United Nations (UN) Member States have urged increased investment in ecosystem-based solutions for disaster risk reduction.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), the UN’s worldwide authority on environmental issues, outlined the essential role played by natural ecosystems in mitigating the impact of climate change and natural disasters; highlighting in particular the benefits of aquatic ecosystems: of the 1,000 most destructive natural events since 1990, just under 90% were water-related. The Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction, a global coalition co-founded by UN Environment which advocates an ecosystem-based approach to reduction of risk from natural disasters, called for higher investment in the preservation and restoration of ecosystems, or ‘green infrastructure’ (forests and meadows) and ‘blue infrastructure’ (peatland, swamps and lakes).
The partnership emphasised the importance of boosting blue and green infrastructure investment in order to address the growing threat of natural disasters linked to climate change. By investing in resilient infrastructure, national authorities may be able to shore up their protection against the immediate damage caused by natural disasters and the resulting food insecurity, economic instability and migration: the UN Development Programme cautions that by 2030, “more than 100 million people could fall back into extreme poverty due to climate change, while over 200 million people could be displaced due to more frequent and severe climatic disasters.”
Joyce Msuya, acting Executive Director of UN Environment, said: “70% of the world we imagine in 2050 is yet to be built. We have a tremendous opportunity to build infrastructure that goes hand in hand with protecting nature. When we achieve this balance, we will reduce the risk of disasters and increase the resilience of communities.”
UN Environment has developed a number of programmes and tools to facilitate green infrastructure investment and maintenance, including Opportunity Mapping, a tool for Member States which enables them to identify areas which could potentially host large scale ecosystem development projects. The body has also encouraged its Member States to consider green and blue infrastructure to be ‘critical’ infrastructure, both in their investment priorities and when reporting economic losses.