THE BLOG
07/25/2014 12:49 pm ET Updated Sep 24, 2014

The Most Important UN Climate Initiative You Never Heard of

While the Kyoto Protocol may be the most famous climate initiative, the Hyogo Framework for Action's time is due.

The HFA is a 10-year plan to make the world safe from natural hazards. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005. Its goal is to reduce disaster losses by 2015 through new and improved resiliency efforts, such as better monitoring, risk analysis, and technological improvements in identifying extreme events--hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, floods, and the like.

Nations and communities were challenged to build programs that would reduce the loss of lives and the costs to economies and the environment.

Guess what? It's working.

The United States, for example, has reorganized the agency for natural sciences--the US Geological Survey--from a scientific discipline-based organization to a mission-based structure. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Weather Service (NWS) have focused on disaster risk reduction and increasing community resilience through multiple initiatives, including "Weather Ready Nation" and "Roadmap." These programs are designed to increase the readiness of the country and to predict and mitigate future weather-related disasters.

Further, disaster risk considerations are being taken into account for sustainable development policies, planning, and programming. For example, FEMA is working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) to combine hazard mitigation measures with community development so livability and sustainability objectives can be built into land use plans, zoning and infrastructure investments.

Expenditures for disaster prevention are exponentially more effective than spending for assistance and recovery. In fact, according to research from numerous organizations, including the United Nations, Oxfam America and the Center for American Progress, every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction can result in as much as $15 in economic savings--depending on the disaster and circumstances--compared to cleanup and restoration costs.

Of course, besides the US, other nations, too, have embraced the HFA. China is boasting that it has kept economic losses from disasters to within 1.5% of GDP for the past three consecutive years. China experiences the most disasters of any country. (China, the US, the Philippines, India and Indonesia are the countries most frequently hit by natural disasters.)

The UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction reports that over the last 20 years, China's average annual death toll has been 4,000, with nearly three million homes collapsing and ten million people being displaced. So identifying steps and committing to reducing those numbers is a big stride toward sustainability there.

And this is why HFA is so exigent: it addresses the calamities we face from our climate now. With approximately $200 billion of losses each year from natural disasters, more than 100,000 lives lost, and nearly 270 million victims, disaster preparedness is the front line battle from which we can wage war on climate change.

As the HFA approaches its March 2015 expiration, nations should embrace its protocol and include longer term climate change mitigation initiatives so that all of the disaster risk reduction near-term goals work toward a longer term preventative approach.

Weather over a period of time adds up to our climate. Preparedness over a period of time should equal climate change resiliency. HFA is the way for us to prepare today so we can survive tomorrow and well into the future.