Newsletter Issue 17

Newsletter Issue 17
10 September 2010

Current La Nina brings increased risks of floods, droughts and tropical cyclones

The La Niña that emerged in June 2010, is now of moderate strength. There is a high chance (90%) that the La Niña will continue through the remainder of 2010. It is also likely to persist into the early months of 2011.

La Niña is a natural part of climate variability, and refers to a colder than average period in the equatorial Pacific (the opposite of warm El Niño events). In the last 20 years, we have experienced 3 moderate to strong La Niña events. While La Niña can go unnoticed or even have beneficial impacts in many parts of the world, it can also be disruptive or cause extensive problems when some areas receive too much rainfall and other areas receive too little.

For example, unusually heavy rainfall in Southern Africa that often accompanies La Niña events, caused devastating floods and mudslides during the 1998-2001 La Niña that resulted in deaths, injuries and left thousands homeless. In Bangladesh, 4 out of the 6 most catastrophic flood years since 1954 have occurred during La Niña events. On many Pacific Islands, La Niña is frequently accompanied by drought, putting major stress on the limited availability of fresh water resources. Right now, recent flooding in Pakistan and West Africa can in part be attributed to La Niña conditions that began to develop this June. La Niña is also associated with increased hurricane activity in the Atlantic, and can cause the path of typhoons in the western Pacific to shift more towards land.

Once developed, La Niña events typically persist for about a year (occasionally longer), peaking during the October-January period. However, the largest impacts for a location may not coincide with the peak of the La Niña itself. Peak impacts from La Niña are usually felt during a given location’s rainy season, because that is when a disruption of the rains or too much rainfall can have the greatest impact on society (affecting agriculture, livelihoods, food security, health and safety, etc). To help guide RC/RC offices in preparing for any La Niña-related impacts, the Climate Centre has sent out region-specific information as well as global background resources. Download the document here.

Review of the IPCC: successful overall, but management and procedures need improvements

At the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the Inter Academy Council, an organization of the world’s science academies, has reviewed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC is the Nobel-prize winning body that regularly and authoritatively summarizes the scientific knowledge on climate change. At the end of last year, the IPCC came under criticism for  errors in its Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007.

The IAC review concludes that the process used by the IPCC has been successful overall, but IPCC needs to fundamentally reform its management structure and strengthen its procedures to handle ever larger and increasingly complex climate assessments as well as the more intense public scrutiny coming from a world grappling with how best to respond to climate change. It provides several specific recommendations that will be discussed by the IPCC Plenary (composed of the governments) in October.

The IAC only looked at the IPCC’s functioning, structures and procedures; it did not examine the substance of the errors identified last year. However, several other reviews that have been released over the last few months (at the request by the US, UK and Netherlands government) have found that the overall conclusions of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report are very solid, and that the errors were minor and isolated mistakes (a few in a report of several thousand pages) that did not affect the main findings (climate change is happening, and that it is very likely that humans are responsible for most of it). For further information on the IAC review of the IPCC see

Maarten van Aalst of the Climate Centre is Coordinating Lead Author of the IPCC Special Report on Extremes, due to be released in late 2011, and Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report, due to be released in 2014.

Jordan workshop on DRR and CCA 1-5 August 2010

The IFRC MENA Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation workshop, held in Jordan, Amman from 1-5 August 2010 was a great success. The goal of significantly expanding MENA National Societies’ capacities to alleviate suffering and increase community resilience requires that they work toward a holistic DRR programme—and this must include integration of DRR/CCA concepts into ongoing programs, contingency planning strategies and Early Warning/Early Action systems. The workshop outlined the ways and means to make this goal a reality and served as a forum for sharing amongst National Societies, the IFRC MENA Zone, the RC/RC Climate Centre, facilitators and outside organizations. The methodology of the workshop allowed for sharing of the experiences, expertise and points of view of all parties present. Videoconference technology allowed for bringing in experts not present in Amman, a joint meeting with health coordinators laid the foundation for future cooperation, interactive group work led to real outcomes for protocol development, and participatory discussion resulted in planning strategies which are already starting to be implemented. The focus of the workshop sessions were real issues important to the RC/RC on all levels. These included zonal mapping exercises, developing templates for collecting baseline information, early warning/early action scenarios and systems, integration of DRR with health programs, specific tools for DRR and CCA, national and regional policy development, gender, road safety, and understanding climate information. The diversity of topics discussed highlights the cross cutting nature both disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. The final workshop report can be downloaded here. Hopefully all that we learned together will help us work together to ensure a less vulnerable and more resilient MENA in the future. For more information please contact Bec McNaught.

Spotlight on China – Convergence of DRR and CCA

Packed into a Fujian province hotel room for two days on 27 and 28 July 2010, representatives from Red Cross Red Crescent and the Chinese government met for the first time as a group. What was unusual about this meeting was the convergence of government departments including agriculture, health, climate change and disaster management as well as the meteorological office with Chinese Red Cross counterparts. One experience that all participants share is the changes to climate that are occurring in the Fujian province of China. From increased intensity of rainfall, hotter temperatures and heatwaves, more ‘super typhoons’ and increasing landslides, the group identified that they all had the concern – how to deal with a more demanding climate? Using an ‘Early Warning/Early Action’ template with the scenario of heavier rainfall and landslides, participants split up into groups of health, disaster management and agriculture to discuss actions that can be taken across different timescales such as years, months, days and hours ahead of a given event, using climate information that is available. They discussed systems, expertise and actions already in place that could be used to deal with these changes in climate, then asked themselves what could they do more of, differently or better. Actions considered community level right up to provincial level. Some of the actions brainstormed in the exercise included defining more clearly roles and responsibility for various tasks, further dialogue and cooperation between departments with Chinese Red Cross, intensifying preparedness measures around landslide prone areas with communities, increase in pest control measures after flooding, creating community contingency plans for flooding, preventative health messages before a disaster, protection of crops such as strengthening banana trees through use of stakes, training of communities, reassessing infrastructure for its level of tolerance, conducting simulation drills and updating communication systems. It was identified that community needs and priorities could be gleaned from the use of participatory engagement via conducting a Red Cross vulnerability and capacity assessment. This could be combined with available outside resources and expertise to enable targeted assistance to those that are most vulnerable. Participants agreed that they walked away from the meeting having a better understanding of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, each other’s roles, cooperation opportunities, as well as measures to collectively address problems that vulnerable communities face. The most important phase of the year long project will now begin which involves community engagement and implementation. This 2-day Seminar hosted by the Fujian Red Cross in Fuzhou is part of the project; “Disaster Risk Reduction and Integrated Climate Change Adaptation –a National Model for a Community Context in the People’s Republic of China” implemented by the Chinese Red Cross with funding from the Finnish Red Cross. Experts from the IFRC Climate Centre and IFRC’s regional office in Beijing contribute with technical knowledge throughout the project implementation. For more information please contact Bec McNaught.

Launch of the Youth on the move climate change initiative

In line with the commitments made in the 2009 Solferino Youth Declaration, the IFRC is committed to empowering youth to become leaders by providing them with the tools, training and opportunities needed to become strong advocates for the humanitarian work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. This two-year climate change initiative is designed to promote youth involvement in the field and to empower their voice as Red Cross Red Crescent spokespersons advocating for greater support in helping vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change, in line with the Red Cross Red Crescent global position.

Through a  competition focusing on understanding of the issues and an ability to communicate positive action effectively, the campaign will identify and select ten young volunteers from across the world to act as spokespersons for the Red Cross Red Crescent at the UNFCCC climate conference (COP 16) to be held in Mexico in December 2010. The ten spokespersons will be offered professional advocacy training in November to help prepare themselves for this experience. From 15 July, the IFRC secretariat  is are eager to receive submissions from individual young volunteers of the Red Cross and Red Crescent who wish to take part in this initiative. Participants must be between 18 and 25 years old. To be effective advocates, they should be aware of the climate change challenge, and already be taking personal action to respond. We will be seeking to represent equally the efforts of young men and women that geographically represent the global nature of the Red Cross Red Crescent and rely on  the National Society to help in reflecting the  diversity by promoting this opportunity with their volunteers. Young people can take part in many different ways: sending in photos with captions (no more than five per entry), a short video (less than five minutes) highlighting the difference made in their  community, or a written account (max 600 words) of what they are doing.

To speak on behalf of the entire Red Cross Red Crescent strong voices and messages are needed, so applicants are advised to  think carefully before they prepare their submissions. These must be sent digitally to before 15 September. This effort will support the International Year of Youth (launching in August 2010) as well as support the Red Cross Red Crescent global volunteer initiative in 2011. For more information: This initiative is being coordinated and supported by Zach Abraham ( and Stephen Ryan (  from the IFRC’s Geneva office.

UN Climate talks continue

On 2-4 August Madeleen Helmer attended the UN Climate talks in Bonn. The whole meeting lasted 5 days. At the Climate talks governments try to make progress on the different elements of a new climate agreement. The agreement that was not ready to be adopted in Copenhagen at COP 15. The session in August is the third since COP 15 and before COP 16 in Cancun (Mexico, 29 November – 9 December) and one more session will take place in China, on 4-10 October. Our attention mainly goes to the elements of the adaptation chapter in which disaster risk management is well integrated. In Bonn most of the meetings were closed for observers, so the monitoring of the process happened ‘second hand’ through the ‘Earth Negotiation Bulletin (ENB) and talks in the corridors. The ENB produced the following summary on the adaptation negotiations:

“The adaptation drafting group met numerous times each day from Tuesday through Thursday, with talks focusing on options for institutional arrangements to facilitate enhanced action on adaptation (FCCC/AWGLCA/2010/8, Chapter 2, paragraph 7). Discussions also addressed: the need for more equal treatment of adaptation and mitigation in the Chair’s text; finance; and expanding assistance on national adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs) from LDCs to include other parties; and addressing loss and damages associated with climate change impacts. The issue of loss and damages was also addressed by a developing country group’s proposal to add a paragraph on the creation of an international climate insurance facility.

Throughout the week, the main dividing line between parties was whether or not the creation of a new adaptation institution was necessary, specifically an Adaptation Committee under the Convention. The G-77/China and AOSIS advocated the creation of a committee to appraise, provide technical support and advice, and approve technical aspects of adaptation projects based on COP guidelines. However, developed countries generally preferred using existing institutions after identifying and eliminating gaps in their functionality. They also felt that an additional layer of bureaucracy would not help to bring about a simplified, expedited form of adaptation governance. The US agreed with developing countries that there has been ineffective action on adaptation, but asserted that this is not because a committee is lacking, but rather because of the absence of NAPAs, accurate knowledge and technology funding. However, developing countries insisted that it was unclear which existing institutions could be used to provide coordinated assistance on these issues, whereas the proposed committee would have this specific function. One developing country said current institutions with wider mandates often legitimately confuse adaptation projects with development projects. In addition, developing countries argued that amending the mandates of multiple existing institutions to provide enhanced action on adaptation would take years and that it was unclear which particular existing institutions should be enhanced.

Another issue raised at AWG-LCA 11 was a concern that the cross-cutting nature of adaptation was leading to its fragmentation among the new drafting groups. This resulted in a joint adaptation-finance drafting group meeting on Thursday to provide clarity on the functional relationships between adaptation and the finance mechanisms. Institutional ownership issues were again discussed, with parties exchanging views on the role of an adaptation committee. India envisaged a committee that supports countries in preparing projects, provides input to the COP on project eligibility criteria, and supports the review of the proposals. However, the US, European Union (EU) and others envisaged a more hands-off approach, suggesting that the adaptation committee provide technical or scientific advice on good practice, but not necessarily provide detailed project assessments or be involved in project approval.

A draft text was presented on Friday reflecting discussions on options for institutional arrangements for adaptation (paragraph 7) and addressing loss and damages associated with climate change impacts (paragraph 8). Both draft paragraphs provide two options: one expanding and strengthening the capacities of existing institutions and cooperation; and one proposing the creation of a new entity. Under paragraph 7, both options focus on provision of guidance to enhance action on adaptation but the first option would actually create a new institution functioning as the Technical Panel of the Financial Mechanism Board to receive, evaluate and recommend technical adjustments in applications for financial support, as well as review portfolios of adaptation projects to assess effectiveness. A new institution under paragraph 8 would be a mechanism addressing loss and damage through risk management, insurance, compensation and rehabilitation”.

Regional capacity building or adaptation support centres are not controversial and it is likely that a decision on the establishment of these will be taken in Cancun. In some regions first initiatives to form these centres have already begun, like in South East Asia. It is of interest to the RC and other civil society organizations to connect to these developments for our own capacity building and to give our community based experiences back to others.
For more info: Madeleen Helmer:

IRI/IFRC Internships 2010

Five Scholars for Humanitarian Work from Columbia University’s Climate and Society MA programme, have just returned from their summer internships in RC/RC offices across the globe. As with the last two years, these students have made valuable contributions to RC/RC endeavors to enhance understanding and preparedness for changing climate risks and extreme weather events. Here is a quick snapshot of what they did this summer:

Krista Jankowski was based at the Southeast Asia Regional Delegation office in Bangkok, Thailand. With a background in climate science, teaching and curriculum development, Krista worked with the disaster management unit to develop a two-week field session on disaster risk reduction, climate risk reduction, and the VCA process. Krista is continuing to work with the Climate Centre to develop a Global Resource Training Package, which will feature modules and learning resources on topics including: Climate Change, Early Warning -Early Action, and Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation.

Frank Sousa was based in the Middle East North Africa Zone in Amman, Jordan. Frank assisted in the writing of background documents for the Preparedness for Climate Change Programme and developed a PowerPoint presentation on climate change for the region. The presentation includes climate change projections for MENA and guidance on how the Red Cross can use knowledge of expected impacts for enhanced preparedness. Frank delivered this and two other presentations for 12 National Societies at the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation workshop held in Amman this August.

Scott Wood was based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, working with both the Tanzania Red Cross Society (TRCS) and the Tanzania Meteorological Authority (TMA). The TRCS and TMA began working together in a more formalized way in 2004 after the Asian tsunami, which killed 11 people in Tanzania. To further strengthen their work together, Scott facilitated processes to help the TRCS identify and articulate their needs for climate and weather information so that the TMA could improve and tailor their products and support to user needs. The TRCS now receives 12 hour forecast updates from the TMA daily, and advances have been made to develop an MoU together.

Amy Stypa was based at the East Asia regional office in Beijing, China, and spent half of her internship working with the Mongolia Red Cross Society. In Mongolia, Amy assisted with the completion of the National Society’s PfCC2 background document. She also developed a climate change project proposal, gave input on development of climate change communications materials, and delivered a workshop presentation on climate change. In China she worked in the Fujian province helping with preparations for a workshop designed to build partnerships and shared visions for collaborative efforts on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. See elsewhere in this newsletter.

Michelle Cordray was based at the Uganda Red Cross Society. With a background in both climate science and video production, Michelle began work on videos covering:

  • Uganda Red Cross Society’s disaster risk reduction projects.
  • Impacts of climate change, deforestation, and wetlands encroachment in Uganda.
  • What farmers are doing to adapt to climate change.

Michelle anticipates that the videos will be ready for viewing this October.
Also visit our Young Scholars webpage.

King’s College Internships 2010

Emma Lowell just completed a two month internship organized through the Red Cross Climate Centre and King’s College, London, where she is currently doing a masters in Disasters, Adaptation and Development. She was based in Bangkok at the IFRC SE Asia Regional Office, During her internship Emma helped organising a Climate Change Adaptation workshop aimed at helping national societies understand the importance of climate change. The most important focus is on the use of climate information tools, sources and partnerships that can be used to help analyse each situation and how to take this information forward to integrate it into future proposals and projects. This workshop will be taking place later in the year.

Trevor Payne’s principal purpose of internship was to assist the Caribbean Regional Representation Office in Trinidad and Tobago with the integration of climate risks into existing National Society programmes. This was done through the Preparedness for Climate Change project in the Caribbean. Trevor primarily worked with National Societies in Dominica and Saint Lucia and helped these national societies with drafting Climate Change Risk Assessment Reports and climate change sensitisation workshops. The placement provided him with good practice experience and he feels extremely fortunate to have had this opportunity.

During Amy Kirbyshire’s two-month internship in the Caribbean she led the early stages of the Preparedness for Climate Change programme at the Belize, St Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross Societies. In close cooperation with the Caribbean Regional Representation Office, she worked alongside Fred Hunter and La-Toya Creese at the Belize and St Vincent Societies respectively. Amy felt this internship was a fantastic opportunity to be directly involved in Red Cross Red Crescent work and although it was challenging to integrate climate change into the programmes of these National Societies she felt it was a very positive experience.

An internship on communication on climate change within the Red Cross

In the increasingly interconnected and globalised world in which we live, the need to focus not just on the production of information, but how, to whom and for what reason we are communicating it is essential, as information which is not communicated effectively to those that need it is of little value. Tom Moat from King’s College London spent last summer examining the communication of Climate Change within the Red Cross and helping develop the online Global Training Curriculum on Climate Change. This research involved being embedded with the Climate Centre team, interviewing staff involved in this process throughout the federation, examining much of the literature produced by the Climate Centre, National Societies and the Federation and examining this information, providing a critical review of the current process, and opportunities for enhancing this.

Internship on Partners for Resilience

From June to October 2010, Veraniek Geerts, intern from Wageningen University in the Netherlands is doing research on the use of scientific climate information within an alliance of five Netherlands based organizations called Partners for Resilience. The NGOs in this alliance all take climate change into account in their programmes and this research attempts to seek synergies in the way climate data is used within the different assessment tools that the NGOs work with. There is often limited contact with knowledge centers and little flow of relevant and comprehensible climate data towards the NGO’s. The main aim of this internship is to map what kind of climate information the NGOs need in addition to what they are already using and to list what kind of problems they run into gathering that climate information. This can contribute to a better understanding of how knowledge centers may be able to fill some of the gaps.

Preparedness for Climate Change Programme and its Innovations Fund

The Preparedness for Climate Change Programme is in its final months of implementation. Many National Societies are inspiring each other in workshops and are experiencing the benefits of working with partners on Disaster Risk Reduction/Climate Change Adaptation. Seeking opportunities to integrate knowledge of changing climate risks into their current policies and programmes is an ongoing process in most National Societies. We look forward to sharing results of the programme in the Climate Centre’s newsletter early next year.

In collaboration with the Federation Secretariat, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre set up a small Innovations Fund for National Societies. This fund builds upon earlier requests from National Societies to give them an opportunity to kick-start ideas for innovative projects, which was expressed during the evaluation of the first phase of the Preparedness for Climate Change (PfCC) Programme. The PfCC programme only funds the process of assessing the implications of climate change, linking up with partners and knowledge institutes and developing communication messages and action plans. The Innovations Fund supports a few pilot projects aimed at reducing climate risks to be implemented parallel to the assessments and workshops held in the PfCC programme. National Societies participating in either PfCC 1 or 2 were invited to apply to the fund by 31 July 2010.

The Innovations Fund received 13 applications requesting a total of 126,000 Euros. The Climate Centre team was very satisfied with the proposals submitted and saw this as a sign of growing demand amongst National Societies to operationalize their work on climate change. The approved projects will run until December 1st 2010. A variety of proposals were granted. Highlights from these include:

  • In the Gambia, the National Society aims to take old tires that would have been incinerated (releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere) and turn them amongst others into latrines. These latrines will not be damaged by small rodents and they can serve the communities for years. Co-benefits from this effort include: limiting the breeding sites of malaria mosquitoes with the underground latrines, improved hygiene and decreased pollution from the burning of tires. Another part of this project deals with reducing the risk of accidental fires by promoting the use of solar lamps and limiting the burning of lot wood. Co-benefits from this activity include the reduction of the negative impact of log wood cutting on the climate, influencing rainfall patterns and drought occurrence.
  • In the Solomon Islands,  the National Society will conduct Vulnerability and Capacity Assessments (VCAs), with specific emphasis on climate change impacts, to help the community identify any changing risks and develop an action plan to address them. The Pileni community in Temotu province was selected as the pilot area, because it is one of the more vulnerable areas in the Solomon Islands.
  • In Ethiopia many regions are severely affected by periods of drought and environmental degradation is escalating. For some time now, the Ethiopian Red Cross has been working with a community in the Ebinat Woreda on climate change adaptation pilot projects to minimize soil erosion and rehabilitate degraded hillsides, increase the growth of grass and other vegetation to support livestock, conserve water, and increase crop productivity. An effort has also been made to bring fuel saving stoves to the poorest women. Reducing the amount of firewood needed, has health benefits and reduces carbon dioxide emissions. It also free up women’s time and protects limited natural resources. Through the Innovations Fund, the Ethiopia Red Cross will produce a film to share their adaptation efforts and results with other vulnerable communities. By sharing their experiences, other communities may be inspired to develop adaptation strategies to meet basic needs in spite of changing climate conditions.
  • In Bangladesh the National Society is applying traditional indigenous knowledge to developing climate change adaptation strategies. Their project attempts to demonstrate alternative livelihood and adaptation practices (promoting flood resistant varieties of rice, etc)  by 20 farmers in 4 communities in collaboration with agriculture department of government. During this project an awareness campaign promoting alternative livelihood and adaptation practices will be held, and a ceremony with certificates of distinction, trophies and prize money will be held to recognize farmers who’ve made important climate change adaptation innovations.
  • In Latin America many National Societies have submitted projects focused on youth activities and community awareness. For example Chile has submitted a project that aims to create a pilot program in the Metropolitan Region, which will be designed by youth to improve community resilience. The This way the Chile National Society will offer those young volunteers the opportunity and tools to work out a specific activity to reduce climate risks. The Climate Centre has proposed that all National Societies in Latin America work closely together to draw upon each other’s experiences with their youth and climate change awareness programs, sharing plans, communication and awareness materials when possible.

Masters in Innovations in Climate Risk Management

Why do people continue to suffer and die due to entirely predictable natural hazards? The remarkable progress in science and technology over recent decades allows us to anticipate future conditions, communicate early warnings and take early action to avoid losses, yet many recent disasters are evidence of a dreadful gap between climate science and the humanitarian sector. Last summer, Pablo Suarez, the Climate Centre’s Associate Director of Programmes conducted a course at the University of Lugano familiarizing students with recent developments in both climate-related forecasts and decision capacity, which together enable new ways to manage risks associated with extreme events and changing climate conditions. The objectives of the course were to build the capacity of humanitarian practitioners to manage increasingly serious climate risks. Specifically, students would understand the basics of predictions involving climate-related hazards, their strengths and limitations, and current obstacles to their use. Students would also learn about approaches to work with experts from other disciplines in order to jointly identify the constellation of means, relationships, and processes that can enable forecast-based decisions to save lives and livelihoods. This course was the only one in the entire Masters explicitly addressing climate issues, mostly Early warning/Early action.

Climate Change meeting, 17-18 July 2010, Villanueva – Cortes, Honduras

On 17 and 18 July 2010, a climate change meeting was held with the active participation of more than 100 volunteers from five Honduran city councils. It was developed at the Ecotourism Center El Ocote in the city of Villanueva, Cortes. The strategy of the event was based on socio-cultural educational methodologies and techniques adapted to the theme of climate change. The volunteers used their creative and artistic skills and worked with drama, puppetry and mime to implement and strengthen interventions in communities dealing with adaptation to climate change, disasters and river flooding. The project was executed by the Honduran Red Cross with financial support of the Italian Red Cross. Download here the report of the meeting (in Spanish).

Spanish climate guide available shortly

The Climate Centre Climate Guide presents five years of experiences from more than thirty national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, in particular in developing countries. It relates the experiences of Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and volunteers all around the world trying to understand and address the risks of climate change. The Guide was already available in English, French, Arabic and Russian but we are very pleased to announce that thanks to combined efforts from the Spanish Red Cross and a number of Spanish and Latin American translators the Spanish version will be available soon. The Spanish Guide will be distributed by the Spanish Red Cross and downloadable from our website.

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For all general questions concerning the Climate Centre, please contact Desiree Davidse at or phone +31 70 4455886.