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UNISDR Briefing Note 2 – Adaptation to climate change by reducing disaster risks: country practices and lessons

With the threat of increased disasters from climate change, many countries are already taking steps to reduce their vulnerability to weather and climatic hazards. This Briefing Note reports on case studies of eight countries where national and local governments and civil society have worked to strengthen their disaster risk reduction and adaptation actions. These cases, along with similar experience in other countries, provide a number of useful insights and lessons for climate change negotiators and policymakers, development planners, and managers and practitioners at national and local levels. The case countries are India, Maldives, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, South Africa, UK and Vietnam.

The paper offers the following six implementation tasks drawn from the country case studies as recommendations:

  • map existing institutions, policies and mechanisms for reducing disaster risk and dealing with climate change adaptation
  • take stock of the available information on hazards, exposure, vulnerabilities and risk assessments
  • convene multi-stakeholder discussions to review information and identify opportunities to harmonise policy and address capacity gaps
  • initiate capacity development activities to build or strengthen coherent approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction
  • design joint project initiatives that address both climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction
  • conduct adaptation planning with a multi-sectoral, development-based approach and centralised oversight responsibility.

The paper presents the following four key messages which aim to capitalise on this timely opportunity for progress and to promote effective action.

  • Measures to reduce vulnerability and disaster risk are proven and are already being applied to adaptation: tools, capacities and supporting mechanisms for disaster risk reduction have been tested around the world and are available for wider use in climate change adaptation.
  • Disaster risk reduction offers a triple win: implementing disaster risk reduction policies and programs can limit the impacts of climate-related hazards, directly support adaptation to climate change, and help alleviate poverty. 
  • Reducing disaster risk requires – and provides opportunities for – political leadership: political commitment at the highest level is essential to drive action across all sectors and to build institutional linkages between climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction fields.
  • Multi-stakeholder participation is a key to durable results: disasters and climate change affect all of society, and therefore disaster risk reduction and adaptation solutions must involve all sectors and civil society, including the private sector, and community engagement.