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The Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre:
A bridge between climate change and disaster risk reduction
There is now a clear scientific consensus that climate change is already happening and influencing the risk of extreme weather. Political and public attention for climate change has grown tremendously. There is wide agreement that climate change is and will continue to be one of the main global challenges for humanity in the coming century. Decisive elements of this breakthrough were the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), which offered convincing evidence to confirm that warming of the climate system is ‘unequivocal’, and very likely due to human actions. Moreover the IPCC confirmed observed trends of increased extreme weather events and changes in climate variability.
Consequences for the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
The Red Cross and Red Crescent has already been confronted with a sharp increase in weather-related disasters, and there is an urgent need to better manage the rising risk of extreme weather events, including through better early warning, enhanced disaster relief, increased efforts on disaster risk reduction and better and smarter programs in health & care, water & sanitation, and food security. In addition, there are rising concerns on the potential impacts of climate change on migration patterns.
Besides these operational challenges, the Red Cross and Red Crescent also needs to speak out for the most vulnerable, those who have contributed least to the problem but will suffer most. Measures to reduce the impacts of climate change are being implemented in the richest countries that can afford to do so, rather than for those people that need them most. These imbalance need to be addressed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In that context 2009 was a crucial year for negotiations to arrive at a successor to the Kyoto protocol, which has to enter into force in 2012. This agreement needs to include clear mechanisms to provide resources to reduce the risks facing the most vulnerable people.
However, transfer of resources is not enough, we also need strengthening of human capacities to develop and implement climate risk reduction for the most vulnerable people. The Red Cross and Red Crescent must face up to that challenge, both internally and externally, building on our global movement with strong local presence – matching the scope of climate change: a global problem with local impacts.
In November 2007, the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent expressed a clear concern about the humanitarian impacts of climate change, and a strong commitment to address them.
Commitments by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement at the 2007 International Conference
The urgency of addressing the humanitarian consequences of climate change is evident and actions to address these risks need to be ambitious. As reflected in the declaration “together for humanity” the Movement has committed to
- raise awareness on climate change;
- provide humanitarian assistance;
- improve capacity to respond, including through better disaster preparedness;
- decrease vulnerability of communities most strongly affected;
- integrate climate risk management into policies and plans;
- mobilise human and financial resources, giving priority to actions for the most vulnerable people.