At COP27, India says drop in cyclone deaths due to warning systems

ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi
Nov 08, 2022 04:32 PM IST

Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav said India has early warning systems for all hydro-meteorological hazards.

Deaths due to tropical cyclones during the last 10 years have been limited to 100, not only in India but also in all the 13 countries in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea region for which the country provides tropical cyclone forecast and advisories, union environment minister, Bhupender Yadav said on Monday , but developed countries that have most capacity to do something about natural disasters are the least affected by extreme climate events and also the biggest contributors to climate change.

Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav addresses COP27 summit on Monday. PREMIUM
Union environment minister Bhupender Yadav addresses COP27 summit on Monday.

The minister was addressing the UN Secretary General’s High Level Round Table “Early Warnings for All” at the COP27 climate conference at Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt.

India has early warning systems for all hydro-meteorological hazards, Yadav said. Mortality from cyclones has reduced by up to 90% over the last 15 years. “On both east and west coasts, we have nearly 100% coverage of early warning systems for cyclones. Similarly for other hazards – such as heat waves – we are making swift progress, leading to much greater resilience of our communities. Over the last few years, we have made concerted efforts towards making early warning impact-based as well as more easily understandable and actionable by communities. We have integrated hazard, vulnerability and exposure information to develop Web – DCRA (Dynamic composite Risk Atlas) to enable swift and advanced action on early warnings.”

But climate finance is still a mirage, and effective climate adaptation such as Early Warnings For All helps us collectively in our region toward reducing vulnerabilities and ensuring preparedness and swift and timely response to natural hazards, Yadav added. “With climate finance still scarce, climate adaptation in the form of early warning dissemination is key in safeguarding lives, and livelihoods. Early warnings for all play a part in not just containing the immediate physical impacts, but also mitigating the far-reaching long-term socio-economics implications that follow.”

One reason why natural disasters do not get the attention they deserve, the minister explained , is because “the countries most able to do something about it are the least affected” by them: “They are also the biggest contributors to climate change”, while, “the most vulnerable regions are located between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Much of the developing world, including India, lies between these tropics. Public expenditures and loss of revenues following the onset of external disasters have already begun to rise in this region with the least coping capacity.”

Yadav said India is doing its bit for the region, pointing to the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) which is working towards developing applications of climate forecast and early warning for reducing infrastructure losses and disruption in basic services for vulnerable countries and IRIS (Infrastructure for Resilient Island States).

There is intensification of tropical cyclones in the Pacific and Caribbean leading to small tropical states losing almost 200% of their national income in a few hours. Instances such as these could have devastating consequences in countries that do not have sufficient means to cope with them, Yadav said, while endorsing UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s call for ‘Early Warnings for All’ on Monday.

Yadav was speaking at the launch of a plan unveiled on Monday by Guterres, where it will cost the equivalent of just 50 cents per person per year for the next five years to reach everyone on Earth with early warnings against increasingly extreme events.

The Executive Action Plan for the Early Warnings for All initiative calls for initial new targeted investments between 2023 and 2027 of US$ 3.1 billion – a sum which would be dwarfed by the benefits, the UN said in a statement.

“This is a small fraction (about 6%) of the requested US$ 50 billion in adaptation financing. It would cover disaster risk knowledge, observations and forecasting, preparedness and response, and communication of early warnings,” the statement added.

Guterres announced the plan at a meeting of government and UN organization leaders, financing agencies, Big Tech , and the private sector during the World Leaders Summit at the UN climate change negotiations, COP27. The plan was drawn up by the World Meteorological Organization and partners, and it was supported by a joint statement signed by 50 countries.

Early warning systems are widely regarded as the “low-hanging fruit” for climate change adaptation because they are a relatively cheap and effective way of protecting people and assets from hazards, including storms, floods, heatwaves and tsunamis to name a few, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

“The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme climate events are serving fresh warnings about the disastrous consequences that await our communities and economies if we fail to arrest climate change. Equity and access to climate finance that can de-risk sustainable investments in developing countries should form the core of our discussions at COP27. The current challenges highlight the need to shift gears from ‘climate ambition’ to demands for ‘climate accountability’. While we have multiple bold and ambitious targets for both emission reductions and finance, it is essential that commitments made by all actors are backed by effective and accountable actions. Climate justice delayed is climate justice denied,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) said during a press briefing on climate accountability.

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