Project summary

Extreme weather events, floods and droughts—problems that are predicted to become more frequent and extreme due to climate change— inflict major losses and disproportionally affect lower income countries, yet the conditions for accelerating implementation of public policy for disaster risk reduction (DRR) are poorly understood. In this project, an interdisciplinary team of political scientists and hydrologists will investigate extreme hazard events as potential triggers for changes in DRR policy and development in an effort to answer three empirical research questions:

  1. To what extent do extreme weather events drive the adoption of public policies for enhancing disaster risk reduction and sustainable development?
  2. Can cross-country variations in policy change in the wake of extreme weather events be explained by different phases of development?
  3. Why do similar extreme weather events in similar countries prompt different levels of policy change? 

We perform a statistical, global-scale analysis of policy change after extreme events and, using the results, select four cases for a comparative examination of hazard-induced policy change in lower- and middle-income countries. Utilizing unique data on DRR policy implementation from 2007-2018, a new merged dataset of climate extremes and disasters, and material from interviews and public sources, we will document the extent to which these events prompt policy change worldwide and assess whether variations  can be explained by income-levels, event magnitude, regular exposure, diffusion effects, agenda-setting, political mobilization, and learning. By testing and specifying explanations for hazard-induced policy change, the results will significantly advance frontiers in natural hazard science, development studies, and public policy. The results will also support international efforts to reduce disaster risks through the Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction.

Relevance of the project for the Sustainable Development Goals

The UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change all recognize the responsibility governments have to adopt and implement integrated public policies and plans for development, climate action, and disaster risk reduction. Accelerating implementation of these policies is particularly urgent in lower income countries that are disproportionally affected by weather and climate extremes, which regularly result in large numbers of fatalities and costly economic and material damage. The loss of lives and the destruction of assets worsen poverty and block or reverse development gains. 

A crucial step to build resilience and mitigate risk is to use experiences from extreme events to inform policies for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and sustainable development. In theory, weather and climate extremes such as major floods, storms, and droughts have the potential to trigger major policy change. Yet, we still have scant knowledge about how, why, and to what extent these events do or do not enable the enactment of policy to address DRR and vulnerability.

TRAMPOLINE undertakes the first global-scale investigation of how extreme weather events shape public policy for DRR and sustainable development. Paired with in-depth case-studies of policy change episodes, the project will provide new knowledge of how such events enable (and constrain) policy reforms for reducing vulnerability and strengthening sustainable development. The project findings will provide evidence-based support to the implementation of the SFDRR and countries’ efforts to enhance DRR and ensure proper integration with development policy.

The SFDRR, the 2030Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate agreements promote coherence and mutual reinforcement of sustainable development and DRR. Accordingly, progress in implementing DRR policies is seen as a prerequisite for achieving progress on the SDGs. A number of targets across the 17 SDGs are explicitly linked to DRR measures. For example, progress in DRR is seen as a crucial step in strengthening the resilience of the poor (SDG1), eliminating hunger (SDG2), ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being (SDG3), protecting human settlements (SDG11), and taking climate actions (SDG13). The SFDRR emphasizes the essential role of science in supporting effective policy-making to improve lives and health. From this perspective, TRAMPOLINE will advance new knowledge on several fronts:

First, we generate new empirical knowledge about public policy-making in enhancing DRR and its integration with sustainable development. Although DRR and sustainable development require holistic and integrated actions across scales and sectors, national political institutions have responsibility for formulating policies in support of these goals. However, previous research provides a limited understanding of how these policies come about, why they change, and why progress in implementation varies across countries. Building from established theories in public policy, TRAMPOLINE will generate novel insights about public policy-making for enhancing DRR and its integration with sustainable development.

Second, the project will provide empirically informed insights about extreme weather events as potential triggers for building community resilience and reducing vulnerability. Extreme events that evolve into disasters are generally perceived as negative events associated with fatalities, lost livelihoods, and widespread material destruction. Yet, these events can also provide wake-up calls for policy action to enhance resilience. However, whether and how these events actually matter in this process is still poorly understood and the evidence is incomplete. By placing the focus on episodes of post-hazard policy reform, TRAMPOLINE will advance our knowledge about opportunities for building more resilient and sustainable communities. 

Third, the project will for the first time systematically examine whether and how extreme events prompt the integration of DRR and sustainable development. While the project will examine changes in DRR policies, we also conduct separate analyses focusing explicitly on the integration of DRR and development policy in a few strategically selected case-study settings around the world. Specifically we examine whether extreme events lead to steps for integrating disaster risk approaches in development investment decisions; environment-related policies; social development policies; and development projects. Development initiatives (e.g. infrastructure projects) that do not incorporate DRR considerations can create new forms of vulnerability or exacerbate existing ones. Our investigation will thus show whether and how these events prompt governments to integrate DRR into development policies as a means to reduce community vulnerability.

Fourth, knowledge generated by the project will inform the long-term goals of the SFDRR to reduce disaster losses. The goal of the SFDRR is to reduce mortality rates, the number of affected people, and economic losses of disasters globally in 2020-2030. The ability to achieve these goals hinges on efforts by individual countries to effectively implement policies for enhanced DRR. In this perspective, with its focus on extreme weather events as a potential driver of policy change, TRAMPOLINE will unveil the conditions under which countries take steps towards reducing disaster risks that jeopardize lives, livelihoods, health, and assets. 

Fifth, the project will supply knowledge that supports capacity-building for research training in natural hazard and disaster science. This objective will be achieved by regularly sharing insights and findings with stakeholders, at conferences, and through research networks from different parts of the world. Moreover, this process of mutual exchange will also provide the research team with crucial knowledge and insights for the successful completion of the project. 

Principal Investigator: Daniel Nohrstedt

Period: September 2019–December 2022 

Funding: SEK 4 493 650 from the Swedish Research Council