The destruction wrought on the United States by Hurricane Sandy is just the latest in a long list of extreme weather events that remind us of climate change – and should prompt us to prevent it slipping off the political radar, as seems to be happening.
Your special report on climate change (“Preparing Europe for the worst”, 25-31 October) highlighted a number of important issues in the debate. The debate should not just be about preparing Europe for the worst; the bloc has an important role to play in improving the preparedness and resilience of those communities around the world that face the greatest risks, from flooding to forest fires.
The European Commission's proposed budget for its ‘development co-operation instrument' places considerable emphasis on “environment and climate change”, earmarking more than 30% of the funds available under the ‘global public goods and challenges' thematic programme to this end. It is vital that, within this package, adequate funding is given to support efforts that reduce the risk of climate-related disasters, such as increasing awareness through inclusion in school curricula, developing early warning systems, and relocating settlements to safer ground.
Right now, it is clear that disaster risk reduction is not being given sufficient attention in the overall development funding basket – from 2006 to 2010, only 0.2% of the EU's development aid went towards it. Given that the frequency and intensity of disasters is likely to increase, it is time that risk reduction was moved up the priority ladder. Funding measures that reduce the risk of disaster is far more cost-effective than waiting to respond once an emergency strikes.
A second point should be made: in funding for disaster risk reduction, there should be allocations specifically directed to the needs of young people. Their voice is not often heard in discussions about how to tackle climate change (including disaster preparedness and prevention). This is part of a broader problem – the voice of those affected is largely missing in current discussions about strategies to tackle climate change. But the lack of consultation with young people is especially troubling: they make up 60% (or more) of the population of many of the countries most at risk from climate change: they will bear the brunt of the ravages of a changing climate; and they will be at the forefront of any disaster response. By engaging young people in the debate, the local, regional and national disaster reduction measures will be more comprehensive and effective in the long term.
We all – from policymakers, to civil society, donors, and the media – have a responsibility to create a space for them to share their views and, crucially, listen to what they have to say.
The European Parliament took an important step in the right direction when, yesterday (7 November), it invited young people to share their opinions and experiences with MEPs as part of the “Making the link: Climate exChange” project established three years ago by the EU to encourage discussion about climate change between schools in a range of countries. We would like the European Parliament to take this one step further, by adopting the written declaration on engaging with children and young people to tackle climate change. These youngsters are the ones who will have to get to grips with life in a changing environment, and their voice counts.