Governments must act immediately to reduce the effect of disasters particularly in poor countries before climate change dramatically increases the number of floods, droughts and windstorms, says international churches' development agency Christian Aid.
In the past decade the number of people affected by disasters has more than doubled. There was an average of 354 disasters each year between 1991 and 1999, but between 2000 and 2004 this figure went up to 728 per year, according to the Red Cross World Disasters Report.
This was mainly due to an increase in the number of weather-related disasters such as droughts, windstorms and floods. As climate change accelerates these kinds of events will happen more frequently and with greater intensity and will have the greatest impact in developing countries where the poorest people are most vulnerable to disasters.
From 1990 to 2000, economic losses from disasters amounted to more than £320 billion. This makes the 1990s more costly than the previous four decades combined, and this trend is set to continue as climate change and global warming increase.
Disaster risk reduction (DRR) includes measures such as constructing earthquake-resistant homes and schools, building houses on stilts in flood-prone areas, early warning systems to alert people to tsunamis or cyclones or enabling farmers to grow different kinds of crops which survive better during a drought.
One of the most important aspects of DRR is community involvement - one of the main aims of Christian Aid’s Building Disaster Resilient Communities project in six countries in Central America, Southern Africa and South and South East Asia.
In January 2005 at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan, 168 governments adopted a 10-year plan - The Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) - to make the world safer from natural hazards.
However this has not yet translated into changes at local level at the scale required to address the size of the problem.
Two years on from the conference, the first Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction is taking place in Geneva from 5-7th June.
Coming a few days ahead of the G8 summit in Germany the Global Platform highlights the disproportionate contribution to climate change by the most developed nations and the disproportionate affects felt by least developed nations.
"There are proven and cost-effective ways to reduce disaster risks and adapt to climate change at the community level," said Sarah Moss, Christian Aid’s DRR manager who is attending the Global Platform.
"But effective disaster risk reduction and adaptation requires effective policy, legislation and funding and there is a responsibility on more developed nations to support less developed nations to pay for clean development technology, reduce vulnerability and help people adapt to climate change in addition to taking action to reduce their own carbon emissions", she added.
Christian Aid asks that governments set clear targets and make concrete plans to implement the Hyogo Framework within their own countries so that the promises from Hyogo 2005 can be achieved by 2015.