Extreme weather hits Asia, Europe as world leaders gear up for UN climate summit

A flooded street in Tacloban, Philippines. Photo: OCHA

22 September 2014 – Heavy rains and flooding devastated parts of the Philippines, France and Italy over the weekend and may be further indications of the ‘new normal’ that the world will have to deal with if no accelerated action is taken to curb global warming, the head of United Nations Disaster Reduction Office said today on the eve of the UN Climate Summit in New York.

Margareta Wahlström, head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said: “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.”

The UN Climate Summit on Tuesday, convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is the largest gathering of leaders on climate change to date, which 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.

Ms. Wahlström’s Office said 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 Summit, which will take place at UN Headquarters in New York.

Over the weekend, UNISDR said in a press release that the worst areas affected by flooding 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 had left eight people dead and thousands displaced, and amid fears that the situation in Manila may worsen in the days to come.

France and Italy saw also heavy rain and flooding over the weekend as well, according UNISDR.

It said 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 100 mm of rain fell in Nice, south of France.

St. Mark’s Square in Venice was also flooded after heavy rains poured into the northern part of Italy. Tuscany also saw some severe weather, and Viareggio is under 50 centimetres of water.

UNISDR said these latest events add to the toll floods have already taken 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.

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.

UNISDR said the extreme weather patterns 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°Celsius.

“The UN Climate Summit is an important step on the road towards adopting a post-2015 framework for Disaster Risk Reduction,” Ms. Wahlström said.

She went on to say the new accord will be complementary to new agreements on climate action and sustainable development goals 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.

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