Floods hit as leaders gather for Climate Summit in New York

Geneva, home to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, hosted a march for climate action yesterday which ended in front of the UN HQ. Similar demonstrations were held across the world in the build-up to this week's Climate Summit. (Photo: Denis McClean/UNISDR)
 
By Brigitte Leoni

BANGKOK, 22 September 2014 - Heavy rains have caused major devastation over the weekend in the Philippines, France and Italy and may be further indications of the “new normal” that the world will have to deal with, if no accelerated action is taken to keep global warming within 2˚C.

These latest events add to the toll which floods are already taking on the lives of millions around the globe. Earlier this month, China, Pakistan, South Sudan and Uganda were among the countries hit by flooding which they continue to respond to.

For example, flooding in Bentiu, South Sudan, is contributing to worsening malnutrition rates among 46,000 displaced and many remain homeless in Pakistan where the flood emergency is affecting 2.3 million people, resulting in 312 deaths and the loss of 1.7 million acres of crops.

Extreme weather events around the globe are setting the scene for the arrival in New York of some 120 Heads of State and hundreds of CEO’s for the UN Climate Summit this week. The UN Climate Summit open Wednesday in New York.

The summit which is the largest gathering of leaders on Climate Change ever aims to mobilize action and obtain more commitments from governments and actors of the civil society to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in more resilience.

Margareta Wahlström, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said today: “The UN Climate Summit is an important step on the road towards adopting a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction. The new agreement will be complementary to new agreements on climate action and sustainable development goals.

“Heads of State are expected to make national announcements on both mitigation and adaptation and we do hope that these announcements will include commitments to disaster risk reduction and to the post 2015 framework for Disaster risk Reduction that will be adopted in Sendai, Japan next year during the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction as they are part of the same agenda.”

The worst areas affected by flooding over the weekend were in Manila, the Philippines where at least 200,000 people were evacuated after Tropical storm Fung-Wong hit the city. The storm arrived as the Philippines capital was recovering from last week's Typhoon Kalmaegi which left eight people dead and thousands displaced.

It is feared that the situation in Manila may worsen in the days to come as a dam in another part of the city is showing signs of overflowing. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada criticized anti-flood infrastructure over the weekend , saying it had been "neglected for a long time."

France and Italy saw also heavy rain and flooding over the weekend. Rains badly hit the department of Var in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in south-eastern France when the Argens river rose rapidly. Some areas of Var saw between 120 to160 mm of rain last Friday and around 100mm of rain fell in Nice, south of France. “The ground is so saturated in areas across south east France that any further rain could well result in more severe flooding” said experts.

St Mark’s Square in Venice in Italy was also under 15cm of water after heavy rains poured into the northern part of Italy. Tuscany also saw some severe weather, and Viareggio is under 50cm of water. Some residents have been evacuated from their homes in Pietrasanta and Alta Versilia

At the UN Climate summit, the UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction will coordinate the action area on Resilience, Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction. The action area initiatives on cities, climate information for planning and investments at all levels, integrating risk into the financial sector and a number of linked initiatives focused on regional action for LDC’s and SIDS.
Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction take place from Africa to the Pacific.
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