Climate change and land-use change are projected to make wildfires more frequent and intense, a new report said on Wednesday, adding that the number of extreme fires globally will rise by up to 14 per cent by 2030, 30 per cent by the end of 2050 and 50 per cent by the end of the century.
The report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and GRID-Arendal, a non-profit environmental communications centre based in Norway, has called for a radical change in government spending on wildfires and shifting their investments from reaction and response to prevention and preparedness.
The report, ‘Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires’, finds an elevated risk even for the Arctic and other regions previously unaffected by wildfires. The report is released ahead of the resumption of 5th session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) here starting on February 28 till March 2.
The report was commissioned in support of UN Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UNREDD), an effort at increasing forests as part of climate mitigation action, and the ‘UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’.
UNEP will be exploring how further investments can be made to reduce fire risks in critical ecosystems around the world.
The publication calls on governments to adopt a new ‘Fire Ready Formula’, with two-thirds of spending devoted to planning, prevention, preparedness, and recovery, with one third left for response.
Currently, direct responses to wildfires typically receive over half of related expenditures, while planning receives less than one per cent.
In order to prevent fires, authors call for a combination of data and science-based monitoring systems with indigenous knowledge and for a stronger regional and international cooperation, a release said.
“Current government responses to wildfires are often putting money in the wrong place. Those emergency service workers and firefighters on the frontlines who are risking their lives to fight forest wildfires need to be supported,” said UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen.
“We have 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.”