Climate Centre Review of the Year 2022
by the Climate Centre
(A look at our engagement with the year’s events through the eyes of the Climate Centre news service.)
In its Global Plan 2022, the IFRC said scaling up climate action was one of its “absolute priorities”, with the need for every National Society to prepare, adapt and respond “at levels previously unimagined”.
Two years after the first Covid-19 cases, countries were reporting record outbreaks of the Omicron variant, “but the pandemic pales compared to the long-term risks the world faces from climate change”, according to an official summary of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2022.
The agility of Red Cross societies and their international partners helped to blunt the impacts of Cyclone Ana as it tracked across Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless and scores dead.
It also generated the first forecast-based action of the year in Mozambique, when the IFRC issued a second Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) grant for 110,000 Swiss francs for the Red Cross to activate the relevant early action protocol.
In January we reported on a forward-looking collaboration between the Red Cross Red Crescent Museum in Geneva and the Climate Centre: a wall-mounted time capsule built from an old car engine to be opened in 2050, when combustion engines may well be obsolete; it contains contributions collected in 2020 from 50 people all over the world – relics of the Covid pandemic, newspaper cuttings, drawings, various objects, letters and poems.
Three new Climate Centre briefs examined how social protection in Nepal could be scaled up to respond to flood emergencies, offered an overview of its role as an enabler in scaling up forecast-based financing with the impact-based version, and charted the progress of social protection as a risk-reduction tool for complex climate-related disasters.
Five years of work by the Science for Humanitarian Emergencies and Resilience programme (SHEAR) were marked at an online event addressed by the Climate Centre as joint lead on knowledge management.
In its landmark Sixth Assessment Report, the IPCC Working Group II said for the first time that climate change is already contributing to humanitarian crises in vulnerable contexts; IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said this confirmed what the IFRC and National Societies had been seeing around the world for years.
WGII authors include Climate Centre Director Maarten van Aalst and Erin Coughlan de Perez, who oversees its work on climate science for risk management, as well as its former Senior Pacific Climate Adviser, Olivia Warrick; the full report and a cartoon interpretation were posted online.
It was announced that the 15 members of the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change established under the 2021 EU climate law would include Maarten van Aalst. The board is charged with providing the EU with scientific expertise and advice to inform its efforts to reach climate goals.
Professor Van Aalst welcomed the ambitious new UN target unveiled on World Meteorological Day, 23 March, that would see everyone on Earth protected by “early warning systems against increasingly extreme weather and climate change” within five years.
The IFRC issued a humanitarian cash grant of just over 200,000 Swiss francs to help the Kenya Red Cross deal with a cluster of diseases transmitted by vectors causing international concern: chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever and others.
The relevant IFRC-Climate Centre country report on climate-related health impacts in Kenya says all are “highly sensitive” to changes in temperature, rainfall and humidity.
We reported on further Nepal Red Cross Society plans to capitalize on its experience with simulated and real cash-interventions for flood impacts to continue work with local authorities to strengthen social protection and early action for climate-related hazards.
An earlier simulation was part of an NRCS project for forecast-based action that’s responsive to climate shocks in two provinces, supported by the European Commission through the Danish Red Cross, Humanity and Inclusion, and the Climate Centre.
The Egyptian and UK missions to the UN in Geneva and the IFRC organized a new climate science and humanitarian dialogue to discuss the February WGII report.
‘The pandemic pales compared to the long-term risks the world faces from climate change’
An IFRC survey concluded that many National Societies have engaged in “dedicated climate change initiatives, especially since the establishment of the Climate Centre in 2002”; the IFRC secretariat and the centre resolved to continue to strengthen their support.
After the publication of the UN’s flagship Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022, Professor Van Aalst wrote: “Covid and the food and energy crisis aggravated by the conflict in Ukraine have both dramatically increased vulnerability to increasing climate hazards, especially for the poorest people.”
The Turning the Tide report on coastal communities was launched at the Norwegian UN mission in New York, along with a photo exhibition. A joint effort by the IFRC, the Bangladesh and Somali Red Crescent, the Mexican and Norwegian Red Cross, and the Climate Centre, it included compelling accounts of “remarkable and resilient” people living in coastal areas in Mexico, Somalia, and Bangladesh.
The year’s first World Weather Attribution (WWA) study, in which the Climate Centre participates, found climate change intensified the rainfall from back-to-back devastating storms that especially affected Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique.
A new IFRC e-learning course Red Alert: What is climate change and what can we do about it? built on crowdsourced expertise of specialists from National Society, IFRC, Climate Centre and Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance partners.
The IFRC set itself the goal of allocating a quarter of its DREF to anticipatory action by 2025 – among the ambitious targets in its new operational framework for scaling up the methodology, originally based on a 2019 joint vision for forecast-based financing of the IFRC, the German Red Cross and the Climate Centre.
The WWA group found the probability of the rainfall that resulted in April’s flood disaster in the South African coastal provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape was approximately doubled by climate change; the intensity of the event, meanwhile, increased by up to 8 per cent.
A second study release later in the month showed that the long-running early heatwave in India and Pakistan would have been “extraordinarily rare” without climate change making it about 30 times more likely.
The online Rise Africa Action Festival was coordinated by ICLEI Africa with support from a large range of partners, including the Climate Centre.
The month saw the close of the SHEAR programme, with which the Climate Centre had engaged by helping to shape research and by acting as one of two knowledge brokers together with Practical Action. Maarten van Aalst described SHEAR as “visionary but rooted in real-life practice. It is a continued journey that we will all be part of as the legacy lives on.”
Reporting from the 2022 Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week in Geneva, the Climate Centre’s Technical Adviser Tesse de Boer said it “buzzed with activity”.
Remotely briefing a side-event at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction on the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, Maarten van Aalst said it was a combination of hazards with acute vulnerability of many kinds that was contributing to humanitarian crises and driving displacement worldwide.
“The Climate Centre is twenty years old today. Or to be precise, it is 20 years to the day since the first conference on climate and disaster risk reduction, held in the Royal Theatre in The Hague, saw the birth of our centre, with the IFRC and Netherlands Red Cross as the proud parents and my predecessor and the first director of the centre, Madeleen Helmer, as midwife.”
With those words on 28 June, Maarten van Aalst began an article making the Climate Centre’s 20th anniversary. Times have changed since 2002, he wrote, and now “it’s clear no country is immune, and preparedness for a changing climate is clearly everyone’s business.”
He also provided a brief on IPCC WGII to a plenary session in Bonn of the annual climate change conference – on the same day the UN’s two major food agencies warned of a “‘new normal’ in which droughts, floods, hurricanes and cyclones decimate farming, drive displacement, and push millions to the brink.”
The five-year IDAlert project was unveiled – an inter-agency research effort supported by the European Commission and intended to strengthen resilience against zoonotic diseases, it encompasses nearly 20 organizations from Europe and Bangladesh, including the Climate Centre.
IFRC resources available on its first global Heat Action Day, compiled with the Climate Centre and the Global Disaster Preparedness Center, include the Heat Wave Guide for Cities and the Urban Action Kit.
As Francesco Rocca was elected to a second four-year term as IFRC president at the IFRC’s 23rd General Assembly in Geneva, four new vice-presidents and 20 governing board members were also being voted into office, including Marieke van Schaik, the director of our hosts, the Netherlands Red Cross.
The Council of the Delegates – in a resolution initiated by the IFRC, ICRC, the German Red Cross and the Climate Centre – pledged to scale up anticipatory action and build on the role of the Red Cross Red Crescent as a champion in this area. It also endorsed the landmark Climate and Environment Charter for humanitarian organizations, initiated by the Red Cross Red Crescent and now widely embraced.
Climate Centre Associate Director Carina Bachofen, told a high-level UN ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment panel in New York that humanitarian agencies and the IFRC particularly were investing more in preparedness, and this included scaling up anticipatory action.
‘No country is immune’
As well as several National Societies and the Climate Centre, Red Cross Red Crescent engagement at the World Urban Forum in the Polish city of Katowice included a high-level dialogue that heard resilience could potentially turn disruption from the pandemic into “opportunities for growth and innovation that addresses existing challenges in cities”.
The latest WWA study said the extreme rainfall that hit north-east Brazil in late May and June was “exceptionally rare” but still more likely than in a global climate not warmed by humans.
The IFRC warned that extreme temperatures had spiralled into dangerous heatwaves and wildfires across Europe, and urged cities and communities to prepare.
The 13th annual Petersberg Climate Dialogue, hosted by Germany with COP27 president Egypt, was held against a backdrop of the heatwaves and wildfires that caused thousands of casualties on three continents. Representatives from 40 countries met at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin – major Climate Centre donors – to prepare for the coming round of UN climate talks.
A new DREF brief said about a quarter of future grants from the fund would be for early action with “increased allocations for imminent events and [forecast-based action through] changes that increase its efficiency, relevance, agility and coverage.”
The UAE government (as hosts), the IFRC, National Societies, the WFP and the Climate Centre were among organizations attending the signing ceremony for a regional memorandum of understanding at the end of Road to COP27: Anticipatory Action Milestones and the Way Forward in MENA.
We reported on new research on early warning and early action for typhoons in Palau and drought in Tuvalu, intended to help shape the Green Climate Fund programme enhancing climate resilience in five Pacific island nations and prepare the ground for new early action protocols.
The Nigerian Red Cross in Kaduna city completed a cash distribution triggered by a local forecast to beneficiaries from 5,000 households registered in May as vulnerable to floods. The pilot was part of a programme on flood-related shock-responsive social protection supported by the European Commission and implemented by the NRC, and followed an earlier mapping of flood risk by the Climate Centre.
The IFRC launched an emergency appeal worth 25 million Swiss francs to assist more than 300,000 people affected by what was described as “earthquake-like destruction” in floods in Pakistan – the most serious climate-related flood disaster of the year.
The World Meteorological Organization’s State of the Climate in Africa report said “water stress and hazards like withering droughts and devastating floods are hitting African communities, economies and ecosystems hard”.
The WWA group said climate change probably intensified the rainfall that left huge swathes of Pakistan underwater and displaced millions of people, a disaster that the Climate Centre’s Catalina Jaime with others briefed Britain’s King Charles on in November at the invitation of the British Red Cross and the UK Disasters Emergency Committee.
Maarten van Aalst argued in an op-ed for the UN’s 77th General Assembly in New York that the humanitarian community is facing a crisis that is changing both quantitatively and qualitatively, with climate change straddling a range of problems, at once both complicating and connecting them.
Around the GA itself, the UN said its initiative to ensure that all humanity is covered by early warning systems had gained momentum with from the Ministerial Event on the Resolve to Act on Early Warnings for All, attended by Jagan Chapagain; Francesco Rocca, meanwhile, represented the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement at another side-event centred on the drought-related food-security crisis in the Horn of Africa.
The Climate Centre’s joint lead for science on anticipatory action, Liz Stephens, said Typhoon Noru was another super typhoon in the Philippines that had undergone rapid intensification, described as “explosive” by the Philippine government.
The US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration also said rapid intensification had moved Hurricane Ian close to Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, up from Category 3 only the previous evening. The day before it made landfall, 13,000 people had spent the night in shelters set up by the American Red Cross and its local partners across Florida.
Sarah Gale, a Technical Adviser with the Climate Centre and a former ICRC delegate, in a new blog, explored why parties to a conflict should care about climate change and the environment.
in a new Pakistan superflood
The WWA team found that high temperatures driven by human-induced climate change had dried out the soil across the Northern Hemisphere this summer, damaging crops and adding to pressure on food prices and security.
The Netherlands Red Cross together with the Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support and the Climate Centre published a fact sheet on mental health and climate impacts.
Two early action protocols for floods caused by tropical storms for Guatemala and Honduras became the first EAPs to be triggered in Central America – for nearly 500,000 and just over 360,000 Swiss francs respectively, from the new DREF anticipatory pillar; they had been finalized earlier in the year with support from the German Red Cross, the IFRC, and the Climate Centre, and funding from the German Federal Foreign Office.
The climate and art campaign, which included a new painting posted on ENBEL Consortium, IFRC and Climate Centre social media platforms each day of the month, drew in more than 40 artists and storytellers from 11 organizations and six global regions; it improved our social media presence through the new Instagram account and with it our scope for engagement with younger audiences.
The Climate Centre announced the establishment of a Youth Advisory Group on Climate, comprising six Red Cross or Red Crescent staff or volunteers aged from 18 to 30 from each of the six IFRC regions.
A new game, Daybreak, developed by the designer of the famous game Pandemic with advice from the Climate Centre, was beta-tested with players assuming the roles of China, the US, Europe and the global South collectively deciding on projects to reduce emissions.
As COP27 got underway in Sharm El-Sheikh, the IFRC was calling on world leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions and scale up funding to enable the most vulnerable communities to adapt and cope with the catastrophic impacts they are already facing.
IFRC President Francesco Rocca said: “Our planet is in crisis and climate change is killing the most at-risk. COP27 will fail if world leaders do not support communities who are on the front lines of climate change.“
A new IFRC guide for National Societies to the governance of climate and disaster issues included Climate Centre input from its work with the Uganda Red Cross on the country’s 2021 climate change bill, as well as the guide on impact-based forecasting for early action.
Heavy rain that caused massive flooding in Nigeria, Niger and Chad starting around June was made 80 times more likely by climate change, according to a new WWA study.
Climate Centre Associate Directors Carina Bachofen and Julie Arrighi argued in an op-ed that COP27 was a success, at least, in establishing a fund to channel support to vulnerable countries experiencing loss and damage related to climate change, but with detailed arrangements still a long way off, the real work to decide how the fund will operate was just beginning.
An “intergenerational workshop” at COP27 produced a five-point call to the international community to “get past the hand-shaking to life-saving action” on early warning early action.
In late November the Dutch government announced that Maarten van Aalst, who took over from the Climate Centre’s founder Madeleen Helmer in 2011, will be leaving in the New Year to become the next Director-General and Chief Science Officer of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute; all wished him well.
Acrobatics, doughnuts, beach balls and art: the Climate Centre joined forces with its supporting partners in the Anticipation Hub to stage multiple events at UR22 in Florianópolis, Brazil, and at the satellite meeting in London, which it jointly led with the Lloyds Register Foundation and where volunteers and speakers from the British Red Cross also took part.
The second annual Red Cross Red Crescent Movement youth climate summit was held online, organized by the IFRC Youth Commission and the Climate Centre, including members of the new youth advisory group on climate launched in October.
The Anticipation Hub, of which the Climate Centre is a part, reported “more people, more sessions, more progress” at the 10th Global Dialogue Platform, held in Berlin and online.
Its head, Kara Siahaan, said afterwards: “So much has been achieved since 2015. And it’s thanks to the practitioners, scientists and policy-makers who have supported the development of anticipatory action, and shared their lessons about what we are doing right – and doing wrong.”
Joining forces with the IFRC and many National Societies taking part, the Climate Centre contributed to sessions on: climate-sensitive infectious disease; compounding risks of natural and biological hazards, displacement, conflict and violence; capacity building; and the value of early-career professionals in early warning early action. The Dialogue Platform also included personal reflections from Maarten van Aalst on his decade at the helm of the Climate Centre and his ideas for COP28.
Some of the major climate impacts of 2022 (clockwise from bottom left): wildfires in Greece; a second superflood in Pakistan – the first was in 2010; dust storms in Iraq; and at bottom right, Maarten van Aalst, who has led the Climate Centre for the past decade and is leaving in the New Year to take over as director-general of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. (Photos: National Societies/IFRC/ICRC)