Photo: Vladimir Valishvili/UNDP

Reducing the risk of climate-driven disasters in Georgia

Programme launch

Courtyard Marriott Hotel, Tbilisi Georgia

19 February 2019

Welcome remarks by UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton

Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze

Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture Levan Davitashvili

Ambassador of Switzerland Patric Franzen

Excellencies, distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

  • On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme, I’m immensely pleased and proud to mark the official launch today of a new 70-million-dollar program aimed at reducing the risk of climate-driven disasters in Georgia.

 

  • Let me start by thanking the Prime Minister for being here today to recognize the promise of this program to protect the lives and livelihoods of so many thousands of people.

 

  • Georgia has already experienced first-hand the destructive impact of climate change.

 

  • Memories are still fresh of the flash floods of 2015 that killed 22 people here in Tbilisi and caused the unimaginable devastation that is captured in the photo exhibit outside.

 

  • I was not here then, but I was in Macedonia in August 2016 when similar floods and landslides killed 23 people, swept dozens of cars and trucks off the ring road around the capital and buried the northeast suburbs of Skopje in two meters of mud.

 

  • These are images that you don’t easily forget, and I am guessing I am not alone here when I say that I used to find rainstorms soothing but now they just make me nervous.

 

  • Floods of this sort are an indicator of how climate change is altering our assumptions about the frequency and intensity of the risks we face from the natural world.

 

  • Extreme weather events that used to be classified as “one in a hundred year” or “one in a thousand year” exceptions seem now to be coming at far closer intervals.

 

  • In fact, if we do not take action now, scientists estimate that disasters caused by climate change could cost Georgia as much as 12 billion dollars over the next ten years.

 

  • That’s 80 percent of current GDP.

 

  • That is why we are so pleased to have the transformative support of the Green Climate Fund together with substantial resources from the Government and our Swiss partners.

 

  • The new program we are launching today provides the resources needed to adopt the policies, create the early-warning systems, prepare communities and build the infrastructure that will prevent extreme weather events from turning into disasters.

 

  • Prevention is the key concept here.

 

  • We cannot control the weather, but there is nothing inevitable about natural disasters.

 

  • The 70 million dollars we will be investing over the coming seven years will directly protect 1.7 million people – or 40 percent of the population – who are most exposed to risk.

 

  • What’s more, by helping local communities to understand and reduce disaster risk, we will be building a culture of resilience that is a core value of democracy and self-government.

 

  • As this participatory approach suggests, the success of this venture will rest on the energy and engagement of many partners, so let me express our appreciation in advance to: the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture; the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure; the National Environmental Agency; the Environmental Education and Information Centre; the National Food Agency; and our many partner municipalities.

 

  • Together, we are committed to making a true paradigm shift: from pouring scarce funds into recovering from the last disaster to investing wisely in preventing any new disaster.

 

  • In more human terms, our aim is for people to keep feeling safe when the rain starts to fall.

 

  • We thank you for your support in this effort.
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