MARRAKECH, Morocco – German Watch presented the Global Climate Risk Index analyzing who suffered most from extreme weather events in 2015 and 1996-2015 during the COP 22 on Tuesday, November 15. Four Southeast Asian countries (Myanmar, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand) and two South Asia countries (Bangladesh and Pakistan) were included in the top 10 countries most affected by climate change in the past 20 years.
Sonke Kreft, one of the authors of the study, said that Southeast Asia particularly is impacted by different climactic impacts such as droughts, flooding, and tropical storms.
Some countries, like Myanmar, has been included in the list because of a single catastrophic event while some countries, like the Philippines, has been included because of both a single catastrophic event and the constant climate impacts that hit the country.
“In the case of the Philippines, it is impacted by tropical storms and heavy precipitation and flooding. Sometimes these two things come together and this is the reason why the Philippines is often in our top 10,” Kreft said.
The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 typhoons every year. Yolanda (international name Haiyan), the strongest typhoon to make landfall then, left the Philippines with more 7,000 people dead in November 2013. Haiyan also left the Philippines with $13 billion in economic loss. This put the Philippines as the top most affected country by climate change in the Global Climate Risk Index of 2015. (READ: COP 22: Energy is PH’s ‘elephant in the room’)
Least developed, developing countries more vulnerable, less resilient
Notably, all of the countries that have been listed as most impacted by climate change are all least developed or developing countries.
“You can see that developing countries are more impacted by extreme events. If you look at developed and industrialized countries, they are heavily impacted but can better manage climactic events, especially loss of lives,” Kreft said.
This brings to the table the argument about who is responsible for climate change and how they can be accountable for it.
“Countries who have done least to contribute to climate change are the countries who are most heavily affected,” said Christoph Bals, Executive Director of German Watch.
What needs to be done
The Paris Agreement has both adaptation and mitigation as two of its key elements. However, adaptation has been called as “the neglected child” of the UN Climate Negotiations. In May 2016, developing countries delayed negotiations until adaptation was put in the table, including adaptation finance. (READ: UN seeks more climate finance from rich nations)
“The Paris Agreement has lifted adaptation at the same level as mitigation but needs to be followed through by real action,” says Kreft.
“In many post-disaster situations, there are unorganized responses that leave behind the most vulnerable segments of populations. We need concrete instruments to safeguard people,” Kreft added.
Bals said there are two important actions that countries can do: first, avoiding the unmanageable and second, managing the unavoidable.
According to Bals, avoiding the unmanageable means strong mitigation actions in line with the 1.5 and 2 degrees limit while managing the unavoidable is ensuring risk reduction. “Risk reduction is crucial and strongly connected to the economic performance of countries and income of people,” said Bals.
For Kreft, improving resilience of developing countries means that vulnerable countries must do their best to protect their communities and people and have government systems in place. However, there is also a need for developed countries to help improve the resilience of vulnerable countries, especially because of their accountability to historical emissions.
“It is also clear that when you take into the argument that countries ranking highest in our index also are countries least responsible for climate change, countries responsible for climate change must give a helping hand, but not in the sense of mercy,” said Kreft. – Rappler.com