- Even the previously almost immune Arctic faces a growing risk of wildfires, experts say, ahead of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi
- Wildfires and climate change 'exacerbate each other'
- Governments are being called upon to radically redirect their investments in wildfires to focus on prevention and preparedness
Climate change and land-use change are expected to make wildfires more frequent and intense, with a global increase in extreme fires of up to 14% by 2030, 30% by the end of 2050 and 50% by the end of the century, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Program ( UNEP ) and GRID-Arendal .
The paper calls for a dramatic shift in government spending on wildfires, shifting their investments from reaction and response to prevention and preparedness.
The report, titled Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires, reveals a high risk even for the Arctic and other regions previously untouched by wildfires. The report is released ahead of the resumed 5th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly ( UNEA-5.2 ) which meets in Nairobi, between February 28 and March 2, 2022 .
The publication calls on governments to adopt a new "fire-ready formula", with two-thirds of spending going to planning, prevention, preparedness and recovery, with one-third remaining on response. Currently, direct wildfire response typically receives more than half of related expenditures, while planning receives less than one percent.
To prevent wildfires, the authors call for a combination of data and science-based monitoring systems with indigenous knowledge and stronger regional and international cooperation.
“Current government responses to wildfires often put money in the wrong place. Emergency service workers and firefighters on the front lines who are risking their lives fighting wildfires must be supported,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “We need to minimize the risk of extreme wildfires by being better prepared: invest more in fire risk reduction, work with local communities and strengthen global commitment to fight climate change.”
Forest fires disproportionately affect the world's poorest countries. With an impact that spans days, weeks and even years after the flames have died down, they are hampering progress towards the United Nations ' Sustainable Development Goals and deepening social inequalities:
- People's health is directly affected by inhaling wildfire smoke, resulting in respiratory and cardiovascular effects and increased health effects on the most vulnerable;
- The economic costs of rebuilding after areas have been hit by wildfires may be beyond the means of low-income countries;
- Watersheds are degraded by pollutants from wildfires; they can also lead to soil erosion causing more problems for waterways;
- The waste left behind is often highly contaminated and requires proper disposal.
Wildfires and climate change exacerbate each other. Wildfires are aggravated by climate change through increased drought, high air temperatures, low relative humidity, lightning and strong winds resulting in hotter, drier and longer fire seasons. At the same time, climate change is made worse by wildfires, primarily by ravaging sensitive, carbon-rich ecosystems like peatlands and rainforests. This turns landscapes into powder kegs, making it harder to stop rising temperatures.
Wildlife and its natural habitats are rarely spared from wildfires , , ā well well wwwww OFw) wraths ) A recent example is the 2020 Australian bushfires, which are estimated to have wiped out billions of domestic and wild animals.
It is essential to better understand the behavior of wildfires. Achieving and sustaining adaptive land and fire management requires a combination of policies, legal framework and incentives that encourage appropriate land and fire use.
Restoring ecosystems is an important way to mitigate the risk of wildfires before they happen and to build back better after them. Wetland restoration and the reintroduction of species such as beavers, Peatland restoration , vegetation clearance and preservation of open space buffers are some examples of the essential investments in prevention, preparedness and recovery.
The report ends with a call for higher international standards for the safety and health of firefighters and minimizing the risks they face before, during and after operations. These include raising awareness of the risks of smoke inhalation, minimizing the risk of life-threatening entrapment, and providing firefighters with adequate access to adequate hydration, nutrition, rest, and recovery between shifts. work.
The report was commissioned in support of UNREDD and the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. UNEP will explore how new investments can be made to reduce fire risk in critical ecosystems around the world.
GRID-Arendal is a non-profit environmental communication center based in Norway. We transform environmental data into innovative science-based information products and provide capacity building services that enable better environmental governance. We aim to inform and activate a global audience and motivate decision makers to effect positive change. GRID-Arendal collaborates with the United Nations Environment Program and other partners around the world.
About the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
The United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 is a rallying call for the protection and recovery of ecosystems around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems and restore them to achieve global goals. The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the United Nations Decade and it is led by the United Nations Environment Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The United Nations Decade is building a strong, broad-based global movement to accelerate restoration and put the world on a path to a sustainable future. This will include creating political momentum for restoration as well as thousands of initiatives on the ground.
UNEP@50 : A moment to reflect on the past and consider the future
The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden was the first ever United Nations conference with the word "environment" in its title. The creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was one of the most visible results of this conference, among many others. UNEP was created quite simply to be the environmental conscience of the UN and of the world. The activities that will take place until 2022 will examine the important progress made as well as what lies ahead in the decades to come.
About the United Nations Environment Program ( UNEP ) )
UNEP is the world's leading voice on environmental issues. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.