment Directorate is part of the Wikiprogress series on ‘Water‘ and the ‘Environment‘. 

Preparing for the water-related impacts of climate change

Headlines of record‑breaking water-related disasters around the world – whether flood or drought – are a sign of things to come. AsLord Stern recently warned, the extreme weather events witnessed in many parts of the world reflect “a pattern of global change that it would be very unwise to ignore”. Recently, the UK and French floods have been in the news, but flooding is just one type of natural disaster and in fact, if you look at 2012 data from Munich Re, floods account for less than 13% of economic losses from natural hazards compared to 59% for storms and 16% for forest fires and droughts – hence the need to think broadly about water security.
Water-related impacts are one of the main ways that we are seeing and feeling the effects of climate change. We can expect more torrential rains, floods and droughts in many areas. Events that were once considered “exceptional circumstances” are now becoming commonplace.
The cost of impacts of these events can be substantial and are set to rise in the future. According to data gathered in a recent OECD survey on water and climate change adaptation, flood risk is projected to increase significantly across the UK. Annual damage to UK properties due to flooding from rivers and the sea currently totals around GBP 1.3 billion. For England and Wales alone, the figure is projected to rise to between GBP 2.1 billion and GBP 12 billion by the 2080s, based on future population growth and if no adaptive action is taken.
A recent OECD review of actions governments are taking to prepare for water-related impacts of climate change found that nearly all OECD countries ranked extreme events (floods and droughts) among their primary concerns. This comprehensive review of policies for water and climate change adaptation is one way that the OECD has been tracking progress on preparing for a more risky and more uncertain future.

At the OECD, we recommend governments undertake a robust assessment of risks – and that’s somewhere we’re seeing progress. In fact, it’s one of the most active areas of climate change adaptation in OECD countries. This is positive – but this evidence base then needs to spur action. Governments need to determine what is an “acceptable level” of risk by balancing the benefits and costs of taking pre-emptive action. On the one hand, nobody wants to have their property flooded, but on the other, completely eliminating flood risk is often not possible and a high-level of protection is very costly. Once an acceptable level of risk has been set, governments need to explore the options open to them, and that includes sharing responsibility between the public and private sectors when investing in infrastructure, devising insurance schemes, as well as in emergency response.  
As we expect to see more severe weather events around the world, we need to understand that anticipation can avoid future costs. For example, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre estimates that EUR 1 invested in flood protection can result in EUR 6 of avoided damage costs. Investments in early warning systems and emergency preparedness have significantly reduced casualties in Hurricane-prone countries. Austria and Germany made smart investments in flood defences after floods in 2002, and that served them well when water levels rose again last year.
However, sometimes avoiding risks altogether is cheaper than building infrastructure to protect against them. Protection measures are not only about building hard infrastructure but we can use innovative architecture and landscape solutions – such as “green roofs”, “blue belts” or restored wetlands – so that nature is part of the solution.
That said, since we can’t predict the exact timing or magnitude of weather events, it’s very hard to get the timing and investment level right when taking preventative action. At a time when many governments are working under tight budget constraints, it’s even more vital that investments are well-thought out. The most cost-effective approaches to climate change adaptation are the most flexible and forward-looking ones, and the OECD has recommended a range of policy tools and investment approaches. This includes infrastructure design and financing techniques that can be scaled up or down over time, as needed. 

To see what OECD countries are doing to help prepare, check out

Climate Change and Health Beyond 2015: The Sustainable Development Agenda

This blog is part of the Wikiprogress Environment Series
Global Health Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Outcome Document from the recent Rio+20 Summit, “The Future We Want”, recognises that health is both a precondition for, and an outcome of, sustainable development. Climate change affects health through a myriad of exposure pathways, each presenting simultaneously both challenges and opportunities for sustainable health and development.
Interventions targeting either adaptation or mitigation of climate change, therefore, can have multiple health and societal benefits – the key is to find root points of leverage where a single policy might have numerous beneficiaries.
The relationship between health and all three original (1992) Rio Conventions – on Climate Change, Biological Diversity, and Desertification was recently documented in “Our Planet, Our Health, Our Future”, a collaborative effort between the World Health Organization (WHO) and all three Rio Conventions. In particular, the report revealed both risks and interdependencies. Climate change will directly lead to net negative health impacts, including through extreme weather events, spread of vector-borne disease, diarrhoeal disease, food security and malnutrition. Natural capital, such as biodiversity, underpins ecosystem services – upon which health and societal wellbeing depend – but are threatened by climate and land use change. Just a few measurable benefits that ecosystems provide mankind include flood protection, disease regulation, and water purification. Desertification leaves populations vulnerable to water quality degradation, water scarcity and droughts, decreases agro-ecosystem productivity and increases food scarcity/malnutrition.
If human society could advance from a carbon-intensive economy to a green economy, human health opportunities would abound. For example, reducing fossil fuel combustion might not only reduce the extent of climate change, but more immediately such intervention would improve air quality, and if done in the transportation sector, could potentially increase ‘active’ transport that subsequently would lower the risk of obesity and associated chronic diseases. This is just one policy example of how addressing climate change can both enhance sustainable development and save lives.
Sustainable development remains the central context of the post-2015 development agenda. Yet, at this juncture it is critical to acknowledge how health is inextricably linked to ecosystems and our earth’s climate; this awareness is especially salient in the UNFCCC process toward developing a set of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the centrality of health as both an input and outcome, and climate change as a cross-cutting issue, a new level of inter-sector awareness and collaboration is warranted, especially as revised targets and indicators are being drafted for the SDGs.
Furthermore, establishment of appropriate indicators will help ensure that interventions in any sector will lessen, rather than add to, the disease burden. WHO, in fact, is now strongly advocating a holistic “Health in All Policies” approach which accepts that population-wide health is determined by many sectors beyond solely health. The role of weather variability and health is obvious for thematic areas such as water and sanitation, food security and nutrition, and disaster management, as well as climate change specifically. Outcome indicators might include: annual mortality rates from climate-sensitive diseases (i.e. the sum of all vector-borne disease, diarrhoeal disease, malnutrition, and weather-related disasters etc.); household dietary diversity scores as an output indicator for food security; and percentage population with access to weather/climate-resilient infrastructure (such as water sources and hygienic sanitation facilities for example).
Health should also be a key consideration for other areas. Representative outcome indicators in the area of energy, for example, might include the percentage of households using only modern, low-emissions heating, cooking and lighting technologies that meet emission and safety standards; or measuring the burden of disease attributable to household air pollution could be another outcome indicator. Indicators for the reliability of energy supply to health facilities are also important. In jobs, healthy workforces are a precondition for sustainable development, and indicators such as the proportion of workplaces that comply with national occupational health and safety standards (an output indicator), or measuring occupational disease and injury rates (an outcome indicator) merit consideration.
Clearly the health of our human population depends on the healthy conditions across all societal sectors and natural systems. Climate change, now solidly tied to our  carbon-intensive economy, challenges all communities working on core elements of sustainable development. Human health has been relatively sidelined in the UN Framework Conventions, but now needs to be better interwoven into the process of defining the next set of global development goals.
Professor Jonathan Patz
This article first appeared on Outreach Magazine 


Environment Week in Review

Hi everyone and welcome to another Week in Review. This month we are focusing Environmentso today’s WIR includes a look back at World Environment Day, UNEP’s new report on food waste and a World Bank article on global sustainability. This article will also introduce Wikichild’s upcoming online consultation, partnered by the World Health Organization and Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, on how child well-being should be measured in view of future development frameworks such as the Post-2015 agenda.

World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. This year’s celebration, hosted by Mongolia, had the theme of ‘Think. Eat. Save. Reduce your Footprint’.  According to UNEP’s Reducing Food Loss and Waste report, which was launched on W.E.D, an estimated one third, or 1.3 billion tonnes, of all food produced ends up in the garbage of farmers, transporters, retailers and consumers alike. Make sure you look out for more environment awareness days this month including Global Wind Day and World Ocean’s Day.
This week the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction welcomed the emphasis that the Post-2015 committee is putting on combatting climate change. The Head of UNISDR, Margareta Wahlström referenced the recently published Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk, which highlights the economic and social costs of disasters and the impact they can have on the global population, particularly the poor.
This Saturday The governments of the UK and Brazil, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) will co-host a high-level international meeting, Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science on 8 June in central London. The event will bring together business leaders, scientists, governments and civil society to make ambitious financial and political commitments in a bid to reach millions of pregnant women and infants with the right nutrition at the right time, and reduce cases of stunting and deaths from severe acute malnutrition. The whole day will be webcast live from 8.30am to 5.30pm on Saturday 8 June 2013 on this website.
This week the World Bankpublished the ANS indicator for more than 200 countries in the Little Green Data Book, the World Bank’s annual compilation of environment data. Click hereto access highlights from the report.
The Living Planet Index is one of the longest-running measures of the trends in the state of global biodiversity and reflects changes in the health of the planet’s ecosystems by tracking trends in populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Last year’s report provides a comprehensive overview of the cumulative pressure we’re putting on the planet, and the consequent decline in the health of the forests, rivers and oceans that make our lives possible.
Finally, between the 19th of June and the 2nd of July, Wikichild, HBSCand the W.H.Oare running an online consultation on how child well-being should be measured in view of future development frameworks. The discussion will be launched at HBSC’s 30thanniversary conference so make sure you tune in and add your comment to what should be a fascinating conversation! Follow #childwellbeing on Twitter for updates.  
We hope you have enjoyed this Week in Review and look forward to bringing you more Environmentupdates in the coming weeks.
Wikichild Coordinator 

Week in Review

Hello Wikiprogress followers and welcome to this Week in Review! This week’s highlights include a UN report on human rights in the context of the post-2015 agenda, an update from UNICEF on global progress on sanitation and drinking water and an Oxfam report on risk and poverty reduction.
Released this week, the UN’s Who will be Accountable? – Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agendacalls on countries to ensure that the post-2015 development agenda focuses on equality, social protection and accountability, noting that one billion people around the world are still living in poverty. 
“The rise of inequality has severely undermined the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs,” UN Spokesman, 21st May 2013

The “OECD E-Government Review of Egypt” assesses Egyptian e-government policies and implementation, and makes recommendations for future actions. The report highlights Egypt’s progress and proposes that to enhance the use of ICTs in the public sector Egypt should undertake a number of measures. Find out more!

No Accident – Resilience and the Inequality of Risk – This report from Oxfam stipulates that governing bodies and aid agencies must challenge the politics and power at the heart of the increasing effects of climate change, growing inequality and people’s vulnerability to disasters. Oxfam highlights the increasing threat of various major external risks and points out that the majority of these are actively dumped on poor people, with women bearing the brunt because of their social, political and economic status. 

Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water – 2013 Update – UNICEF’s annual report card presents country, regional and global estimates on improvements (or lack of them) in access to drinking water and sanitation. According to the publication, the world will not meet the MDG sanitation target of 75% and if current trends continue, it is set to miss the target by more than half a billion. To find out more about sanitation inequality, read our recent Progblog article on the subject.  
The right poverty measure for post-2015 – is part of a series of blogs that debate how a post-2015 framework ought to measure poverty. This article by Stephan Klasen, Professor of development economics and empirical economic research at the University of Göttingen, puts forward a proposal for internationally coordinated national poverty measurement. 

Thanks for checking in – we are pleased to inform you that our theme of the month in June will be Environment so we look forward to bringing you articles, blogs and Week in Reviews related to the subject in the coming weeks!

The Wikiprogress Team

Week in Review

Week in Review

Welcome to the Wikiprogress Week in Review, a selection of headlines and highlights from another busy week. With COP18 taking place in Doha, this Week in Review includes a new report on rising temperatures, the launch of the Sustainable Society Index, a number crunch on global warming, as well as the OECD Economic Outlook and an article on urban jobs.

4 °C
‘Turn the Head Down: Why a 4 °C World Must Be Avoided’ is a new report from the World Bank that analyses the likely impacts and risks associated with a 4° Celsius warming in this century. The report finds that those in the least developed countries will suffer the most. Find out more, download the report: Turn the Head Down

Sustainable Society Index 2012
This week, the Sustainable Society Foundation released their 2012 Index (SSI 2012), which measures the level of well-being and sustainability in 151 countries across the world. The index can be broken down into three key dimensions: human well-being, environmental well-being, and Economic well-being. So how is the world faring on sustainability? Have a look, SSI 2012 you’ll most likely find yourself pleasantly surprised!

Number Crunch
2012 is expected to be the 9th warmest year on record. Source

Economic Outlook
The OECD Economic Outlook has forecast that the global economy will make a hesitant and uneven recovery over the next few years. A key issue highlighted in the report is the need to address potential trade-offs between growth and equality, growth and stability, growth and environmental sustainability. Watch the key highlights: OECD Economic Outlook 2012 Video

Top 10 Urban Jobs
There are around 185,000 people who move into cities every day – that’s 2 billion more people living in cities by 2035. Cities are where jobs are – so what are the top 10 urban jobs? Among the list are: construction work, city planning, communicators, servers and more. Do you fit one of these categories? I know I do.

That’s all from me this week. Hope you can tune in again the same time next week for another Week in Review.

Yours in Progress,

Philippa Lysaght

The week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review – a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the  Wikiprogress Community Portal .  

On progress in Australia
Australia’s national statistician prefers a “dashboard” approach to well-being  (15.12.2011)
Imogen Wall from the Measures of Australia’s Progress team at the Australian Bureau of Statistics uses a dashboard metaphor to describe the importance of using a range of indicators for measuring well-being, “It is important, when driving, to have information not only about speed and distance travelled, but also about engine temperature and remaining petrol.”
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on Measures of Australia’s Progress

On gender equality
An African Gender Statistics Group in the offing  (13.12.2011)
In an address to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the Ghana Statistical Service, Dr Grace Bediako announced plans for an African Gender Statistics Group that aims to mainstream gender into national and international statistics programmes.
See more and contribute to the Wikigender article on Gender Statistics

On the environment
Time for a Green Index  (13.12.2011)
Professor of Environmental Science Chuluun Togtokh argues that the UNDP Human Development Index ‘idolises’ some of the most environmentally damaging societies and suggests replacing the index with one that considers green technologies. He has found that per capita carbon emissions are a simple and quantifiable indicator, which is both strongly and positively, correlated with income.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on green growth

On employment
Jobs, or more precisely, the lack of jobs is now a global issue (World Bank 26.09.2011)
The World Bank blogs on a pressing global issue: unemployment. It is more than the 205 million people worldwide who are unemployed, it is that in today’s post-crisis world policy makers and practitioners do not know how to create jobs, let alone good jobs.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on unemployment rates

In the spotlight
TIME 2011 Person of the Year: The Protester:  Why I Protest: Ahmed Harara of Egypt (TIME 14.12.2011)

In announcing the 2011 person of the year as The Protester, TIME has profiled a series of protesters involved the the various uprisings of 2011. Ahmed Harara was protesting in Tahrir Square in January when he lost his eye to a rubber bullet; ten months later he returned to Tahrir Square only to lose the other eye in the same way.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on the Arab Spring

In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us  @Wikiprogress or post it on our Facebook page .    

Yours in progress,

Philippa Lysaght

The week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review – a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the  Wikiprogress Community Portal

On the #occupy movement
The New Progressive Movement (New York Times 12.11.2011)
Development Economist Jeffrey Sachs comments on the Occupy Wall Street movement as a turning point in modern history; according to Sachs the last thirty years or ‘Reaganomics’ have ended with the rise of the new progressive era.
See more on and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on progress in the US

On philanthropy
New directions in philanthropy- report from the Bellagio Summit (From Poverty to Power 15.11.2011)
Duncan Green blogs on the ‘Future of Philanthropy and Development in the Pursuit of Human Wellbeing’ summit hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation this week. Green gives a brief scorecard of what’s hot and what’s not according to philanthropists working in development.

On gender equality
Mexican Women Demand Climate Justice (IPS 14.11.2011)
In a recent meeting hosted by Mexicans Against Inequality, issues were raised about the displacement of women throughout Mexico due to ecological disasters such as drought, water scarcity and socioenvironmental conflict.
See more and contribute to the Wikigender article on gender and climate change

On happiness in the UK
The wellbeing agenda isn’t navel-gazing, it’s innovation and survival (Guardian 13.11.2011)
Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron have both played very significant roles in the development of a well-being agenda; the Stiglitz Commission launched in 2009 and general well-being (or GWB) have been invaluable to the momentum of the global progress movement.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress

On Visualisation of data: Afghanistan
Asia Foundation Unveils Data Site “Visualizing Afghanistan” for 2011 Survey of the Afghan People (PR Web 17.11.2011)
To accompany the broadest and most comprehensive public opinion poll of Afghan citizens, “Afghanistan in 2011: A Survey of the Afghan People,” The Asia Foundation has launched an interactive mapping platform and data visualisation site, “Visualizing Afghanistan.” Through “Visualizing Afghanistan,” the Foundation is making its Afghan survey data available and downloadable to researchers and the public to use and republish, with citation.

See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on the Afghanistan.

That’s all from us this week. We hope you tune in the same time next week. In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us  @Wikiprogress  or post it on our Facebook page.

Yours in Progress,

Philippa Lysaght

A Better Future for All

This post first appeared on Wikiprogress partner, UNDP’s  Let’s Talk Human Development

In June 2012 world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro to seek a new consensus on global actions to safeguard the future of the planet and the right of future generations everywhere to live healthy and fulfilling lives. This is the great development challenge of the 21st century.
The 2011 Human Development Report offers important new contributions to the global dialogue on this challenge, showing how sustainability is inextricably linked to basic questions of equity—that is, of fairness and social justice and of greater access to a better quality of life. Sustainability is not exclusively or even primarily an environmental issue, as this Report so persuasively argues. It is fundamentally about how we choose to live our lives, with an awareness that everything we do has consequences for the 7 billion of us here today, as well as for the billions more who will follow, for centuries to come.
Understanding the links between environmental sustainability and equity is critical if we are to expand human freedoms for current and future generations. The remarkable progress in human development over recent decades, which the global Human Development Reports have documented, cannot continue without bold global steps to reduce both environmental risks and inequality. This Report identifies pathways for people, local communities, countries and the international community to promote environmental sustainability and equity in mutually reinforcing ways.
In the 176 countries and territories where the United Nations Development Programme is working every day, many disadvantaged people carry a double burden of deprivation. They are more vulnerable to the wider effects of environmental degradation, because of more severe stresses and fewer coping tools. They must also deal with threats to their immediate environment from indoor air pollution, dirty water and unimproved sanitation. Forecasts suggest that continuing failure to reduce the grave environmental risks and deepening social inequalities threatens to slow decades of sustained progress by the world’s poor majority— and even to reverse the global convergence in human development.
Major disparities in power shape these patterns. New analysis shows how power imbalances and gender inequalities at the national level are linked to reduced access to clean water and improved sanitation, land degradation and deaths due to indoor and outdoor air pollution, amplifying the effects associated with income disparities. Gender inequalities also interact with environmental outcomes and make them worse. At the global level governance arrangements often weaken the voices of developing countries and exclude marginalized groups.
Yet there are alternatives to inequality and unsustainability. Growth driven by fossil fuel consumption is not a prerequisite for a better life in broader human development terms. Investments that improve equity—in access, for example, to renewable energy, water and sanitation, and reproductive healthcare—could advance both sustainability and human development. Stronger accountability and democratic processes, in part through support for an active civil society and media, can also improve outcomes. Successful approaches rely on community management, inclusive institutions that pay particular attention to disadvantaged groups, and cross-cutting approaches that coordinate budgets and mechanisms across government agencies and development partners.
Beyond the Millennium Development Goals, the world needs a post-2015 development framework that reflects equity and sustainability; Rio+20 stands out as a key opportunity to reach a shared understanding of how to move forward. This Report shows that approaches that integrate equity into policies and programmes and that empower people to bring about change in the legal and political arenas hold enormous promise. Growing country experiences around the world have demonstrated the potential of these approaches to generate and capture positive synergies.
The financing needed for development—including for environmental and social protection—will have to be many times greater than current official development assistance. Today’s spending on low-carbon energy sources, for example, is only 1.6 percent of even the lowest estimate of need, while spending on climate change adaptation and mitigation is around 11 percent of estimated need. Hope rests on new climate finance. While market mechanisms and private funding will be vital, they must be supported and leveraged by proactive public investment. Closing the financing gap requires innovative thinking, which this Report provides.
Beyond raising new sources of funds to address pressing environmental threats equitably, the Report advocates reforms that promote equity and voice. Financing flows need to be channelled towards the critical challenges of unsustainability and inequity—and not exacerbate existing disparities.
Providing opportunities and choices for all is the central goal of human development. We have a collective responsibility towards the least privileged among us today and in the future around the world—and a moral imperative to ensure that the present is not the enemy of the future. This Report can help us see the way forward.

By Helen Clark
Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)