People have been harnessing water to produce energy and perform work for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks used watermills to grind wheat into flour. Ancient Romans used the power of water to cut timber and stone. During the Han dynasty in China, hydraulically operated pumps raised water for crops into irrigation canals. .
Today it represents 16.6 percent of the world’s total electricity production while contributing 80% of the global renewable electricity mix.
55 is the magic number. Sure - 175 parties (174 countries plus the European Union) signed the Paris Agreement in April in New York City earlier this year. But this alone is not enough. It matters not only how many countries signed the document, but also how many countries ultimately join the Paris Agreement by ratifying it.
And while nature’s fury does not distinguish between urban and rural areas, a large majority of disaster losses are concentrated in cities, where they disproportionately affect the poor. This creates a great challenge for low and middle-income countries. , where most dwellings don’t comply with construction codes and home insurance is non-existent. Perhaps unsurprisingly, LAC’s informal districts also account for the majority of disaster-related deaths in the region.
Yet housing policies aimed at the poor tend to focus on supporting the construction of new units instead of retrofitting existing homes to make them safer—ignoring the fact that it is mostly buildings, not earthquakes, that kill people. As a result, the deficit in housing quality is still disturbingly high: millions of families remain exposed not just to disaster risk but also to high crime rates, eviction, poor housing conditions, as well as lack of access to basic services, healthcare, schools, and job opportunities.
To address these issues, countries will need to tackle the housing challenge from two different but complementary angles: they have to find ways of upgrading the existing housing stock, where the majority of the poor live, while making sure that new constructions comply with building regulations. After all, if floods or earthquakes do not distinguish between old or new homes, why should policy-makers?
- Sustainable Communities
- informal settlements
- Affordable Housing
- safe housing
- housing policy
- Disaster Risk Reduction
- Disaster Risk Mitigation
- disaster risk management
- Urban Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Law and Regulation
- Climate Change
- Latin America & Caribbean
Since natural disasters can strike anywhere and anytime, making far-sighted preparations is much more effective than scrambling to respond to a crisis. I recognized this after Hurricane Mitch ravaged Honduras and my grandmother had to be evacuated because the local river swelled to the second floor of her home.
As climate change intensifies extreme weather events across much of the planet, countries are seeking the World Bank Group’s support to improve both their physical and financial resilience to disasters.
We are increasingly working with governments to devise sound financial planning and risk management before a disaster strikes, not just to assemble financing to help countries recover in its wake.
Market-based instruments – such as insurance -- can act as shock absorbers in case of natural disaster, helping countries avoid the worst of a crisis’ financial impact.
Here’s something you may not be aware of:It’s a statistic that matters in the face of two unrelenting challenges now facing the globe –how to turn the promises of last December’s historic Paris climate change agreement into reality and how to feed a growing global population.
The tragedy in Ecuador serves as a stark reminder that, in many cases, it is not earthquakes or other disasters that kill people, but failing building structures. Therefore, improving building safety will be key in protecting communities against rising disaster and climate risk.
With over a billion dwelling units expected to be built between now and 2050, focusing on new construction will be particularly important, and will help mitigate the impact of natural disasters for generations to come.
The good news is that we have the knowledge and technology to build safe, resilient structures. But, more often than not, this knowledge is not put into practice due to insufficient or poorly-enforced regulation, as well as a lack of incentives.
In this video, Ede Ijjasz and Thomas Moullier explain why building safety will play a critical role in enhancing disaster resilience, and discuss concrete recommendations on how to get there.
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.
- Building Regulation for Resilience: Full report | Video | Program overview
- Retrofitting: A housing policy that saves lives
- Housing is at the center of the sustainable development agenda
Is it hot outside? Should I bring an umbrella?
Most of us don’t think much beyond these questions when we check the weather report on a typical day. But weather information plays a much more critical role than providing intel on whether to take an umbrella or use sunscreen. It can help manage the effects of climate change, prevent economic losses and save lives when extreme weather hits.
Every now and then an email stops me in my tracks, reminding me that Oxfam is stuffed full of bright, motivated, altruistic people. Here’s one I got a few weeks ago from Debbie Hillier, one of our Humanitarian Policy Advisers, in response to my request for thoughts on the state of the aid business. Her views are fleshed out in ‘A Preventable Crisis’, a new report published this week:
Here is a current example of how the aid system doesn’t work.
El Niño events and other droughts are forecast months in advance. There is of course some uncertainty in the forecasts, but nonetheless, there is often a high probability of a natural hazard. And with major droughts/El Niño/La Niña, these can affect many millions of people.
So there are situations of high probability and high impact – like the current El Niño. And these are situations where we know what the solutions are. There are far fewer complicating political factors than in conflict – we know what to do.
If this was the private sector, there would be a significant response at this point. However the aid system does not work like this.
Taken together, these global commitments—all relevant to transport—set a high bar for success in transforming the world’s mobility in the next 10 to 15 years; they are also diverse and complex. For example, nine targets in the SDG framework relate directly to transport. Some targets are straightforward—for instance, Others are less—including the SDG target 9.1 of “developing quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure, including regional and trans-border infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all” which does not specify a clear quantitative target to be achieved by 2030.