Call to separate disaster risk reduction from disaster management

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Island Sun Newspaper, Bonn, Germany

Solomon Islands head of delegation to the Conference of Parties (COP23) of the United Nations United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (UNFCCC) Dr Melchior Mataki has highlighted the need to separate Disaster Risk Reduction (DDR) from disaster management.

He was speaking in a side event with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) of Taiwan at the COP23 currently underway in Bonn, Germany.

Dr Melchior noted lack of clear definitions of resilience, DRR and adaptation, saying that stakeholder groups conceptualized them differently.

He emphasized the difficulty of separating development issues from climate adaptation and DRR in proving additionality for climate finance.

“Therefore I’m calling for ‘whole-of-government’ and ‘whole-of-society’ approaches,” he said.

Dr Melchior who is also the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology MECDM) said partnerships and appropriate legislative and policy frameworks are indispensable to building resilience.

As such he underscored the need to separate DRR from disaster management in policymaking, and reported on measures taken in his country and its associated challenges, including competing national priorities and lack of capacity, technology and financial resources.

Climate change and DRR issues are separated but are institutionalised as Climate Change Department and the National Disaster Management Office (NMDO) comes under one umbrella of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology.

Also speaking during the side event was Robert Yie-Zu Hu of ITRI who introduced his organization’s work on technology for renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage, the environment and smart buildings.

He outlined Taiwan’s energy targets, including zero nuclear energy by 2030 and 20% renewable energy by 2025, saying that this is ‘not an easy job’.

He explained Taiwan’s development strategies for solar and wind energy and noted innovations in: energy storage, which he said is a solution for variable and unpredictable renewable energy output; air-conditioning systems; and dye sensitized cells, which he said can generate solar energy in very low light.

Ming-Dean Cheng, Central Weather Bureau, Taiwan then presented on the Solomon Islands Synergistic Analysis for the Environment (SoSAFE), an early warning system for extreme weather events and earthquakes in the Solomon Islands. He said SoSAFE relies on automatic weather data stations, which collect good quality data despite a significant information gap. He also outlined a project to predict epidemics of dengue fever.

Mei-Yu Chang, Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan who presented on disaster response and risk management in her country, outlined an increase in extreme weather events in Taiwan over the last decade, including tropical cyclones, flooding, droughts, landslides and typhoons.

She said Taiwan has high exposure and vulnerability to natural disasters due to its concentrated urban population, increasing elderly population and complex geographical factors.

Outlining Taiwan’s central emergency response system, she shared examples of its applications that provide flood warnings, produce hazard maps for landslides, communicate information to the public, and evacuate houses during typhoons.

Taiwan is an observer at the COP meetings each year as it is not yet a member of the UNFCCC despite support from Solomon Islands who has diplomatic ties with the island republic.