Newsletter, Issue 14

Newsletter, Issue 14
27 October 2009

UNFCCC COP15 in Copenhagen – an update on the Red Cross/ Red Crescent engagement in the negotiations towards a new global climate agreement

The Climate Centre has been very engaged in the negotiations for a new global climate agreement to be signed in Copenhagen in December. All the climate talks in the last two years have been attended by the Centre. In 2009, there were 7 negotiation weeks so far, spread out over three meetings in Bonn (Germany) and one in Bangkok (Thailand). One more week in Barcelona (Spain) and 7 days in Copenhagen are left to come to a document on which Ministers and Heads of States will negotiate for three more days in mid-December.

The Red Cross/ Red Crescent’s role in this process has been mainly to provide advice and ideas to countries on adaptation to the unavoidable impacts of climate change and how disaster risk reduction, disaster management and risk sharing could be addressed in the new framework.

Since June 2008 the Red Cross/ Red Crescent has teamed up with other humanitarian and development agencies like OCHA. WHO, WFP, ISDR and NGOs like OXFAM, ACT, CARE and Worldvision and insurance related initiatives. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) chairs the Climate Change Taskforce of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC).

Partly thanks to these efforts, a lot of progress has been made in addressing disaster risk reduction in the context of the UNFCCC. Also the need to address adaptation and risk reduction at the local and community level, and the need to give priority to the most vulnerable people has found a place in the latest version of the negotiation text. Since these issues are not very controversial they are expected to remain in the final agreement.

Several critical issues in the negotiations will have to be decided at the highest political level, likely only in the last night of the Copenhagen conference. The first is the targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This is of course crucial in order to avoid dramatic long-term climate change. The second critical issue is the amount of funding to be committed for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. The UNFCCC secretariat believes that over time a total of US$ 300 billion annually will be needed. The British Prime minister Gordon Brown and the European Commission talk about the order of US$ 100 billion per year by 2020. A significant part of these costs will need to come from public sources – governments in industrialized countries. Another potential source is a levy on emission trading mechanisms (which links back to the first critical issue: the more strict the emissions targets, the more money can be generated through the trading schemes).

On both issues countries have not yet moved enough to be optimistic about a good outcome in Copenhagen. There is still a lot of so-called “bracketed” text (still to be negotiated) that even time wise it is going to be very difficult to come to an agreement by December. However, the process has not come to a standstill, and will not come to a standstill in Copenhagen. The climate change problem is simply too big to be stalled.

For more information on the Red Cross/ Red Crescent engagement in the UNFCCC process, contact Madeleen Helmer ( or Bhupinder Tomar (

El Niño, October 2009

The El Niño event that began in May 2009 is currently still in progress. Many Zones, Regions and National Societies have been inquiring about El Niño, wanting to know the related forecast to this event and what the impacts might be. An El Niño event is likely to vary the amount of rainfall typically expected in parts of Africa, Asia/Pacific and the America’s. It is therefore more important than usual to monitor how much rainfall has been received in these regions and what is forecasted in the hours, days, weeks and months ahead. This will assist monitoring likelihood of drought or flood conditions and subsequently it can initiate possible preparations for Red Cross/ Red Crescent operations. Click here for more information on the current 2009 El Niño event, an explanation of El Niño, what it means for Red Cross Red Crescent and how we can prepare.

Preparedness for Climate Change

The first phase of Preparedness for Climate Change program ended this Summer, and provided 39 National Societies the opportunity to orient themselves on changing climate risks to their countries, plans and programs. Results and the findings of an external evaluation will be presented at the IFRC General Assembly in November and shared widely.

Building on the success and lessons learned from Phase 1, the Climate Centre has secured funding for a second phase of Preparedness for Climate Change, to be implemented between now and the end of 2010. It will cover another 25 National Societies, and integrated (even) more closely in regular programming through the Federation Zones and Regional Delegations, in close collaboration with PNSs. Further details will be announced shortly.

Climate change and health report

Please find on our website a background paper on climate change and health for the Commission on Climate Change and Development by the Climate Centre’s health specialist Lina Nerlander. This paper takes a general perspective on the effects of climate change on health and what adaptation measures are needed by governments as well as humanitarian organisations. Some of the actions might therefore be less relevant to National Societies, but overall the paper gives a good overview of what different actors can do.

IRI-IFRC Summer Internships

Ten graduate students from the Climate and Society masters program at Columbia University conducted internships in 2009 at IFRC offices around the world. The internships are part of the ongoing collaboration between the IFRC, the Climate Centre and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. The students, based in Africa, Latin America and Asia, built on research conducted by three interns from the previous Climate and Society class in 2008. Under the supervision of their local IFRC hosts, and with guidance from an IRI advisor and an RC/RC Climate Centre advisor, students investigated the type of weather and climate information available in their assigned region. They evaluated the available forecast and monitoring tools in the context of IFRC needs for forecast information in a changing climate. Students then formulated recommendations to climate information providers and the IFRC on how climate forecasts might be better tailored and utilized for the IFRC’s humanitarian work. Students Arame Tall (08), Meaghan Daly (09) and Jessica Sharoff (09) presented their experiences and findings at a side-event at the World Climate Conference-3, held from 31 August until 4 September in Geneva. Recommendations from the students as a whole were also synthesized into a policy document. Together, the students’ experiences and recommendations contributed to the key conference outcome: a commitment among participants to develop a Global Framework for Climate Services. In 2009 and 2010, funding for the internships is derived primarily from the Climate Program Office at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which currently features a spotlight on the interns on their website.

Middle East & Northern Africa face ‘severe water stress’ in the future

Syria, Morocco and Libya Red Crescent Societies met in Amman, Jordan from 10-12 September to discuss climate change and the persistent drought situations that are ravaging their countries. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change things are set to worsen over time. The Middle East is likely to experience ‘severe water stress’. National Societies learned about the basics of climate change, discussed their roles working on it, as well as strategies to work on drought such as hygiene promotion, water conservation and relationships with meteorological agencies. National Societies in the region are starting to embark on increasing their understanding of what climate change means for their work and how it can be addressed.

For more information please contact Bec McNaught:

South Asia Recommendations for Action on Integrating Climate Change Into Disaster Risk Reduction

Following on a regional workshop in Bangladesh in February and with input from the South Asia Disaster Management Committee in July, a list of recommended actions on integrating climate change into Red Cross/ Red Crescent work in South Asia has been drafted. Find the excellent recommendations here.

Pacific Disaster Management Forum – keeping an eye on El Nino

Cynthia Thomson, an IRI intern who conducted a placement with the Federation’s Pacific Office, found that El Niño and La Niña have such a large impact in the Pacific region that much can be done to prepare for events, given that they can be monitored with accuracy. Following on from this recommendation, Bec McNaught from the Climate Centre presented a session on El Niño and La Niña at the Pacific Red Cross Disaster Management Forum held between 10-13 August 2009 in Suva, Fiji. National Societies from around the Pacific meet once a year to share experiences and learn from one another as well as plan for the year ahead. Participants were given a table indicating historical effects of El Niño and La Niña on their countries (see link further on). Exercises were done in preparations that could be taken on different timescales such as years, months, weeks, days and hours ahead using information about adverse climate and weather conditions. In addition, Samoa and Tuvalu Red Cross shared fantastic presentations on their climate change activities that included things such as youth action, advocacy and partnerships with government and NGOs. Fruitful discussions were also held on the challenges National Societies face in tackling climate change issues. Vuli Guana from Fiji Red Cross also shared his experience in the climate change workshop at the Red Cross/ Red Crescent World Youth Meeting in June in Solferino, Italy, saying that the challenge now for youth after the event is to go from talk to action. Read more.

Australian Red Cross Approves Climate Change Policy

As world leaders meet to tackle climate change on a global scale, the Australian Red Cross is playing its own part by helping vulnerable people and communities better prepare for and adapt to changes in climate. The Australian Red Cross committed to the Resolutions of the 30th International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference in November 2007 which recognised climate change as one of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

The Australian Red Cross has been active in responding to the impact of climate change and extreme weather by strengthening its disaster and emergency services, by building on its responses to extreme temperatures in South Australia and Victoria, and by partnering with the International Federation and Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre to help reduce the Pacific region’s vulnerability to climate change.

The Australian Red Cross is already recognised as a key player in relation to climate change adaptation and in recent months has been invited to participate in a number of government forums and research initiatives on climate change.

To help clarify its role and increase responses the Board has endorsed a Climate Change Adaptation policy and supported the further development and integration of climate change activities into core programs, particularly emergency services, international operations and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many of whose communities are likely to be adversely affected by climate change.
For more information please contact the Australian Red Cross or Bec McNaught.

Youth Making a Move on Climate Change!

The Red Cross/ Red Crescent World Youth Meeting was held at Solferino, Italy in June this year. This meeting happens every ten years, and this time it coincided with the 150 year anniversary of the battle of Solferino. The Climate Centre ran a well-attended workshop on climate change three days in a row, with around 35 participants from all over the world present each. One of the workshops was run together with UNICEF.

Much of the workshop was spent working in small groups, allowing participants to share experiences and think practically about how to implement the ‘Seven Steps to Action’ (LINK) for youth on climate change. The workshops also contained a presentation on what climate change is, what the implications will be and what initiatives youth around the world have already taken on awareness raising and community action. The response from the participants was extremely positive and energizing, and we hope that this will be the start of a worldwide youth network on climate change and that National Societies all over the world see youth as a resource in their work on climate change. All participants were given hard and electronic copies of the Youth and Climate Kit which can also be found on our website.

At the end of each workshop, participants made a declaration and a pledge to action. This statement formed together with the statements from all the other workshops the Solferino Youth Declaration. Some of the youth participating in the meeting travelled overland to Geneva to present the declaration to representatives from the IFRC, ICRC, the UN and the Swiss Government.

Special thanks to Rebecca McNaught for preparing the Youth and Climate kit and the presentations, and to Lina Nerlander, Mehdi Comeau & Jessica Roberts for running the workshop in Solferino. Thanks also to the Centre for Cooperation in the Mediterranean for their assistance with translations and to all the workshop participants for making it a fun and educational experience for all Take a look here at the photos Mehdi Comeau made at Solferino.

A ‘youth and climate kit’ including a ‘how to’ booklet, presentations, case studies, stickers and films is now available on our website for downloading or if your National Society would like a hard copy please contact Bec McNaught at: or Desiree Davidse at

Filming climate change at the Atlantis Youth Camp

Mehdi Comeau, a volunteer film maker, helped out at the Mediterranean region’s annual ‘Atlantis’ youth camp in July. Participants of his workshop created a film about climate change by dividing into three groups. The first group gave an introduction to climate change, the second a snap shot of the effects of climate change in different areas and the third covered solutions and conclusion. To see the film created by these aspiring new film makers please visit:

An overview of the process that they went through is available at:

UNICEF have launched the Unite for Climate online initiative which aims to be a hub for :

One minute video competition: an international short film competition on climate change. Categories are: Under 18’s, amateur or professional. Deadline is 30th October 2009. Gather up your films and submit online!

Climate change, cartoons and schools in Dorset, UK

The British Red Cross commissioned a group of young volunteer filmmakers working out of the youth volunteering charity Vinvolved, to make a film about how climate change will affect young people living in Dorset in the UK. Directed by Simon Yeoman-Taylor, rather than focussing on the causes and prevention of climate change, this film reveals how to adapt and protect ourselves from the effects of climate change that we are already tied in to. The film will be shown in Dorset’s schools to educate children on how to protect themselves against the effects of climate change.

See the film on You Tube:
For more information please email Jessica Roberts at:

Now Available Online: Early Warning, Early Action Report on West Africa, 2008

The evaluation report on the Early Warning, Early Action approach taken by the West and Central Africa Zone (WCAZ) in 2008 is now available online. Early Warning, Early Action refers to the idea that knowing the likely character of an upcoming season (more rain than normal, or less rain than normal) can help disaster managers and coordinators of WATSAN and food security programs etc., prepare for disasters (e.g. drought or floods). Using long-lead time forecasts however can be a challenge, since they are probabilistic and less specific than weather forecasts in terms of when and where rainfall extremes might occur. The report details how the WCAZ overcame these barriers in 2008 for improved preparedness and response. In sum, the Zone used a seasonal rainfall forecast to build a strategy of ‘no-regrets’ flood preparedness actions that could be increasingly drawn upon, according to how conditions evolved and forecasts progressed on shorter timescales (monthly, 10-day, weekly, daily). These ‘no regrets’ actions included updating of flood contingency plans, making logistical arrangements for fast deployment of Regional Disaster Response Teams, and other low-cost efforts that would not have gone to waste if the anticipated floods had not taken place. The report also identifies the concrete benefits and lessons learned from the WCAZ’s first-time implementation of Early Warning, Early Action. The report and the experience of the WCAZ may serve as a useful guide for IFRC offices at the Zone, Regional and National levels considering implementation of an Early Warning, Early Action approach. The WCAZ’s success in translating early warning information into life-saving early actions is also summarized in this Early Warning, Early Action brochure.

Other internships

In addition to the internship program through Columbia University, the Climate Centre helps connect graduate students from around the world to RC/RC work through its Young Scholars program. This year, the Caribbean Regional Representation Office (CRRO) hosted Connie Schwenk from the University of Bayreuth in Germany. Connie researched hurricane preparedness and supported the CRRO’s climate change program and disaster management unit. In Panama, Adriano Longo Santos, with a masters in Science of Climate Change from the University of East Anglia, has been examining how forecast information fits into IFRC decision-making. Another young scholar, Cherise Chadwick, completed her masters in Disasters, Adaptation and Development at King’s College (London) by linking her academic requirements to the needs of the Yemen Red Crescent. She helped examine the institutional architecture at local, regional and national levels, identifying the various factors influencing design and implementation of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. Cherise is next scheduled to work on Fiji, where she will support the IFRC Pacific office to integrate climate change into the Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) tool, proposing tailor-made changes to reflect needs and opportunities of small island states.

Staff changes at the Climate Centre

The Climate Centre is in a very busy period, participating in intensive international negotiations in the run-up to the UNFCCC climate conference in Copenhagen; helping a growing number of National Societies, Federation Zone Offices and Regional Delegations to integrate climate change into their work; and documenting and sharing their experiences; wrapping up Preparedness for Climate Change (PfCC) Phase 1 and preparing PfCC Phase 2.

Corine Emmelkamp has left us for a career in alternative energy. However, we are very happy to welcome our new office manager Desiree Davidse who exchanged the diplomatic environment of the prestigious Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael for our hectic office. While several of our staff are travelling and based in different places around the world, Desiree is the central spider in the global web of climate centre networks, programs and people. She is generally in the office from Tuesday till Friday.

We are also joined by Lisette Braman, who started working with the Federation and the Climate Centre as a summer intern and has been working for us as and the Federation as a consultant for about a year. She is based in New York City and will be coordinating the Preparedness for Climate Change helpdesk, in close collaboration with our partners at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.

Since 5 October 2009, Harald Schellander has joined the Climate Centre for a two-month exchange program aimed at enabling EU-National Red Cross Societies and their staff to learn from each other and to contribute to a mutual organisational development. In his usual job Harald works as assistant to the managing board at Austrian Red Cross headquarters in Vienna. Harald supports the Climate Centre in its preparations for COP15, and will prepare a policy note with an overview of the key EU policies and programmes to address the European (domestic) impacts of climate change, and areas of convergence with Red Cross priorities and programmes.

Unfortunately, Fleur Monasso has been on sick leave for a while. She is doing well, but still recovering. She really appreciates the warm wishes from many of you. In the meantime, Lina Nerlander, our health and climate specialist, will also be covering part of Fleur’s portfolio, assisted by Bec McNaught, who is still based in Melbourne and focusing on capacity building and training as well as youth issues. After travelling the world promoting climate risk management in the Red Cross and Red Crescent almost non-stop for several years, Pablo Suarez is finally taking a brief holiday. He will be back late October.

Madeleen Helmer, head of the climate centre, is travelling almost incessantly this year, and mainly focusing on humanitarian diplomacy and resource mobilization. Lead Climate Specialist Maarten van Aalst coordinates our operational support to Zones and National Societies, analysis, and handles day-to-day management.

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