What are the similarities and differences between Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA)? What can be learned from experiences of both approaches in Papua New Guinea (PNG)? This paper analyses the two approaches and draws on experience from PNG in recommending ways to integrate both in development policy. The research demonstrates the importance of a holistic response to all underlying vulnerability factors, as opposed to focusing on one hazard or factor such as climate change. It would appear most effective, financially and otherwise, to embed CCA within existing DRR tools. This is as opposed to developing tools and methodologies for CCA separately and integrating these with DRR at a later date.
DRR approaches are well established within the international development community. Early approaches to DRR viewed disasters as unavoidable natural events that needed to be managed. Modern approaches consider the wider social, political, environmental, and economic contexts of hazards.
The DRR and CCA agendas share many similarities. While there are differences, these are inconsequential for practical application. The obvious difference between DRR and CCA most clearly lies within the political and widespread recognition that climate change achieves as opposed to DRR. CCA’s high political profile can be used to leverage funds for broader risk reduction.
Small Island Developing States (SIDs) such as PNG are especially vulnerable to global warming and disasters. PNG provides clear examples of how DRR and CCA interrelate with each other and with development policy.
- Climate change impacts that threaten PNG and other SIDs include sea-level rise, increased temperatures, decreased water supplies, increased endemic diseases, and deterioration in coastal conditions.
- Other threats include natural disasters such as tsunamis, cyclones and volcanic eruptions and social and political disasters such as civil unrest.
- Climate change effects contribute to and exacerbate other long-term environmental issues such as deforestation, desertification, and mismanagement of natural resources.
- The government bodies established to deal with disaster risk and climate change are restricted in their capacity and powers due to political and economic constraints and the challenges of operating is a very culturally diverse environment.
- Communities see disasters as the result of complex causes and effects. Climate change is one factor among many having the capacity to exacerbate disaster incidence.
There are two viewpoints on integrating DRR and CCA into development planning. One recognises differences between the agendas but advocates increased convergence. The other views CCA as one factor within a vulnerability context and argues that CCA should be embedded within DRR. The case of PNG shows that embedding CCA within DRR policies and strategies will enable:
- A holistic approach to reducing risk that considers the complex interactions between environmental, social, political and institutional factors.
- A focus on all the underlying vulnerability factors, not just on one at the expense of the others. To focus solely upon climate change through CCA would be detrimental to the communities concerned.
- Avoidance of over-focusing on a need to adapt to climate change due to its prominence in the international arena, rather than focusing on vulnerabilities identified by communities themselves
- The closing of the gap in CCA between policy development and practical application. Community-based DRR can provide an entry point for CCA, including community-based CCA work.