Wealthy nations urged to boost weather defense as losses jump

Taxis sit in a flooded lot after Hurricane Sandy struck New York in 2012. Losses from extreme weather are rising fastest in developed countries, studies show. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2019

Wealthy nations urged to boost weather defense as losses jump

  • UN official estimates $90 trillion in new safeguards needed worldwide by 2030

LONDON: Economic losses caused by extreme weather events, from hurricanes to wildfires, are surging fastest in parts of the world outside the tropics — places that once saw relatively few such disasters, scientists and statisticians have warned.

In those temperate zones — from the US and Canada to Europe and Australia — the cost of the most catastrophic events grew by an average of $46 million a year between 1960 and 2014, compared with $18 million a year in tropical countries, said researchers at Pennsylvania State University.

That presents risks to the financial stability of emergency response and insurance programs in temperate regions, they said.

It suggests richer northern countries may need to step up protection against new threats fueled by climate change, as well as supporting adaptation in poorer places, they added.

“In tropical zones, people have learned to put certain adaptation measures in place, while in temperate zones those have not been a priority,” said Francesca Chiaromonte, a statistician at Pennsylvania State University.

Raised concrete cyclone shelters in coastal Bangladesh, for instance, have over the past 25 years dramatically slashed once sky-high death tolls in that low-lying South Asian nation.

In other places, measures ranging from early warning systems to tighter building standards, construction of sea walls and even planned relocation from at-risk coastal areas have helped reduce losses.

In the US, low-lying Louisiana in 2012 created a coastal “master plan” that aims to avoid between $5 billion and $18 billion in expected damage from worsening storm surges.

Meanwhile, New York, in the wake of destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, is building a $10 billion system of berms, removable barriers and new, higher land at the fringes of lower Manhattan to protect itself from flooding.

In general, however, adaptation measures in temperate zones “have been lagging behind, compared with the tropics, where people traditionally have had to cope with these kind of catastrophic events,” Chiaromonte said.

“Thirty years ago, it was relatively seldom that a big disaster hit one of these (temperate) places. Now it has become more common,” she added.

Mami Mizutori, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for disaster risk reduction, has called for an expected $90 trillion in new infrastructure needed worldwide by 2030 to be built with surging climate risks in mind.

“If we build to last, this is a great opportunity to avoid the creation of new risk and to adapt to extreme weather events,” she said ahead of Sunday’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction.

More than two-thirds of economic losses from extreme weather come in the form of damage to infrastructure, from roads and bridges to schools and homes, she said.

With two in three of the world’s people expected to live in cities by 2050, ensuring construction there can stand up to worsening climate threats is particularly important, she said.

But while efforts to adapt to harsher weather often have been pioneered in the developing world — which has seen some of the first and worst climate change impacts — richer countries now need to adopt them, too, Chiaromonte said.

A study she and other researchers published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, looking at losses from weather disasters between 1960 and 2014, found those associated with major catastrophes had risen fastest in temperate countries.

That is perhaps unsurprising, given developed countries tend to invest more in expensive infrastructure and so have more to lose when a big disaster hits.

But it is also an indication of the high value of assets at risk as climate threats grow, including in places that may not be fully aware of the rising threat they face.

As global emissions and temperatures rise, “the hits are going to keep increasing” both for public institutions and for insurance companies, Chiaromonte said.

Curbing emissions rapidly is one clear way to reduce the threats, the study said.

Chiaromonte also emphasised that adaptation efforts should not shift from tropical countries to temperate ones, but should be expanded in both.


Case against Ghosn excuse to get him out of Nissan, claim lawyers

Updated 13 November 2019

Case against Ghosn excuse to get him out of Nissan, claim lawyers

  • The former motor giant chief’s legal team has alleged that both his arrest and the prosecution efforts have been illegal

TOKYO: The drama surrounding the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, former boss of motor giants Nissan and Renault, has yet to reach its climax. Yet the plot continues to thicken with each new development.

On Monday, Ghosn’s defense lawyers unveiled court submissions highlighting the circumstances in which the 65-year-old executive was arrested and subsequently held in detention.

“We believe that Mr. Carlos Ghosn is innocent. We believe that the arrest and the prosecution efforts thus far are illegal and therefore Mr. Ghosn should be immediately released,” the head of his defense team, Junichiro Hironaka, said during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo on Monday.

Hironaka claimed that Nissan wanted to kick out Carlos Ghosn from the company and therefore put together a team dedicated to searching around for something that would justify them to do that.

“This prosecution motion wasn’t initiated because the prosecution side believed that Mr. Ghosn had committed an illegal act. Fundamentally there is a problem with this being treated as a criminal act,” he said.

Hironaka further said that the prosecutor’s office is supposed to be acting in the public good for everyone and not behalf of a specific corporation.

“From the investigation level, there were various problems and mistakes with this case. Furthermore, the Japanese persecution office can’t reach overseas so they rely on Nissan employees to go into Mr. Ghosn’s offices and residences and removed objects illegally,” he said.

Hironaka said there is no evidence to support the alleged wrongdoing claim that Nissan made payments to SBA in Oman, and Ghosn re-directed that money to himself or his family.

“The amounts that were paid by Nissan matched exactly the amounts due to SBA,” he said.

The lawyer had a similar response to the reports connecting some donations by Ghosn to a school in Lebanon that would somehow benefit himself. “There is absolutely no evidence or factual basis for indicating that,” Hironaka said.

He said that his team is trying to access correct information and find out what evidence the prosecution might have.

“I have made an effort to share information with the media, including the foreign media, during this whole pre-trial motion,” he said.

Under the Japanese system, the prosecutors are not required to disclose all the evidence at their disposal. Japanese law requires that prosecutors must disclose anything related to any evidence related to the specific filings they make.

They must also disclose any evidence that is related to the filings that are made by the defense counsel. However, there is no requirement for them to disclose evidence from other parts.

Ghosn was arrested at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Nov. 19, 2018, on multiple charges related to his stewardship of the two companies.

The cases involved not only Nissan-Renault and Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors (part of the Franco-Japanese alliance), but also the Japanese and French governments along with various key players from Asia and the Middle East.

Nissan was on the brink of bankruptcy in March 1999, with about 2 trillion yen ($17.6 billion) in interest-bearing debt.

This is when it entered a capital partnership with major French automaker Renault SA. Ghosn has been credited for turning the company around dramatically since then.

However, fears that the high-profile CEO and chairman was planning to merge Nissan into a much larger multinational motor alliance appeared to have fueled speculation regarding the future of the company.

It was reportedly argued within Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government that the automaker would no longer be recognizably Japanese.

The case has larger ramifications and the two governments have routinely become involved in discussions related to its future.

According to news reports, when Macron and Abe met in Buenos Aires, the French president asked that the Franco-Japanese alliance be maintained.

On being asked by Arab News Japan about reports of a prosecution team visiting Saudi Arabia and Oman, Hironaka confirmed that the visit indeed took place after Ghosn’s arrest.

“However, we have not been given any access to any information that they may or may not have gathered there,” he said.