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Towards achieving the SDGs through Climate Risk Management: A reflection from the CRM perspective

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P ost-2015 policy agendas including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Paris Agreement, and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) all build on objectives to enable sustainable development by increasing resilience, strengthening adaptive capacity, and reducing vulnerabilities, offering great potential for alignment. In addition to climate action as its own Sustainable Development Goal (SDG13), 12 out of 17 SDGs directly involve the need to tackle impacts of climate change. Urgent and ambitious climate action is indispensable to achieve sustainable development and prevent climate change from threatening the gains achieved.
Capitalising on and enhancing synergies between the post2015 policy agendas and dialogues is, therefore, important to benefit from resources and capture co-benefits between sustainable development and climate change action and adaptation.

In this context, Climate Risk Management (CRM) offers entry points for synergising sustainable development and the management of climate risks. CRM is a comprehensive framework for managing impacts of climate change along the entire spectrum of hazards, from short-term extreme weather events to long-term gradual changes, that trigger risks. The approach is promoted by German development cooperation as it combines a smart mix of innovative and proven instruments from climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk management. However, little work has been conducted on the potential and actual contributions of existing CRM strategies and measures to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, or how such synergies can be enhanced in practice, from the national to the local level.

This reflection paper is certainly not the first to contemplate coherence between climate action and sustainable development, or specifically CRM and the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Yet, building on existing literature, investigations, and available project information, it attempts a better understanding of how a comprehensive CRM can positively contribute to specific SDGs, adding value to ongoing discussions by examining both existing and potential synergies between CRM measures and the SDGs.

Since risks are aggravated by unsustainable development leading to increased exposure and vulnerability, all SDGs contribute to resilience-building efforts. Beyond that, CRM as a holistic framework (even if only implemented partially) can contribute to the achievement of selected SDGs. CRM measures that have shown synergies with several SDGs include risk transfer mechanisms such as social protection and climate risk insurance, ecosystem-based adaptation measures, capacity development and awareness raising strategies, and planning/management approaches.

The presented CRM framework developed by the Global Programme on Risk Assessment and Management for Adaptation to Climate Change (Loss & Damage) allows for consideration of a number of aspects highlighted in this reflection paper.

Central reflections derived in this paper include:

  • A combination of measures and approaches is recommended to avert, minimise and address residual climate risk and at the same time contribute to sustainable development. Approaches that simultaneously address root causes of vulnerability and complement conventional adaptation (e. g. with approaches to diversify livelihoods or transformative adaptation) are being developed and piloted. The presented CRM framework strives to assess each context holistically and identify the most suitable approach which may include consideration of co-benefits and synergies.

  • Positive synergies between CRM measures and SDGs are more effective when guided by the “leave no one behind” principle and people-centred approaches. As acknowledged by GIZ’s CRM framework, knowledge exchange between involved actors, science and communities is a vital step towards reducing misinformation and strengthening acceptance as well as effectivity. It has been designed to support the most vulnerable in dealing with the severe impacts of climate change.

  • Mainstreaming CRM into current and future processes holds potentials for formalising the exploitation of synergies with SDGs. Processes and plans that form entry points include Nationally Determined Contributions, National Adaptation Plans as well as disaster risk management plans. Climate risk assessments could serve as basis for mainstreaming climate risks into relevant processes and policies at the national and sub-national level.

  • For the design of an approach, a pre-analysis of potential unintended impacts and trade-offs is paramount. This is also the case when integrating CRM with a SDG to avoid impeding impacts. Frameworks for holistically understanding the positive synergies as well as possible trade-offs is yet to be developed.

To sum up, this reflection paper identifies multiple synergies between CRM and the SDGs that shall be subject to further investigation. While CRM aims at fostering a holistic understanding and consideration of past and future climate change impacts in all affected sectors as well as needs and opportunities to manage possible losses and damages, sustainable development itself contributes to strengthened climate resilience. Integrated with objectives and country goals that target the SDGs, CRM strategies can thus contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.