CREWS commits additional funding to strengthen Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean

Different and multiple hazards, such as severe weather conditions in land and at sea, droughts, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, pose a serious threat to the Caribbean, which is one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world. Combined, geological and hydro-meteorological hazards have affected more than 100 million people in the region, causing significant economic losses and casualties.

The development of Early Warning Systems has been identified by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement as a key pathway to prevent disasters and reduce the negative impacts of multiple hazards.

As defined by the UNDRR, Multi-hazard Early Warning Systems are "an integrated system of hazard monitoring, forecasting and prediction, disaster risk assessment, communication and preparedness activities systems and processes that enables individuals, communities, governments, businesses and others to take timely action to reduce disaster risks in advance of hazardous events".

The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative (CREWS) is a mechanism that provides financial support to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to establish risk-informed early warning services, implemented by three partners, based on clear operational procedures. CREWS has recently donated an additional $1 million to support the project Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Services in the Caribbean , which will be implemented by UNDRR in 2022.

The project aims to strengthen Early Warning Services (EWS) in the Caribbean and to articulate the response capacity of individuals, institutions, and communities through the development of a regional strategy to strengthen and streamline early warning and hydro-meteorological services. This includes developing appropriate approaches to risk-informed decision-making for EWS, identifying gaps in risk assessment at regional and national levels, and evaluating the resilience of already existing infrastructure such as forecasting centres, shelters, and National Meteorological and Hydrological Services. The project will also examine opportunities for building partnerships with the private sector and assess socio-economic benefits to ensure the sustainability of investments and activities.

This project aligns with the Sendai Framework and focuses on the implementation of target G, which aims to “substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to people by 2030”. The Sendai 7 campaign of the 2022 International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction will be focusing on this same target. Ensuring access to Multi -hazard Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean is regarded as a tool that enables individuals, communities, governments, businesses, and other stakeholders to take timely action to reduce disaster risk in advance of hazardous events.

This is also a matter of urgency, as disclosed in the Regional Assessment Report on Disaster Risk in Latin America and the Caribbean (RAR21), published last year: “In the short and medium term the occurrence of new mega-disasters in the region is almost inevitable given the extreme risk embedded there. It is therefore urgent to strengthen corrective and reactive management capabilities, especially early warning systems, preparedness and response.”

Landmark IPCC report must be wake-up call for greater investment in disaster risk reduction

Following the release of the IPCC Working Group II Report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, issued the following statement:

The findings of the latest IPCC report are dire. Communities around the world are being affected by climate change at a magnitude worse than expected. The devastating impacts of climate disasters are affecting every part of the world.

As the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said today “The IPCC report is an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.”

Many of the changes are at risk of becoming irreversible. On our current trajectory, the world is set to breach the 1.5 °C safe global temperature limit by the early 2030s, spiralling to dangerous levels of disaster risk. Almost half the human population is already in the danger zone

It is incomprehensible that we knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people.

Based on current trends, a record increase in medium and large-scale disasters is expected with droughts doubling, and extreme temperature events almost tripling to 2030. Overall, disaster events have doubled in the last 20 years compared to the previous 20 years. If countries and governments do not manage it properly and respond to the climate emergency with urgency, there’s a very real chance that we’ll see them double again.

Yet the world also has an opportunity to meet these challenges. At the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Bali, Indonesia this May, organised by the UN and hosted by Indonesia, leaders will gather to discuss how to accelerate action for reducing these risks.

The IPCC report points to many solutions on improving regional and local information, providing sound data and knowledge for decision makers. This does work. Countries have succeeded in saving many lives through improved early warning systems and preparedness.

But climate disasters will undoubtedly worsen. There are very low levels of investments in disaster prevention and disaster risk reduction for the world’s most vulnerable countries on the front lines of impacts. We need to ramp up investment in disaster prevention if we are to cope with the exponential rise of disaster events in recent decades.

A crucial recommendation in the report today is the need for climate-resilient development – inclusive governance that embeds finance and actions across governance levels, sectors and timeframes.

Furthermore, all countries are impacted by climate change, but not in the same way. The most vulnerable communities and nations are the hardest hit, and need greater support on climate finance to adaptation and to avert, minimize and address losses and damages. This means increasing financing for climate change adaptation from tens to hundreds of million dollars.

We need to ensure that regulations and funding take into account disaster risk and that climate risk in financial markets is disclosed. Governments need to make disaster resilience a priority through dedicated funding to prevention.

Critical Infrastructure Protection: Agencies Need to Assess Adoption of Cybersecurity Guidance

Federal agencies with a lead role to assist and protect one or more of the nation's 16 critical infrastructures are referred to as sector risk management agencies (SRMAs). The SRMAs for three of the 16 have determined the extent of their sector's adoption of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (framework). In doing so, lead agencies took actions such as developing sector surveys and conducting technical assessments mapped to framework elements. SRMAs for four sectors have taken initial steps to determine adoption (see figure). However, lead agencies for nine sectors have not taken steps to determine framework adoption.

Status of Framework Adoption by Critical Infrastructure Sector

Regarding improvements resulting from sector-wide use, five of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors' SRMAs have identified or taken steps to identify sector-wide improvements from framework use, as GAO previously recommended. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency identified an approximately 32 percent overall increase in the use of framework-recommended cybersecurity controls among the 146 water utilities that requested and received voluntary technical assessments. In addition, SRMAs for the government facilities sector identified improvements in cybersecurity performance metrics and information standardization resulting from federal agencies' use of the framework. However, SRMAs for the remaining 11 sectors did not identify improvements and were not able to describe potential successes from their sectors' use of the framework.

SRMAs reported various challenges to determining framework adoption and identifying sector-wide improvements. For example, they noted limitations in knowledge and skills to implement the framework, the voluntary nature of the framework, other priorities that may take precedence over framework adoption, and the difficulty of developing precise measurements of improvement were challenges to measuring adoption and improvements. To help address challenges, NIST launched an information security measurement program in September 2020 and the Department of Homeland Security has an information network that enables sectors to share best practices. Implementing GAO's prior recommendations on framework adoption and improvements are key factors that can lead to sectors pursuing further protection against cybersecurity threats.

The U.S. has 16 critical infrastructure sectors that provide clean water, gas, banking, and other essential services. To help protect them, in 2014 the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed cybersecurity standards and procedures that organizations within these sectors may voluntarily use. Federal agencies are charged with leading efforts to improve sector security.

The GAO have found agencies have measured the adoption of these standards and procedures for 3 of 16 sectors and have identified improvements across 2 sectors. For example, the EPA found a 32% increase in the use of recommended cybersecurity controls at 146 water utilities.

FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience

As climate change increases disaster risks across the country, emergency managers and government officials are beginning to implement strategies to build community resilience. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience provides a roadmap of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs and initiatives that advance community climate resilience. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience assists FEMA’s state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) partners in navigating the FEMA resources that are available to support communities in mitigating impacts of climate change.

Building resilience is a long-term, ongoing cycle that requires multiple steps to accomplish. Each section of the FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience corresponds with a step in that cycle and provides information about FEMA services, programs, and grants available to SLTT partners. Each SLTT partner has a unique experience with FEMA and has participated in different elements of the resilience cycle. SLTT partners with limited FEMA experience may choose to start from the beginning of FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience, while other SLTT partners may navigate directly to their program of choice.

Each section of FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience provides a brief description of the program, service, or grant, an overview of who can apply, examples of the FEMA programs in action, and helpful tools and resources for learning more about the program, service, or grant. In addition, where applicable, FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience also points out areas where equity can be prioritized. FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience explains how existing tools, such as the National Risk Index (Risk Index), can assist SLTT governments and their communities, right now, in making informed planning decisions including considerations of impacts from future weather conditions.

FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience also provides a quick glance at FEMA funding sources, such as the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, designed to support communities in building capability and capacity to mitigate the increasing impacts of climate change.

FEMA Resources for Climate Resilience is available to download at https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_resources-climate-resilience.pdf

Joint Research Centre launches a revolutionary tool for monitoring ongoing floods worldwide as part of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) unveiled the beta version of the Global Flood Monitoring (GFM) tool, unique for its capacity to process all data received by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites.

Making use of the synthetic aperture radar of Sentinel-1 that enables image acquisitions regardless of weather or daylight conditions, this tool will improve both the emergency response and the prevention for future floods worldwide.

It produces flood monitoring maps within less than 8 hours after the satellite has acquired the image at a spatial resolution of 20m at global level.

For Europe, the tool can provide updated flood monitoring maps every 1-3 days whereas for areas outside Europe updating of the flood maps may take between 6-12 days depending on the Sentinel-1 schedule.

The tool is currently accessible through the map viewer of the Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) of the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) and will be, at a later stage, also available through the map viewer of the European Flood Awareness System (EFAS).

The monitoring of the ongoing floods using satellite data from GFM, complements the flood forecasts of EFAS and GloFAS that are calculated using weather predictions and a hydrological model.

The combination of both tools within one interface enables its users to better support the preparedness of an upcoming flood (forecasts) as well as the response to an ongoing flood event (monitoring). This constant, global, high-resolution monitoring represents a significant progress in the EU’s disaster awareness and prevention.

The results produced by GFM can be used for planning and coordinating emergency response to an ongoing flood or for supporting the international help in affected areas. In addition, the archive of the GFM, which contains flood monitoring maps derived from the processing of all Sentinel-1 data starting 1.

January 2015, enables decision makers to improve prevention plans to avoid or to reduce the impact of future floods and scientists to use the dataset of GFM to validate or calibrate models for improving predictions of impacts of floods under climate change.

The GFM is the result of years of scientific development of the JRC and partners (Earth Observation Data Center, Technical University of Vienna, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, Deutsches Zentrum fuer Luft und Raumfahrt, Geoville, CIMA Research Foundation). This latest addition to the CEMS portfolio of products is launched during the CEMS Days, an event bringing together users of the CEMS tools to discuss the service and its evolution.

During the CEMS days, the JRC also presented the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL), which produces global spatial information about the human presence on the planet over time. GHSL has now been added to the CEMS suite of tools, as a new ‘exposure mapping’ component. Detailed information on exposure is fundamental to adequately managing crisis and disaster risk.

The GHSL provides highly accurate information derived from satellite and census data. It can help in answering questions like: how many people are living in the flooded areas? Or: how many settlements and people will be affected by a cyclone?

This information will be used in the on-demand mapping and early warning and monitoring components of CEMS. The information is also useful for a wide range of domains, from monitoring urbanisation to the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Weather and climate extremes in Asia killed thousands, displaced millions and cost billions in 2020

Extreme weather and climate change impacts across Asia in 2020 caused the loss of life of thousands of people, displaced millions of others and cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while wreaking a heavy toll on infrastructure and ecosystems. Sustainable development is threatened, with food and water insecurity, health risks and environmental degradation on the rise, according to a new multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The State of the Climate in Asia 2020 provides an overview of land and ocean temperatures, precipitation, glacier retreat, shrinking sea ice, sea level rise and severe weather. It examines socio-economic impacts in a year when the region was also struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn complicated disaster management.

The report shows how every part of Asia was affected, from Himalayan peaks to low-lying coastal areas, from densely populated cities to deserts and from the Arctic to the Arabian seas.

“Weather and climate hazards, especially floods, storms, and droughts, had significant impacts in many countries of the region, affecting agriculture and food security, contributing to increased displacement and vulnerability of migrants, refugees, and displaced people, worsening health risks, and exacerbating environmental issues and losses of natural ecosystems,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

“Combined, these impacts take a significant toll on long term sustainable development, and progress toward the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals in particular,” he said.

The report combines input from a wide range of partners including the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and other UN agencies, national meteorological and hydrological services as well as leading scientists and climate centres.

WMO State of Climate in 2021: Extreme events and major impacts

The past seven years are on track to be the seven warmest on record, according to the provisional WMO State of the Global Climate 2021 report, based on data for the first nine months of 2021. A temporary cooling “La Niña” event early in the year means that 2021 is expected to be “only” the fifth to seventh warmest year on record. But this does not negate or reverse the long-term trend of rising temperatures.The report combines input from multiple United Nations agencies, national meteorological and hydrological services and scientific experts. It highlights impacts on food security and population displacement, harming crucial ecosystems and undermining progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. It was released at a press conference on the opening day of COP26.

Global sea level rise accelerated since 2013 to a new high n 2021, with continued ocean warming and ocean acidification.

The report combines input from multiple United Nations agencies, national meteorological and hydrological services and scientific experts. It highlights impacts on food security and population displacement, harming crucial ecosystems and undermining progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

The provisional State of the Climate 2021 report was released at the start of the UN Climate Change negotiations, COP26, in Glasgow. It provides a snapshot of climate indicators such as greenhouse gas concentrations, temperatures, extreme weather, sea level, ocean warming and ocean acidification, glacier retreat and ice melt, as well as socio-economic impacts.

It is one of the flagship scientific reports which will inform negotiations and which will be showcased at the Science pavilion hosted by WMO, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UK Met Office. During COP26, WMO will launch the Water and Climate Coalition to coordinate water and climate action, and the Systematic Observations Financing Facility to improve weather and climate observations and forecasts which are vital to climate change adaptation.

Early warning systems saving lives during Nepal’s monsoon

For days leading up to the disaster, Mr. Harisaran Shrestha had been listening to warnings about floods in the Melamchi, a river that flows through the foothills of the Himalayas in central Nepal. At least one local FM radio was repeatedly broadcasting notices about the possible release of water from the reservoir of a nearby drinking-water project and urging the public to avoid river banks and to refrain from activities like fishing, sand mining, and gravel collecting.

The local police and representatives were also issuing similar warnings around the town via microphones and loudspeakers.

Owing to these forewarnings, when the flood eventually hit his hometown, Melamchi Bazar, northeast of Kathmandu in Sindhupalchowk district, in June 2021, Mr. Shrestha was better prepared to react to the deluge. “As soon as it became apparent that the flood was going to sweep the entire town, I used my bus to ferry women, children, and disabled people in the neighbourhood to a safer location,” said Mr. Shrestha.

On June 15, just an hour after the final warning from the radio and police announcement on loudspeaker, massive floods near the confluence of the Melachmi River and the Indrawati River swept through the settlements near Shrestha’s hometown, killing at least five people and destroying property worth millions of rupees. At least a dozen people remain missing more than two months after one of the worst disasters in the town's history.

Despite saving many lives, Mr. Shrestha could not save his belongings because he had underestimated the scale of the disaster. “Our home was at a considerable distance from the river. It never occurred to me that the swollen river’s waters would reach this far,” Mr. Shrestha recalled in an interview.

Now displaced by the flood, Mr. Shrestha, 38, has been living with a family of six in a temporary shelter. The river, which has changed its course, now runs through his home and farmland.

“The river took everything. Thankfully, all of us are safe,” said Mr. Shrestha.

Mr. Dev Raj Subedi, the manager of Radio Melamchi, which issued the flood warnings, said that the alerts had proved effective in saving hundreds of lives, although only a few households managed to save some of their possessions--those they could carry with them. Radio Melamchi has been ritually providing flood-related warnings to the municipality’s estimated 50,000 inhabitants for the last few years, especially after the Melamchi Drinking Water Project gathered momentum in the 2010s.

“We issued the warning as soon as a government official informed us about the flood upstream. The warning proved especially helpful in the town area, whose inhabitants had the means to access the warning. That was one of the reasons there were no deaths in the town area,” shared Mr. Subedi.

Melamchi’s case is the latest example of how the growing use of mass media and early warning systems through data collected from meteorological and hydrological stations and rainfall-runoff model is proving effective in saving lives in Nepal, which is highly susceptible to disasters, owing to its topography and its hundreds of big and small rivers.

Every year, floods and landslides wreak havoc in Nepal, leading to huge numbers of casualties and untold destruction of property. Hill settlements are particularly vulnerable to landslides and flash floods, while riverine floods routinely deluge the lowland areas bordering India.

Every year during the rainy season, hundreds of families lose their house, agricultural yield, and means of livelihood, pushing them further into poverty.

Between 13 April to 16 October in 2020, floods and landslides killed at least 337 Nepalis, wiped out thousands of houses, and destroyed property worth billions of rupees, according to an estimate by Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs. More than 100 people remain missing on account of those floods.

Numerous factors including the 2015 earthquake, infrastructural projects and climate change have contributed to increasing disasters, according to experts. For instance, Sindhupalchowk district, the epicenter of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled Nepal in 2015, has seen a marked increase in landslides and floods following the tragedy that killed over 9,000 people.

Mr. Bikram Shrestha Zoowa, a senior Divisional Hydrologist at the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, in Kathmandu, said that climate-induced hazards and unplanned development are emerging as challenges in recent decades.

Examples include recent disasters such as the Setigandaki flood in Kaski, Jure landslide-Sindhupalchowk in 2014, a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in Tibet immediately above the Bhotekoshi River in Sindhupalchowk in 2016; a dry landslide in the Kaligandaki Corridor after the 2015 earthquake, another GLOF in Barun valley obstructing the flow of Arun River in 2017, and numerous climate-induced landslides during the 2020 monsoon and this year, said Mr. Shrestha Zoowa.

“Human interventions such as road construction in hill slopes without considering geological studies are certainly the causes of the region’s geological fragility, which results in small and big landslides in hilly regions. This is the man-made effect in addition to earthquakes responsible for hazards.”

According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming averaged over the next 20 years. In 2019, a landmark report

by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, an intergovernmental center based in Nepal, warned that a two-degree temperature rise could melt half of the glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, destabilising Asia’s rivers.

In recent years, to minimise loss of life and property, an increasing number of communities vulnerable to disasters have begun to integrate social media platforms--such as Facebook and Twitter--and other technologies to provide early warnings. And as with Radio Melamchi, more than 500 FM radio stations across Nepal are being used to disseminate news and timely warnings. Many other local bodies are integrating SMS text messages to provide real-time alerts for people living in disaster-prone zones.

In Kailali, a western Nepal district bordering India’s Uttar Pradesh, flood warnings through SMS alerts and phone calls have proven effective in saving lives in settlements spread along the Karnali River Basin.

“When massive floods hit our village in 2016, most of the villagers with mobile phones had received SMS alerts three hours before the disaster. Those three hours gave us ample time to save not just our lives, but also our livestock and essentials like some grains and documents,” said Ms. Sajita Tharu of Laxmipur village in Kailali district. “Thankfully, we have not faced that kind of flood in recent years but we continue to receive alerts if water rises above the danger level. That allows us to remain mentally prepared and save essentials in case the flood hits us.”

As part of the community-based early warning approach, residents living in catchment areas constantly pass on information about the water level in their area to residents of villages downstream. The community groups also get constant flood alerts from the Department of Hydrology’s regional station. The alerts--including text messages, phone calls, and information from weatherboards--are widely circulated by the members of the Community Disaster Management Committees, which were formed by programs designed to enhance the communities’ flood resilience. Most members of these user committees are women, as many working-age men migrate to India or other countries in search of jobs.

Ms. Manakala Kumari Chaudhari, the deputy mayor of Rajapur Municipality in far-western Nepal, said that the timely early warning system in his area has been instrumental in saving lives and properties. As soon as the water level rises above the danger level upstream, several people who own mobile phones in his municipality--a delta created by the Karnali River--receive warnings.

“Save for some exceptions, most locals respond to warnings and take the required safety measures. The timely alerts also provide ample time for all stakeholders to make the necessary preparations for disasters,” said Ms. Chaudhari.

Such timely warnings are critical because they provide enough time to save lives. The area is susceptible to constant floods from big rivers like the Karnali and Babai and from small streams, which are usually dry in other seasons.

In preparation for the seasonal floods, communities in western Nepal have also built community shelters, animal sheds to shelter their livestock and grain-storage facilities to save grains.

Since Nepal adopted federalism in 2015, there have been efforts at all three levels of government to embrace disaster-resilience policies. The central government, the provincial government, as well as many local governments have adopted policies related to disaster risk reduction. Recently, under the Home Ministry, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority prepared the National Monsoon Early Preparedness and Response Work Plan

2021. However, questions remain around the implementation of these policies and the authorities’ ability to handle large-scale disasters, especially owing to their lack of resources. Moreover, growing landslides along newly constructed highways, hydropower projects and other infrastructures-- many of which were cleared after proper Environment Impact Assessment--- have reinforced the need for better policies to promote resilient infrastructure.

But overall, the early warning systems seem to be reducing the impacts of floods in many parts of Nepal. Mr. Shrestha Zoowa, the hydrologist, said that early warning systems have proven effective in saving hundreds of lives every year, especially in vulnerable settlements along big rivers such as the Karnali, Babai, Narayani, and Koshi. The data gathered from weather stations, rainfall-runoff models are disseminated in form of daily bulletins through various media platforms, while the weather forecast relies on the Weather Research and Forecasting model, an advanced numerical weather prediction framework designed for operational forecasting and atmospheric research needs.

In recent years, the Department of Hydrology and Meteorology has been working with various non-governmental organizations in developing disaster information management systems and online databases to provide real-time information to augment its early warning systems.

The Disaster Risk Reduction Portal and Nepal Government GeoPortal, among other platforms, provide information gathered from various hydro-meteorological stations in Rasuwa, Solukhumbu, Kaski, Dolpa, Humla, Dolakha, Jumla, Sankhuwasabha and Manang districts.

“For most flood events, we have effective plans, technologies, and historical information to issue timely and reliable warnings to vulnerable settlements. But we lack an effective early warning system for flash floods in the hills and for settlements along small rivers, which are highly unpredictable,” said Mr. Shrestha Zoowa.

Nepal also needs to do more to ensure that people respond to early warnings. Although many local communities are making good use of weather forecasts and flood alerts, some are unable to take advantage of the information, often because they lack the economic means and/or technical knowledge to know what to do. Often the warning messages come with technical jargon and they may not effectively relay the impact information of the disaster relevant to people’s day to day life and experience. “The early warning systems have become much better over the years but there is still a lot to be done,” said Mr. Shrestha Zoowa.

ICC and RESNET to Develop Standard on Remote Virtual Inspections for Energy and Water Performance in Buildings

The International Code Council, the leading global source of model codes and standards and building safety solutions, and RESNET, a national standards-making body for energy efficiency ratings and certification systems, will continue their long history of collaboration by developing a new American National Standards Institute (ANSI) candidate standard on remote virtual inspections (RVI) for the energy and water use performance of buildings. Previously, the two organizations have worked together to develop a new certification designation, the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC)/Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Compliance Specialist, and four other ANSI standards. Most recently, they advocated and received recognition of the Home Energy Rating System (HERS®) Index within California.

The new standard will provide guidance for implementing RVI for energy code compliance and for energy and water efficiency performance. Performance raters will be provided criteria to check all aspects of permitted construction for compliance with energy codes and other energy-related applicable laws and regulations. As a next step, a new Standard Development Committee will be formed to develop and maintain the standard with the Code Council and RESNET appointing representatives – both separately and jointly.

“Building construction is rapidly evolving and jurisdictions are being challenged to adapt,” said Mark Johnson, Executive Vice President & Director of Business Development, International Code Council. “The need for new inspection methods has been building for a while as the inspector workforce has shrunk and jurisdictions’ resources have come under financial pressure. The pandemic also increased the pressure to evolve, and quickly.”

RVI is a tool to address these problems and organizations such as the Code Council have developed guidance documents to assist code enforcement entities.

“As more code enforcement departments begin their digital transformation and adopt technologies like RVI, there needs to be standardized criteria for how it is implemented,” said Steve Baden, Executive Director, RESNET. “A national consensus standard for RVI as it applies to energy- and water-use efficiency inspections and ratings will both provide code enforcement authorities with assurance that the ratings they adopt for code compliance are reliable, as well as advance the efficiency and efficacy potentials of these new approaches to determining code compliance.”

The standard would be co-sponsored by the Code Council and RESNET and developed using RESNET’s ANSI accredited procedures as an American National Standard by ANSI. For more information on RVI, the Code Council released a whitepaper, Recommended Practices for Remote Virtual Inspections (RVI), which will be the foundation for the development of the new consensus standard.

Asia-Pacific needs to tackle overlapping crises

The Asia-Pacific region needs to step up efforts to prepare for and tackle complex, overlapping crises in order to increase the resilience of its people as well as its economies, with climate change threatening to dwarf the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic, a key meeting of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific has heard.

“Notwithstanding the progress made by many countries in devising more robust systems of early warning and responsive protection - with far fewer people dying as a result of natural disasters - the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that almost without exception, countries around the world are still ill-prepared to deal with multiple overlapping crises, which often cascade,” said Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

“Tropical cyclones, for example, can lead to floods, which lead to disease, which exacerbates poverty,” she told the ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Since the start of the pandemic, the region has been hit by multiple natural and biological disasters. At the same time, climate change has continued to warm the world, exacerbating the impacts of many of these disasters. The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2021, which was launched during ESCAP’s Disaster Reslience Week, shows that the pandemic, combined with the persistent reality of climate change, has reshaped and expanded the disaster “riskscape” in Asia and the Pacific.

Resilience in Asia-PacificThe triple threat of disease, disaster and climate change is causing not only considerable human hardship but also significant economic losses. Currently, the annual average disaster-related losses are $780 billion. This could nearly double, to around $1.4 trillion, in a worst-case climate scenario. Choosing a proactive strategy of adapting to natural and other biological hazards would be far more cost-effective at an annual cost of $270 billion, said the report.

WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas urged great ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to accelerate climate change adaptation.

“If we fail with the climate change mitigation, the impact is going to be felt for centuries or even millennia, so the scale of the problem we are talking about when it comes to climate change, the scale is much bigger,” Prof. Taalas told ESCAP’s Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction.

The new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has highlighted the increasing severity of the physical impacts of climate change because of record concentrations of greenhouse gases. This includes long-term melting of glaciers, snow and ice cover, sea level rise and ocean acidification, which will last for centuries or even thousands of years, Prof. Taalas said in a video address.

“Heatwaves, drought, forest fires, flooding, landslides and tropical storms are becoming more intense, as a result. Last year was the warmest year on record in Asia and we have also seen record breaking flooding, especially in East Asia” Prof. Taalas said.

The ESCAP Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction is charged with addressing the following issues: (a) emergence of cascading risks and extension of the disaster risk-scape; (b) scaling-up multisectoral cooperation frameworks to manage cascading risks; and (c) status of regional co-operation efforts.

WMO was represented in several expert group meetings, panel discussions and side events. WMO and ESCAP have a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to build resilience to climate and disaster risks and the promotion of impact-based early warning services and systems. The two organizations have a long history of cooperation by jointly establishing the Typhoon Committee.

Prof. Taalas stressed the importance of building capacity in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States to adapt to climate change and build resilience, in particular through investments in early warning services.

However, major gaps in observing systems in many parts of the world, including islands and least developed countries in the Asia-Pacific region, have a negative impact on the quality of early warning services. WMO’s new initiative, the Systematic Observations Financing Facility (SOFF) seeks to close these gaps and leverage sustainable financing.

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