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Economic Losses Economic Losses

Economic Losses, Poverty & Disasters, 1998-2017

If development and economic growth are not risk informed, they are not sustainable and can undermine efforts to build resilience. The economic losses which often ensue from the creation of new risk or exacerbation of existing levels of risk can have a signifcant human cost.

That human cost is there for all of us to see in the alarming numbers of people who are now internally displaced every year by disasters, often losing their homes and their livelihoods, in extreme weather events and earthquakes.

We live in a world where the bar for resilience is constantly being raised by human actions. The most egregious failure in this regard is the lack of political will and commitment to make serious progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, thus allowing climate change to play an increasingly important role in driving up disaster losses around the world for the foreseeable future.

As the UN Secretary-General has recently warned: “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”

Alongside the global push by the UN and other stakeholders for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, there is also widespread recognition that we need to accelerate implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the global plan to reduce disaster losses by reducing existing levels of risk, avoiding the creation of new risk and managing risks that cannot be eliminated.

These words must translate into actions which lead to robust institutions tasked with disaster risk management, enforcement of land use regulations, implementation of building codes, preservation of protective eco-systems, risk-informed urban development and special attention to the housing
needs of the poor and vulnerable in society.

The focus of this report is on Sendai Framework target (c) which seeks to “reduce direct disaster economic loss in relation to global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.” This is also the theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction, on October 13. In particular, the report highlights the ever widening “protection gap” that exists between rich and poor across the planet. It is often said that those who suffer the most from climate change are those
who contribute least to it. We are acutely reminded that disasters are a combination of hazard, exposure and vulnerability.

It is also clear that the economic losses suffered by low and lower-middle income countries have crippling consequences for their future development and undermine our efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, in particular the eradication of poverty.