Thai municipalities strive for disaster resilience

Mayors and deputy mayors from 15 municipalities in Thailand have committed to reduce disaster risks and greenhouse gas emissions in order to strengthen the resilience of their cities.

The ‘Low Carbon and Disaster Resilient Cities in Thailand’ initiative marks the first time that municipality-level actions in the country are being integrated to tackle the interlinked challenges of climate change and increasing disaster risks, which pose a threat to sustainable and resilient development.

The 15 municipalities also signed up to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s (UNISDR) Making Cities Resilient campaign – made up for more than 3,000 cities worldwide – as part of their commitment to reduce the number of deaths and people affected from disaster as well as the level of economic losses.

Among the actions to be taken is the setting of local targets to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The Government of Thailand committed to reduce emissions by 20-25% by 2030 at the COP21 international climate change conference in Paris last December.

The Mayor of Panat Nikhom Town and Chairman of the Environment Committee of the National League of Municipalities of Thailand, Mr. Vijai Amalalikhit, expressed delight at the level of local leadership.

“This requires strong commitment of the mayors to bring all departments and stakeholders in their municipalities together to agree on the targets and develop action plans to achieve them,” he said.

Mr. Teerapon Panavatanaworakul, Mayor of Map-ammarit municipality said a typhoon measuring 160 kilometres per hour would potentially wipe out his municipality.

“Climate change causes more and more super-typhoons as we have seen in the Philippines,” he said. “That is why our municipality has joined this initiative to mitigate climate change impacts and, at the same time, get ready for future disasters. I understand it is all about how we protect the environment, build more safely, strengthen early warning and capacity of communities.”

The Head of UNISDR’s Asia-Pacific office, Ms. Feng Min Kan, congratulated the initiative’s partners on their innovative approach to local implementation of the three interlinked agreements adopted by the international community last year: the 15-year Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“This is a great example of how to translate global commitments into local actions in a coherent way. I am pleased to learn that the 15 municipalities will share experiences with other municipalities in Thailand and hopefully also outside Thailand,” Ms. Kan said.

The ‘Low Carbon and Disaster Resilient Cities in Thailand’ initiative will contribute to the implementation of Thailand’s 2015-2020 National Plan for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation as well as the global targets of the Sendai Framework, the global blueprint for achieving risk-sensitive and resilient development by 2030.

Self-assessment based on a series of benchmarks known as the Ten Essentials is the core of the campaign, along with sharing best practice among participating cities. Areas under scrutiny include a city’s budget, how critical infrastructure is handled, policies to ensure all members of the community are included in risk planning, the safety of schools and health facilities, risk-compliant building regulations and land use, protection of ecosystems, and early warning systems.

The campaign, designed to support the achievement of the Sendai Framework target of substantially increasing the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020, aims to raise the profile of resilience and disaster risk reduction among local governments and urban communities worldwide.

The Thai municipalities were selected from more than 70 that expressed interested in the initiative, which is a collaboration project between the National League of Municipalities of Thailand, UNISDR, Thailand Green House Gas Management Organization and the Thai Cycling Club.

Source: UNISDR. Date: 24 March, 2016