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  • Harnessing Nature to Manage Rising Flood Risk

    Flooding in Wisconsin, USA © FEMA PhotoWalt JenningsWASHINGTON, D.C. (24, May 2017 - 8:00am ET) – Worldwide, flood risk will continue to rise as cities grow larger and rainstorms become more intense, making conventional engineering insufficient as the sole approach to flood management.  "Natural and Nature-Based Flood Management: A Green Guide" released today by WWF, introduces an integrated framework for flood management, drawing on policy, green infrastructure and conventional engineering to help communities adapt and better manage growing flood risk.
    Globally, flooding is the most common disaster risk, accounting for nearly half of all weather-related disasters during the past 20 years.  Exposure and vulnerability to flood risks are on the rise: the proportion of the world population living in flood-prone river basins has increased about 114 percent and population exposed to coastal areas has grown 192 percent during the last decade.
    "We can't afford to continue to invest in short term solutions that don't take into account how weather patterns, sea levels and land use are changing the nature and severity of flooding," said Anita van Breda, World Wildlife Fund's senior director of environment and disaster. "The traditional approaches we've used to manage flooding in the past – like sea walls and levees – in most cases, won't work in isolation for the types of floods we're likely to experience in the future."
    The Flood Green Guide, developed in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development Office of U.S.  Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), provides a step-by-step framework for flood managers to understand the factors contributing to flood risk in their region, and to pull together the appropriate policies, nature based solutions, and traditional engineering to address the problem. 
    "New roads, tunnels and bridges should not only be able to withstand more severe flooding, but ideally contribute to the community's resilience and safety," said van Breda. "Our framework encourages engineers, flood managers, planners, community members, and policymakers to collaborate around the table from the start to work together addressing multiple objectives."
    The guide promotes using non-structural methods such as land use zoning as first step, and then integration of natural and nature-based methods, combined with hard engineering if needed, to manage flood risk. Natural and nature-based methods, like upstream reforestation, green roofs on downstream urban areas and wetland restorations and management can improve the function of - and reduce overall costs associated with - conventional engineering. They also allow communities to reap the co-benefits the environment can provide such as: cleaner water, reduced air temperatures and green space for human recreation while protecting livelihoods such as agriculture and fishing.
    "Floods do not recognize national or administrative boundaries," said Sezin Tokar, Senior Hydrometeorological Hazard Advisor for USAID/OFDA.  "Any action in one part of the watershed will affect everyone else living in the watershed.  That's why an integrated and basin-wide approach is critical to save lives and protect the property of people living near the water."
    The guide will be supported by a training curriculum (currently under development), specifically designed for those responsible for flood risk management, including municipal governments, community groups and non-governmental organizations worldwide.
    "We need to design and develop systems that can adapt to changing circumstances while also keeping our communities, infrastructure, and environment safe," said van Breda. "The most durable flood management strategies are locally specific and factor in what's happening in the watershed, both upstream and downstream of individual projects."
    For more information about the guide or to view the resource library, visit: http://envirodm.org/flood-management

  • Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians at risk: A UNESCO World Heritage concern

      © Tomas Hulik / WWFBratislava, 22 May 2017 – On International Biodiversity Day and days after UNESCO expressed concern regarding the future of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians in Slovakia, WWF urges the Slovak government to take action to secure the country's world heritage. 

    The UNESCO World Heritage Committee's draft decision, published last Friday, highlighted that the Slovak part of the transboundary World Heritage Site continues to be threatened by logging, despite the efforts of the government targeting to strengthen the management of the park. According to the draft: "unless urgent measures are taken to address the lack of an adequate protection regime (....), their protection from logging and other potential threats cannot be guaranteed in the long-term, which would clearly constitute a potential danger to the outstanding universal value of this serial transnational property as a whole".
    The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007 and is located in three countries: Slovakia, Ukraine and Germany. The Slovak part of the site includes unique 200 year old beech trees and more than 300 year old clusters of silver fir, and is home to grey wolves, European bisons, brown bears and lynx.
    However, the 33,670.2 hectares of outstanding natural heritage is not all protected appropriately. Inaccuracies in the designation documents, lack of communication with landowners and land users as well as incoherence between nature conservation and forestry legislation has led to long-lasting conflicts in the Slovak part of the site. As a result, current economic activities including forestry and tourism development may seriously damage more than half of the Slovak site where a strict non-intervention protection is currently not applied.
    "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians represent outstanding natural values in the Slovak but also global context. There is a risk that we lose these valuable old-growth forests and many rare and protected species inhabiting the area. It is time for the Slovak Government to show political responsibility to safeguard the area for the benefit of nature and people", said Miroslava Plassmann, Director of WWF in Slovakia.
    WWF Slovakia urges the government to take strong action towards the protection of the UNESCO site.
    "Proper management and effective mechanism for compensation of landowners is necessary along with sustaining livelihoods for local communities. Only these steps can ensure that universal values survive for future generations" – Plassmann said.
    For more information:
    Helena Carska, hcarska@wwfdcp.org
    WWF Slovakia
    +421 911 184344

  • Bonn sets foundation for climate action ahead of COP23

    The Paris Agreement © IISD Reporting ServiceBonn (18 May 2017) – Climate negotiators have kept their focus on the implementation of the Paris Agreement at the mid-year round of UN climate talks in Bonn ending today, setting the course for a substantive outcome at COP23.

    Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF's global Climate & Energy Practice said it was encouraging to see that discussions in Bonn were not around whether or not the Paris Agreement was needed but rather about the details of its implementation. "This sends a strong signal that the climate negotiations are not being paralysed by politics. Rather, negotiators have engaged in the technical discussions that are required to make substantial progress by COP23 on the rules that will guide the implementation of the agreement," he said.

    Pulgar-Vidal emphasized the urgency to scale up equitable climate ambition by all countries, with non-State actors such as business, cities, regional governments and the public also contributing to galvanising climate action. "From now through November, we have to ensure we get the impetus to increase ambition. Other international processes – like the G7 and G20 – offer immediate political moments where leaders can show their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and scaling up of climate action."

    While the technical discussions were only expected to progress incrementally during this session, faster progress ahead is essential. "We only have 18 months left to complete the rulebook, so we must see the pace pick up if it is to be completed on time." 

    COP23 will take place in Bonn between 6 and 17 November 2017 and will be hosted by Fiji. This is the first time an island state has led the negotiations. "The Fijian COP Presidency has made a strong impression and is eager to ensure a successful COP."

    For further information contact Mandy Jean Woods mwoods@wwf.org.za