The role of environmental management and eco-engineering in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation

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Extreme weather events, driven largely by rising global temperatures, are increasing in both their frequency and impact. In the coming years, climate change is expected to further increase the severity and frequency of weather-related natural hazards such as storms, intense rainfall, f loods, droughts and heat-waves. From 1997 to 2006, more than 2.6 billion people were affected by hazards mostly related to weather extremes, causing over 1.2 million deaths and damage costing some US$800 billion. Future predictions are that this situation is likely to worsen.While most of society is likely to be affected to some degree by the predicted changes, it is likely that the brunt of these climate-related impacts will be borne by already vulnerable communities, particularly the poor and marginalised groups who may depend largely on farming and marine resources for their livelihoods, and who may live in areas already prone to recurrent disasters such as f looding or cyclones.Traditional efforts to protect people and physical installations from disasters have tended to involve ‘hard’ engineering solutions such as dams, levees and the construction of sea walls. These have proved to be very expensive and, in certain cases at least, have not worked as well as expected, often with unforeseen negative consequences. In addition to the cost and the environmental damage some cause, they also have a tendency to create an over-reliance on these physical structures which, should they fail, can have catastrophic results.The past few years have witnessed an increasing interest in finding alternative means to reduce the threats by and impacts from many natural hazards, promoting instead environmental sustainability and security. As such, attention has focussed on the use of ‘soft’ or ecological engineering approaches, in which natural ecosystems or artificially assisted planting provide the structure for defence, instead of shifted rocks, steel fabrications or poured concrete.This report by ProAct Network and Gaia Group reviews a growing body of evidence that sound environmental management has a potentially important role to play in reducing many of the risks posed by natural hazards. Many ecosystems – if they are intact and/or well managed – act as natural, dynamic barriers that absorb the force of certain hazards, protect vulnerable communities and their assets while at the same time preserve local biodiversity and encourage ecological productivity. Natural ecosystems thus play an important protective and productive role in many instances.Such measures are potentially inexpensive – though restoring degraded ecosystems is much more expensive than maintaining them in the first place – are environmentally friendly, have significant social and economic benefits and have the added benefit of absorbing and storing greenhouse gases. This last point means that climate change funds could, in principle, provide opportunities to advance disaster risk reduction. Some insurance schemes have also begun to provide lower premiums for those communities that preserve or enhance ecosystems.This report provides an overview of practical experiences that deal with environmental management in relation to climate change, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. It is essentially a collection of field data and literature that has a highly practical f lavour, highlighting the multiple benefits that adaptation can offer. The report is not a policy statement but it is anticipated that its findings will serve as a useful platform for further discussions, forthcoming international negotiations and policy development, as well as inspiring uptake of some of the practices at a more localised level. This report should therefore be seen as a first stage of ongoing work and deliberations with a number of key partners.In documenting this information, specific sections of this report are devoted to a selection of natural hazards, each of which provides an initial overview of the hazard’s characteristics and global significance. A series of case studies then provide specific first hand accounts of how different environmental management and eco-engineering techniques have been tried and tested under different conditions and situations – although to date with an emphasis on developed countries. Nonetheless, it is anticipated that through highlighting the practicality and versatility that engineers and planners can apply to eco-engineering approaches, the rich information contained in this report can and will be replicated elsewhere.While emphasis is placed on the use of environmental management and eco-engineering in this report, the findings below also caution that in some instances there might well still be a need for at least some complementary form of hard engineering, as well as locally tailored early warning systems. Opportunities for combining these complementary approaches should be further explored in the future.The main recommendations of this review (see Section 10 for a more detailed description) are as follows.Actively promote ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT AND ECO-ENGINEERING AS PRACTICAL AND APPROPRIATE MEANS OF DISASTER RISK REDUCTION:<ul><li>Recognise that many traditional forms of hard defences will not be able to cope with the growing threats from climate change.</li><li>Acknowledge those initiatives that have replaced hard engineered structures with naturally functioning ecosystems.</li><li>Invest further in site- and hazard-specific research – particularly where vulnerable communities and regions can already be identified – to determine how communities might become more involved in and responsible for environmental management as a natural buffer.</li><li>Promote the protective role of intact and well management ecosystems, using available tools ✶ and mechanisms including United Nations conventions, regional co-operation agreements and ongoing development programmes </li></ul> In response to the current LACK OF AWARENESS AND UNDER-USED POTENTIAL OF NATURAL BUFFERS:<ul><li>Sensitise policy-makers and donors on the measurable adaptation and mitigation effects of well-managed ecosystems.</li><li>Actively promote natural buffers and other soft protection measures – not as new technologies, but technologies and approaches that may simply need to be adjusted to local conditions and requirements.</li><li>Encourage and enable technology transfer so that a medley of best practices and lessons learned can be tailored and applied to specific situations.</li><li>Give particular attention to supporting national and local actions that link disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation agendas, highlighting the added potential for social and economic benefits.</li></ul>Acknowledging the MULTIPLE BENEFITS OF ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT AND ECO-ENGINEERING FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION AND DISASTER RISK REDUCTION:<ul><li>Utilise lessons from this report in negotiations for a post-2012 climate agreement, including the formulation of an inclusive and equitable climate change adaptation scheme.</li><li>Develop practical guidance on advancing climate change adaptation through ecosystem and environmental management.</li><li>Engage in policy development at the national and international levels to take full advantage of the climate change adaptation and mitigation potential of environmental management.</li><li>Give greater recognition to the cost-effectiveness of eco-engineering approaches – including the social, economic and environment-related services attached with this – in national accounting.</li><li>Provide added incentives for environmental management measures that also have the potential to both reduce disaster risk, help adapt to climate change and capture CO2.</li></ul>To develop CLIMATE FUNDING POTENTIAL:<ul><li>Explore financing opportunities through climate change funding in order to facilitate implementation of disaster risk reduction projects combining adaptation with mitigation.</li><li>Conduct an in-depth assessment of potential financial mechanisms from climate funds, including the potential engagement of the private sector for environmental management as an approach to climate change adaptation.</li></ul>In order to BROADEN STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT:<ul><li>Enhance the establishment of communities of practice on natural buffers in disaster risk reduction should be enhanced. This will foster a network of professionals who can help build capacity, engage stakeholders in a dialogue and assist in technology transfer on issues relating to disaster risk reduction.</li></ul>Encourage and support those PRACTICAL ACTIONS THAT NEED TO BE TAKEN IN RELATION TO PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT:<ul><li>Development interventions by international and national agencies need to enhance the defencive capacities of ecosystems rather than degrade them. This should include appropriate elements of awareness raising and introducing viable alternative prevention and reconstruction options, such as using environmentally appropriate construction materials.</li><li>Implement pilot projects in some of the most vulnerable areas, with the full inclusion of local communities.</li><li>Reconstruction after a disaster places high pressure on important ecosystems, such as mangrove forests: post-disaster reconstruction needs to be ecosystem-sensitive.</li></ul>To address the NEED FOR ADDITIONAL RESEARCH AND MONITORING:<ul><li>Support additional research into environmental management, the broader potential use of ecosystem goods and services and, in particular, further evidence of quantitative data in relation to ecosystems and their role in disaster risk prevention and reduction.</li><li>Support long-term monitoring – currently almost non-existent – on the use and management of natural buffers, ensuring also that disaster risk reduction monitoring is integrated within ecosystem projects.</li><li>Broaden the geographic coverage of research in order to understand better local specificities. Establish a clearing mechanism to make relevant information more readily available and ✶applicable, providing information on technologies, costs, performance, availability, implementation requirements and so forth.</li></ul>Acknowledging that ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOLUTION:<ul><li>Encourage and enable technology transfer and dialogue between planners and practitioners from the hard engineering and eco-engineering domains.</li><li>Provide incentives for the systematic integration of natural buffers with other risk management components, such as early warning systems and awareness raising.</li><li>Monitor future joint applications and provide lessons learned for broader dissemination. </li></ul> 

Geologic informations
Ecosystem-based approaches
Geographic characterization
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Sri Lanka
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)
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The Ministry of Finland