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COP21: on 'Resilience Day,' UN and partners launch initiatives to protect millions of people

A flood control dam in Tianjin Eco-City, China.
World Bank/Yang Aijun
A flood control dam in Tianjin Eco-City, China.

COP21: on 'Resilience Day,' UN and partners launch initiatives to protect millions of people

On the third day of the United Nations climate change conference (COP21), dubbed 'Resilience Day,' the UN and the Governments of Peru and France have announced major international partnerships that are mobilizing large-scale financing to protect people who are most vulnerable to climate impacts.

These initiatives are taking place under the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), launched one year ago at the previous climate change conference in Peru, and aims to strength climate action beyond COP21.

“Resilience is really important because the climate is already changing, and we need to be able to not just adapt to the changes but actually develop in a way that takes into account that in the future, climate will still change,” Janos Pasztor, the UN Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change, told the UN News Service in an interview at the conference site in Paris.

“Even if we stop all the emissions today, there are already enough greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that the climate will continue to change,” he continued. “So we need to adjust our development process, adjust our economic approach […] and be more resilient to future changes that will happen.”

Bold announcements were made at COP21 today, which was dedicated to building more resilient societies and economies. According to the UN, extreme climate already impacts hundreds of millions of people every year, undermining or destroying their livelihoods, their homes and their environment.

The Rockefeller Foundation estimates that over the last 30 years, one dollar out of every three spent on development has been lost as a result of such recurring crises, a total loss of $3.8 trillion dollars worldwide. In contrast, resilient societies and economies suffer less and recover more quickly from such natural disasters.

“Resilience–it is very important when we talk about climate change and its consequences,” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru's Minister of the Environment, told the UN News Service.

“When we talk about resilience, we are talking about how can we resist […] and avoid negative consequences to our human population,” he explained. “To the wildlife, to the habitat, to the ecosystems, to the water, to the ocean–that is why we have the 'Resilience Day.' If climate change is going to bring us natural disasters, we should have the objective of resilience as a way to face those kinds of consequences.”

Meanwhile, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) today launched a new 'Climate Risk Early Warning System,' (CREWS), while the governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands agreed to give more than $80 million dollars to equip up to 80 countries with better systems to support countries most vulnerable to climate disasters.

The plan was first proposed in March by France's Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan.

“Climate related disasters cause human losses and dramatic economic losses each year,” said France's Secretary of State for Development Annick Girardin.

“We will first help the most exposed countries among [Least Developed Countries] and Small Island States which will be most at risk as the frequency and severity of such hazards are expected to increase in this part of the world,” she added.

News from COP21 also included the announcement from a broad coalition of nations, river basin organizations, businesses and civil society groups of the creation of the international Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation to make water systems – considered the very foundation of sustainable human development–more resilient to climate impacts.

Almost 290 water basin organizations are reportedly engaged under this new Pact. They say without improved water resources management, the progress towards poverty reduction targets, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and sustainable development in all its economic, social and environmental dimensions, will be jeopardized.

According to a press release issued by the main actors of the LPAA, many other initiatives launched on 'Resilience Day' covered the “full spread of peoples' needs” as they face increasing climate impacts.”