Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

Climate Centre turns ten

28/06/2012 - by Maarten van Aalst, director of the Climate Centre

Message on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Climate Centre

Today, 28 June 2012, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre is celebrating its tenth anniversary. We thank our founders -- the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Netherlands Red Cross -- and all our other partners in and outside of the Red Cross Red Crescent for ten exciting and productive years. We are much obliged to our board members, Matthias Schmale (IFRC), Cees Breederveld (Netherlands Red Cross) and Ed Nijpels (independent chairman), for their leadership, vision and support. I congratulate the current and past staff of the Climate Centre, an amazing group of talented and dedicated individuals, truly exemplifying how the sum of a team can be even greater than its excellent parts. And last but not least, I want to pay special tribute to Madeleen Helmer, founder of the Climate Centre, who is currently on a well-deserved sabbatical, but earns much of the credit for the Centre's successes over the past decade.

Since its establishment in 2002, the Climate Centre has been instrumental in raising awareness of the humanitarian consequences of climate change – then a relatively new issue – within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. In the global community, the Climate Centre was among the few pioneers who successfully advocated for climate change adaptation (CCA) policies and resources, and it has successfully claimed a humanitarian role in international climate negotiations. From that position, the Climate Centre was a key actor in the process of harmonizing disaster risk reduction (DRR) and CCA policies at the global level, including the now-growing emphasis on resilience and “climate-smart” development. The Centre also helped shape the research agenda on these topics and played a key role in the recent report on climate and extremes – “SREX” – by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was adopted in 2011.

While it is often recognized for its work on global policy, among the Climate Centre’s other priorities has been support for the translation of abstract climate science and policies into concrete action, and facilitating the integration of climate-risk management into the humanitarian work of the Red Cross Red Crescent. Its Climate Guide, produced for its fifth anniversary in 2007, was one of the first publications of its kind and helped practitioners worldwide; the guide has been followed by several practical guidance notes. Over 60 National Societies in developing countries participated in the Preparedness for Climate Change programme (implemented in partnership with the IFRC secretariat and completed in 2011) to assess how climate risks could be factored into their programmes.

In parallel, the Climate Centre team conducted or supported countless trainings and presentations. Much of this experience is reflected in the new Climate Training Kit, which will be launched in the next few months. Internship programmes that the Climate Centre brokered with many prestigious academic institutions have provided useful insights and capacity building, and are attracting young talent to the Red Cross Red Crescent and the wider humanitarian community. Many National Societies have now developed programmes that have successfully integrated climate-risk management, increasingly accessing new sources of funding previously not available to the Movement. Moreover, the Climate Centre is supporting National Societies to engage in policy dialogues on the humanitarian consequences of climate change, emphasizing the needs of the most vulnerable people, and the key role of civil society in implementing adaptation.

After ten years, the pioneering spirit and the ongoing quest for “smart” ways to address climate-related risks still characterize the work of the Climate Centre. One example
 on the science side is the climate-risk map room and help desk developed with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), including weather forecasts and seasonal forecasts of rainfall up to six months ahead. Some of these forecasts now feature in the IFRC’s Disaster Management Information System (DMIS). These are valuable tools in a world of rising climate-risks and uncertainties, and help strengthen the operational continuum between longer-term DRR and disaster response including “early warning early action”.

Recognizing that neither science itself nor raising awareness is enough to trigger action on the ground, the Climate Centre has also been investing in innovative tools to communicate the ways climate risks can be integrated into practical decision-making. This includes participatory video, and the development of climate-risk management games, again developed in partnership with National Societies and other centres of excellence. These climate-risk management games have been played at all levels, from local communities in Senegal, Red Cross Red Crescent staff and their counterparts in national meteorological services, to government ministers attending negotiations of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and in the boardroom of the Rockefeller Foundation.

All this is aimed at strengthening the resilience of people and communities to stand ready for the rising risk of extreme weather events in a changing climate. As the Climate Centre celebrates its tenth anniversary, it is clear that this challenge is bigger than ever before. However, in the Red Cross Red Crescent, challenges are no reason to give up, but rather an additional motivation to work even harder, and be even smarter. In doing so, we again thank all our partners, and look forward to continued cooperation.

Maarten van Aalst, Director

For further information on our work so far and our plans for the future, please see

and our website www.climatecentre.org