Excellency, Dr. Han Seung-soo, Chairperson for the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea,
Excellency, Dr. Basuki Hadimuljono, Minister of Public Works and Housing of Indonesia,
Excellency Mr. Mark Harbers, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands,
Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to join you at the 19th Meeting of the High-level Experts and Leaders Panel on Water and Disasters or HELP.
On behalf of ESCAP, I continue to express our commitment to support HELP to address water and disasters challenges against the backdrop of the pandemic along with the increasing threats from climate change.
Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, water-related disasters continue to unfold unabated.
In December 2021, typhoon Rai left devastating impacts on the Philippines. Last month we saw severe flooding and landslides in Indonesia and heavy rainfalls in Malaysia. In Japan, a deadly 7.4-magnitude earthquake prompted a tsunami warning.
Building resilience to climate-induced water disasters is critical to safeguarding peoples, livelihoods, and economies in the region.
In presenting the findings of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that climate change is “code red for humanity.”
A key finding is that there is a substantial difference between impacts expected to occur at 1.5°C and 2°C of global warming. Each fraction of a degree increase translates into a sizable increase in risk.
We have downscaled these models to the Asia-Pacific region. Allow me to share with you three key findings.
First, compared to global averages, in the coming decades, the region will be the most affected by heavy precipitation, followed by agricultural drought, hot temperatures/heatwaves and intensifying tropical cyclones.
Second, all subregions are characterized by distinct specificities. For example, in East and North-East Asia, heavy precipitation followed by drought will be the key driver of risks under the 1.5°C scenario, while the risks in the Pacific region will be driven by the increasing intensity of tropical cyclones.
Third, to adapt to these climate-induced hazards, the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2021 estimates the cost of adaptation measures to water-related disasters at $202 billion, with an additional $68 million needed to adapt to biological hazards emanating from climate change. This amounts to less than 1 per cent (around 0.85 per cent) of regional GDP and, therefore, is still affordable.
We recently launched 2022 SDG Progress report underlines that the region must take action on SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation to reverse negative trends.
This includes water stress, which is exacerbated by disasters. Last year, we also analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on SDG 6. We found that economic impacts are slowing investments in water infrastructure that are critically needed to improve access to water and sanitation and reduce risks.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we must ensure that renewed investments in water and sanitation help to accelerate progress.
Some of these investments could include adaptation priorities to water-related disasters. Examples of which are strengthening early warning systems, making water resources and new infrastructure more resilient, facilitating nature-based solutions, and improving dryland agriculture crop production.
In this regard, to further investment decisions, the ESCAP Risk and Resilience Portal has developed an adaptation priority matrix that shows related costs for each country based on different climate scenarios.
HELP and ESCAP can work in partnership to support countries in implementing these adaptation measures to build resilience to climate-induced water events.
I invite HELP to join the Asia-Pacific Disaster Resilience Network to jointly forge consensus and policy action on water-related hazards.
I look forward to further strengthening our collaboration as we build climate resilience to ensure that no one is left behind.
I wish you a very successful event.