Newsletter Issue 16

Newsletter Issue 16
1 July 2010

Partners for Resilience

Five Netherlands-based humanitarian, development and environmental organisations have joined forces in the ‘Partners for Resilience’ alliance. This alliance consists of the Netherlands Red Cross, CARE Netherlands, Cordaid, Wetlands International and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre and it strongly believes in the central role of community resilience as the basis for development in disaster-prone areas and affected ecosystems. Resilience is defined as people’s ability to withstand shocks in their environment and their capacity to secure their livelihoods. The Alliance intends to work in 9 countries (Indonesia, Philippines, India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Mali, Nicaragua and Guatemala) in the coming 5 years (2011-2016) on community and ecosystem based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA). It will strengthen national capacity building and policy dialogues in these countries and contribute to some generic global expertise and policy dialogues, in particular on climate risk assessments, up scaling and monitoring and evaluation of ecosystem based DRR/CCA programme impacts. The alliance has been shortlisted by the Dutch Government to submit a full proposal by 1 July 2010. Implementation is depending on the approval of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We seek forms of cooperation with knowledge centres, policymakers and CSOs working in the same area of interest: capacity-building and developing generic approaches and tools for ecosystem based DRR/CCA. For more information contact Madeleen Helmer.

Second Phase of the Preparedness for Climate Change Programme up and running

In response to continued demand from Red Cross/Red Crescent National Societies for capacity building on managing changing climate risks, the Climate Centre rolled out Phase 2 of its Preparedness for Climate Change Programme (PfCC2) in December 2009. Phase 2 of the programme is being conducted in close collaboration with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and with funding support of the Netherlands government. Continuation of the programme is helping 27 more National Societies in developing countries to assess changing climate risks in their respective countries and to prepare action plans to address those risks and the potential implications for their programs. Phase 1 was implemented between 2006 and 2009 and involved 39 National Societies.

Building on lessons learned of Phase 1 and integrated more fully into IFRC structures and processes, PfCC2 aims to build capacity within National Societies and zones at-large, to assess and address the humanitarian consequences of climate change. Currently, most National Societies are in the process of preparing an assessment containing information on country-specific climate-related risks and the role their national society can play in addressing those risks. The summary report of these national assessments written during phase 1 of the programme show how National Societies perceive the negative impacts of climate change and the urgent need they have to address them. Click here file (pdf, 25 kB) to read about the PfCC2 programme proceedings per region per June 2010.

Bonn Climate Change Talks

Early June Bonn was the stage of another two weeks of UN Climate Change negotiations. While states are working towards a legally binding agreement, which was left incomplete at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the Red Cross Red Crescent was engaged in the negotiations to provide advice and ideas to countries on adaptation. The IFRC and the Climate Centre continue to raise its concern on the unavoidable impacts of climate change and how disaster risk reduction, disaster management and risk sharing could be addressed in the new framework. The outcome of Bonn will be presented at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún (COP 16) at the end of this year. The IFRC, joined together in the IASC taskforce on Climate Change with a number of other humanitarian actors, organized the IASC a side event “Adaptation and Humanitarian Action, Practical solutions to tackle climate vulnerability – from climate information to capacity-building” on June 3rd. Madeleen Helmer (head of the RC/RC Climate Centre) chaired the side meeting and there were presentations from UN OCHA, United Nations University, Tearfund, and the World Food Programme. Effective climate change adaptation strategies can improve resilience of the hundreds of millions of people living in communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The IFRC and Climate Centre continue to raise their voice in the negotiations and hopes to mobilize the leadership of many National Red Cross/ Red Crescent Societies and other local actors to open or strengthen the policy dialogue with their Governments as climate change is threatening the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable people all around the globe.

Scholars for Humanitarian Work, 2010

Interns recruited by the RC/RC Climate Centre are supporting staff in a number of IFRC zonal offices to utilize climate information and help interpret forecasts across timescales. The skill that the interns bring with them like curriculum development and working with volunteers is a great asset to the RC/RC Movement. Most students are working over a two-month period to help bridge the gap between climate science providers and ‘users’ of climate information in the humanitarian community. Their work involves specific consultation with the Red Cross Red Crescent, as well as other humanitarian actors and climate service providers. In previous years, interns have played a constructive role in building bridges between providers of forecast information and the humanitarian sector. In our brochure called “The Access and Use of Climate and Weather Information in the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: Initial observations from the field” we have listed the findings of previous interns.

This year the Climate Centre selected five students from the Climate and Society Master’s program at Columbia University in the US to do climate risk management-related internships in Red Cross/Red Crescent offices from June-August. Prior to the students’ departure, the Climate Centre held a special two-day internship orientation for the students, to familiarize them with the International Federation, and provide a forum for discussion on individual projects with advisors from the Climate Centre and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) external.

The students are now in the field: In the Middle East and Northern Africa zone, Frank Sousa is supporting work on the Preparedness for Climate Change Programme (PfCC2) and helping to establish links with regional knowledge centers. In East Asia, Amy Stypa is also supporting the PfCC2 programme, and working with disaster managers at the Mongolia Red Cross to help integrate knowledge of climate change risks into disaster risk reduction activities. In Southeast Asia, Krista Jankowski is planning a field school experience, to integrate awareness of climate risks into community efforts to identify vulnerabilities and build capacities. Krista is also working with the Climate Centre to design an online curriculum to communicate climate change and its potential impact on Red Cross/Red Crescent work. Scott Wood is collaborating with both the Tanzania Meteorological Agency and the IRI to improve forecasting products for the Tanzania Red Cross Society (TRCS). Scott is also helping the TRCS use early warning information to take preventative action against climate-sensitive diseases. Finally, Michelle Cordray brings her video production background to the Uganda Red Cross Society, where she is producing short films on climate risks in Uganda. Best wishes to these Scholars for Humanitarian Work, we look forward to reporting on outcomes soon from this collaborative effort between the International Federation, the IRI, and the Climate Centre.

British Kings College students in the ‘Disasters, Adaptation and Development’ masters programme are also currently assisting the Red Cross Red Crescent during the northern hemisphere summer. Emma Lovell is currently working with the SE Asia region on preparations for climate change workshops planned for later in the year. Thomas Moat is doing a dissertation on communication of climate change within the Red Cross Red Crescent as well as assisting with development of resources to be made available on line in coming months. Trevor Payne and Amy Kirbyshire are currently assisting the Caribbean region with the Preparedness for Climate Change programme through collecting and interpreting available information in partnership with the National Societies and regional IFRC office.

There is also an intern from the Mailman School of Public health of Columbia University in the US working with the IFRC. Bryan Moy is based with the IFRC in Jakarta and supports PMI (Indonesian Red Cross) in the development of the baseline surveys on dengue and climate change for communities in Jakarta as part of the Rockefeller Funded program on climate change and health. The results of these surveys will then inform the development of Information, Education and Communication materials on dengue and climate. The same work on dengue is taking place with the Vietnamese Red Cross with the help of local academics.

In addition, we briefly list the following students:

  • Fifteen students from the Parsons School for Design (formulating innovative solutions for humanitarian work, from web tools to games for learning)
  • Four students from Boston University Department of Geography (examining links between observed disasters and the science-based forecasts that preceded them)
  • Two students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management (using dynamic systems analysis to link forecasts with humanitarian decisions)
  • Two students from Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (supporting Red Cross risk management in Latin America)
  • Two students from the Brandeis University Heller School (one in Tanzania supporting IFRC-East Africa communications, the other doing desk study on mapping disasters)
  • A student from University of Iceland program in Environment and Natural Resources (researching vulnerability and shelter operations in Senegal)

Thanks to all for their hard work!

63rd World Health Assembly Geneva

This year at the World Health Assembly in Geneva the Climate Centre health specialist Lina Nerlander delivered the IFRC intervention on climate change and health. The speech covered the main activities on climate change and health relating to advocacy and policy dialogue, awareness raising, partnerships, operational research and the integration of climate change considerations into regular programmes. The submitted speech can be found here.

Physical Climate Science since IPCC AR4 (2007) and Maarten van Aalst appointed as lead author for the IPCC AR5, Working Group 2

The Nordic ad hoc group on Global Climate Negotiations has carried out an update of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), focusing on the physical climate system that in the IPCC work is addressed by its Working Group I. The report considers progress in understanding of the human and natural drivers of climate change, climate observations, attribution, key climate feedback, as well as ocean acidification. Recent developments and near future prospects of climate modelling are also discussed in brief. Some of the key findings that the report brings forth include:

  • Parts of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have shown rapid melt over recent years.
  • Solar cycle effects on global temperatures are small compared to anthropogenic forcing
  • More emerging research on the “other CO2 problem”, ocean acidification
  • Climate change may have significant effects on natural carbon sinks

Furthermore we are pleased to announce that the Climate Centre’s associate director Maarten van Aalst has been selected as a Lead Author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), specifically for Working Group II which deals with impacts and adaptation. The report is scheduled for completion in 2014. Through its reports, methodologies, workshops, and expert meetings, the IPCC has become a primary source of independent scientific information on climate change for governments and other stakeholders. Before IPCC reports are released, they are subjected to extensive and open peer review, plus review by governments. Participating as a Lead Author of an IPCC assessment is a genuine opportunity to serve the scientific community and the world, but also a major commitment of time and intellect. IPCC authors do not have the opportunity or latitude to push personal agendas. The process does, however, provide the chance to genuinely synthesize the current state of knowledge, in a product of unparalleled influence.

IFRC senior DRR officer Indonesia presents at International Climate Change Adaptation Conference in Australia

At the 2010 International Climate Change Adaptation Conference – Climate Adaptation Futures external (29 June – 1 July 2010) at the Gold Coast in Australia, Febi Dwirahmadi, Senior Officer for Disaster Risk Reduction at the IFRC Indonesia Delegation made two presentations. One presentation dealt with the experience in Indonesia of integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction into a comprehensive program, called Integrated Community Based Risk Reduction (ICBRR). The presentation, entitled: ‘Linking Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation: Best practices of the Red Cross societies in delivering its assistance to support the flood prone areas in Indonesia’ can be found here. A summary abstract can be found here file (pdf, 13 kB). Febi also presented an excellent poster which was put together with colleagues from other agencies in Indonesia such as the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), WWF and the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics. The poster explains how an assessment was done using both top down (scientific information) and bottom up (Participatory Rural Appraisal) approaches. The poster, entitled ‘Towards climate change urban adaptation in Indonesia: Climate Change Vulnerability assessment for Cities in Java region’ can be found here file (pdf, 451 kB), and a poster abstract here file (pdf, 14 kB). For further information contact

Taking action on climate change in the Seychelles: a Preparedness for Climate Change case study

Recently a case study was finalised on climate change related work done by the Seychelles Red Cross. It outlines the National Society’s experiences in undertaking the Preparedness for Climate Change programme and includes an overview of the activities completed and the lessons learned. It highlights recommendations to other National Societies who are embarking on the question ‘how to tackle climate change’. A big thanks to our Climate Centre volunteer Natalie Ross-Lapointe for compiling the case study and for the work of Seychelles Red Cross. The case study can be downloaded here.

National Heat Plan activated in the Netherlands

Because of climate change the risk of heat is very likely to increase significantly. Continuous heat constitutes a health risk to certain vulnerable groups: the elderly, chronically ill and people with overweight, to name but a few important groups, cannot cope with heat very well. These people will suffer from health problems and their quality of life will decline sharply during hot days. A number of European countries, struck by the extreme heat wave in 2003 developed heat plans. In 2005 the Climate Centre and the Netherlands Red Cross initiated discussions with the Netherlands Ministry of Health, which led to the National Heat Plan in 2007. At the basis of the plan stands a clear division of tasks between the government, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (who issues the warning), the National Municipal Health Services (who coordinate the professional healthcare) and the Netherlands Red Cross and other voluntary organizations (who have tasks in the informal care of the most vulnerable and the education of the public). A system is created by which the relevant organizations are warned when a period of five or more days above 27 degrees is expected. At this moment (since the end of June) several measures are taken to cope with the ensuing heat. For instance the manual ‘De hitte de baas’ is circulating, providing background information and actions the Netherlands RC can undertake in trying to reach the most vulnerable people, stickers ‘What to do when it gets hot‘ and heat fans are disseminated, etc.

Caribbean Pre-Hurricane Season Meeting

The Climate Centre was delighted to attend the 2010 Pre-Hurricane Season Meeting for the Caribbean. Due to record high sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and increased chances of developing La Niña conditions this year, a very active hurricane season is anticipated. In preparation for the season, it was good to see disaster managers honing their skills in coordination, knowledge sharing and communication, making assessments and action plans, activation of resources, and much more. Read more about the Red Cross preparations for the most active hurricane seasons on record.

Developing Tailored Climate Information Resources in Asia Pacific Zone

A Climate Centre Technical Advisor will support the Asia Pacific Zone over the next 2 months, as part of the ongoing partnership between the Climate Centre, IFRC, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society to strengthen the use of climate information within Federation planning, preparedness, and response. The consultancy will provide guidance to better integrate climate considerations within zonal quarterly monitoring activities and early warning reporting. This will include facilitating the development of user-friendly online “map room” of climate information resources, which will include tailored IFRC products, to be developed by the IRI and regional partners. This interactive tool development process will be captured as a case study in the 3rd Climate and Society publication, which shall be published on the IRI website.

German Red Cross Workshop on DRR and CCA, 29-30 June 2010

Last June, the desk officers of the international department of the German Red Cross dedicated one and a half day to presentations, a panel discussion and smaller working sessions to get a better understanding how climate change related risks will affect their programs in developing countries and what is available to address these risks. The workshop built on an earlier methodology developed by the Danish Red Cross to assess their programmes and how climate risks may influence them and the wider possibilities to reduce risks through risk reduction and adaptation measures. This methodology helped very well to bring the magnitude of the climate change problem down to tangible issues and concrete solutions. In the last session of the workshop the desk officers identified concrete follow-up actions that will be the basis of a working plan to be developed by the DRR advisor of the GRC. Soon the report of the workshop will be available in English, to inspire other PNSs. For more info: Thorsten Klose of the German Red Cross.

Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre Annual Report 2009

The Climate Centre Annual Report 2009 is out now! Please download the report here and read all about the Centre’s activities in 2009.