ASEAN experts gather in Laoag City to tackle urban resilience to climate disasters

Research and development experts from across Southeast Asia will gather in Laoag City this week to participate in a three-day regional forum focusing on the need to build more resilient cities amid the challenges posed by climate change.

The forum, dubbed the ASEAN 2017 Forum on Urban Resilience to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Strategies, will be held on December 5-7 in Laoag City.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the forum would serve as a platform for ASEAN countries to discuss plans on attaining urban resilience to climate change and disaster risks.

The DENR is organizing the forum through its Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), as part of the events celebrating the 50th founding anniversary of the ASEAN, which is being hosted by the Philippines.

With populations in urban centers worldwide expected to balloon to at least 2.5 billion by 2050, urban resiliency has become an urgent agenda, according to Cimatu.

“Urban populations are drivers of global warming and, consequently, climate change. Disasters are happening, and we may yet experience more if we continue with our current practices,” he stated.

Studies have shown that more than half of the world’s population is in cities and this could increase up to 66 percent by 2050.

Cities also use about 75 percent of all natural resources while contributing to 67 percent of energy consumption and 71 percent of carbon emissions.

“The effects of our decisions and actions as part of an urban ecosystem transcend boundaries. We need to discuss the vulnerability of urban areas, and we need to discuss it now in this forum,” Cimatu stressed.

The forum will open with messages from the host country’s officials and dignitaries, including Cimatu, Philippine ASEAN representative Ambassador Elizabeth Buensuceso, and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos.

The opening ceremonies will be followed by plenary sessions on climate change impact assessment, green growth strategies, policies, and disaster risk reduction management strategies, along with the opening of an exhibit on urban resilience.

Top ASEAN urban resilience leaders have been invited as speakers and facilitators in the forum, which is divided into four main sessions.

The first session will discuss tools and methodologies in assessing climate change impacts, with topics touching on air, water use, river pollution, industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and landslide vulnerability.

Session Two is on urban resilience and green growth strategies. Topics covered include emergency response,sustainability of public open spaces, degradation of wetland areas due to urbanization, flood control operations, mitigation of landfill gas emissions, river management, and drought.

The third session will focus on institutional structures, policies and programs with speakers discussing their respective countries’ experiences and lessons learned on spatial planning, community-based disaster risk management, earthquake hazard zoning and land use planning.

Disaster risk reduction strategies will be the main theme for Session Four. Discussions will cover land use management, flood disaster solutions, innovations in financing climate-compatible development, social capital, and responsiveness to slow-onset events.

A synthesis of discussions will be presented at the end of the forum to thresh out solutions. #