UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, says the global climate crisis is exacerbating and intensifying water-related disasters, jeopardising lives and livelihood of four billion people, resulting to over $2.97 trillion in economic losses.
Guterres told the Fifth UN Special Thematic Session on Water and Disasters on Friday, June 25, 2021 that climate-related disasters had doubled in the past two decades compared to the preceding 20 years, affecting more than four billion people.
“These disasters have claimed the lives of millions and resulted in over $2.97 trillion in economic losses,’’ the UN scribe said.
According to him, for decades, natural disasters have been one of the major causes of worsening poverty, forcing some 26 million people into poverty each year.
He said natural disasters had reversed developmental gains, almost always connected to water, whether through floods, storms, droughts, tsunamis or landslide.
Guterres said climate change was altering rainfall patterns, affecting water availability, prolonging periods of drought and heat, and increasing the intensity of cyclones, which can lead to horrific flooding events.
“These trends create enormous challenges for our efforts to build more sustainable, resilient communities and societies by implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said.
He warned that they will accelerate over the course of the Decade of Action.
“And by 2030, projections suggest a staggering 50 per cent jump in humanitarian needs stemming from climate-related disasters, limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).”
He said national plans, demonstrating commitment to increasingly ambitious climate action, is crucial to achieve a 45 per cent drop in emissions by 2030 and reach “net zero” by 2050.
However, “we are far off track from meeting these goals.
“Current commitments are insufficient, and emissions continue to rise. Global average temperatures are already 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels,” Guterres said.
According to him, at the same time, countries that are most impacted by climate change lack the fiscal space to invest in adaptation and resilience.
“Last year, cyclones lashed the shores of many countries that were already grappling with serious liquidity crises and debt burdens, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Underscoring that “adaptation cannot be the forgotten piece of the climate equation,” he has been advocating for rich nations to mobilise $100 billion annually.
The UN chief has been advocating for the funds to assist developing countries, calling for 50 per cent of climate finance to be used on building resilience and adaptation.
“We must ensure that this finance goes to those most in need, particularly Small Island developing States and least developed countries on the verge of climate crisis now,” he added.
In addition, he said investing in resilient infrastructure is an investment in the future.
According to him, although more than 100 states have a disaster risk reduction strategy at least partially aligned to the Sendai Framework, dozens have yet to sign on.
In addition, he said that every $1 invested in making infrastructure disaster-resilient saves $4 in reconstruction.
He, therefore, urged countries and local governments to accelerate implementation of disaster risk reduction strategy.
The secretary-general reminded that disasters derail the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sendai and the Paris Agreement.
Describing the UN as a “steadfast partner in tackling water and disaster issues”, he pointed to the Decade for Action and the 2023 Water Conference as opportunities to transform water management and achieve the water-related SDGs.
By Cecilia Ologunagba