Attention to climate change key to managing natural disasters, Annan says

30 November 2002

Attention to climate change is key to mitigating the impact of natural disasters, which last year caused an estimated $56 billion in damages globally, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a message to a two-day meeting on flood management which opened today in Budapest.

“The reasons for enormous disasters are never one dimensional, nor even purely 'natural,'” said Mr. Annan, placing blame on poor land use, deforestation and the destruction of wetlands.

While calling for specific measures to address these problems, he stressed the need for “more and better prevention – multifaceted yet integrated, and proactive rather than reactive.”

The Secretary-General pointed out that experts have long been citing the link between human activities causing climate change and “a considerable increase of abnormal weather conditions, including floods and droughts.”

Calling for efforts to curb greenhouse gases, he voiced hope that the Kyoto Protocol – a treaty containing legally binding targets for limiting those emissions – would enter into force as soon as possible.

Mr. Annan pledged the UN's support for efforts to prevent natural disasters and mitigate their impact. “Hazards will always challenge us, but it is within our power to join forces and build a world of resilient communities and nations,” he said in the message, delivered by Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).