Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

Newsletter, issue 13

02/04/2009 - by the Climate Centre

In memoriam Esther Barend

In sadness we share with you the news that our dear colleague Esther Barend has passed away in March 2009. Esther worked for 15 years with the Netherlands Red Cross as regional representative for Central America, a region she loved very much and where she worked for many years. With her enormous passion for the work of the Red Cross, she made a big difference for the communities in Central America. In particular, she made a considerable contribution in the field of disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation. We will miss her openness, kindness, her friendly smile and her enthusiasm that inspired all of us. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues all over the world.  

Red Cross/ Red Crescent and the UNFCCC COP 15 negotiations in Copenhagen, in December 2009

2009 is a crucial year in the international effort to address climate change. In December Ministers and officials from 192 countries will come together in Copenhagen to sign a new global climate agreement which will succeed the present Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. This agreement will address both mitigation through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to the impacts of climate change that can no longer be avoided. In the perspective of humanitarian actors, it is crucial that an agreement at the Climate Change Conference COP 15 takes into account the humanitarian impacts of climate change. The Red Cross/Red Crescent movement is actively engaging to ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable people who suffer most from the consequences of climate change will be heard.

The Movement as well as the humanitarian community as a whole are confronted with the impact of climate change happening already today. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has joined forces with the main humanitarian organizations to raise awareness of the need to scale up disaster response and to strengthen disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction. The IFRC is leading the Task Force on Climate Change of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the global policy forum uniting the main humanitarian UN agencies, NGOs and the RC/RC.

This group of agencies is providing detailed analysis on the humanitarian impacts of climate change, including on health, food security and migration, to the negotiators. At the same time they are providing best practices of how these challenges can be tackled at the community and country level. Experts from the RC/RC use the on-going climate negotiation sessions in the UN Framework on the Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) to advocate for the agreement to take into account the humanitarian impacts of climate change. 

In 2009 the IASC taskforce provides guidance for national and regional consultations involving IASC member organisations. These consultations bring together the humanitarian actors at country and regional level to share humanitarian community expertise and experiences in dealing with the impacts of climate change. The aim of the consultations is to identify 1) the role that humanitarian actors have in national and regional climate change adaptation, particularly with respect to humanitarian action and disaster risk management and risk reduction; 2) the linkages between humanitarian and development actors in the adaptation process (3) key issues to be addressed at the national levels in the coming 3 years (until 2012) by humanitarian agencies and the support that might be provided by the IASC and its members to address these. Consultations will allow knowledge sharing among humanitarian agencies, including best practices, guidelines and tools, and will serve to increase the collective capacities of in-country humanitarian agencies and national RC/RC societies in climate risk and disaster management, in support of governments and communities.

National RC/RC societies who would like to engage in this process can contact the coordinator of the Inter-Agency Task Force or the IFRC focal point or the Climate Centre.

Using Climate Forecasts for Early Action to Save Lives in the West/Central Africa Zone

With the onset of climate change, the Federation and National Societies must be ready for the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events such as more intense precipitation. The 2008 actions of the IFRC's West and Central Africa Zone Office provide a model for the Movement to improve and scale-up the use of climate information, allowing translation of early warnings into early action for better disaster management and response: read more. Subsequently, the West and Central Africa zone and African Centre of Meteorological application for Development (ACMAD) have signed a cooperation agreement to be better prepared for climate change related challenges. This is the first such agreement in sub-Saharan Africa between a humanitarian organization and a climate institute. Read full article.

Early Warning, Early Action: Routinely taking humanitarian action before a disaster or health emergency happens, making full use of scientific information on all timescales

When disasters strike, Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers are often among the first to provide relief to victims. But in most cases, we can save more lives and reduce more suffering if we can act before a disaster.We have known for decades now that it is much more effective to evacuate people before a flood than to rescue people during the flood, or to provide relief to its victims. It is also much more effective to support farmers to find alternative livelihood options than to provide food aid when the harvest has failed. The Red Cross and Red Crescent are investing more into people-centred early warning systems so that their early action (preparedness and mitigation/prevention) are suited to face the rising risks of extreme weather events as a result of climate change. Download full brochure.

Preparedness for climate change programme

A total of 37 national Red Cross/ Red Crescent societies worldwide joined the "Preparedness for climate change" programme in 2006. The programme seeks to improve national RC/RC societies’ understanding of, and response to, the negative impacts of climate change in their respective countries. Before the end of 2008, 27 national societies completed steps 1 through 3 of the programme, submitting reports on workshops held and a background analysis of climate risks in their respective countries. The level of participation and commitment to the programme exceeded the Climate Centre’s expectations, and the tremendous amount of work and dedication National Societies have put into their step-2 background documents has resulted in elaborate analyses on climate risk from all over the globe. Most of the reports offer comprehensive overviews of country specific climate risks. Many of these reports will result in tangible plans for action (fourth and final step of the programme) and publication materials to sensitize vulnerable populations by March 2009. We would like to encourage the "Preparedness for climate change" participants to read the draft Climate Centre summary report of all background analyses submitted to the Centre by participating national societies, and to comment on this draft. Read more.

We sincerely appreciate the work of climate focal points at the national societies who provided the relevant information summarized in this report and also welcome those individuals to comment on this report as we finalize it together in the coming month! 

Community resilience in Ethiopia

The Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), supported by the Netherlands Red Cross(NLRC), will implement during the period 2009-2010 a climate adaptation/drought risk reduction programme in two woredas, one in South Gonder zone (Ebinat) and one in East Hararghe zone (Goro Gutu). Both woredas have highly vulnerable and food insecure populations. This programme has been developed to make these vulnerable communities more knowledgeable on climate change and its impact on the local environment. The program is designed to give the target group tools, resources and knowledge to increase their adaptability to the changing environment and cope with the increased disaster and health risks. The Netherlands Red Cross (NLRC) sought the support and advice of the RC/RC Climate Centre to develop a video product for/on the Ebinat community project and to organize a workshop with farmers in the community. More than 100 farmers participated in the workshop and despite there being a Saturday market, all farmers in the village stayed home to participate at the announced workshop. This workshop was filmed, including all the reactions and new ideas of the farmers present. This led to an interesting video, which will be shown in neighboring villages and other similar areas in Ethiopia as an informative tool with useful ideas "for farmers by farmers". The enthusiastic reception of such visual content and tools, the willing engagement of partners and the positive response from all audiences to these methods has led to notable successes. The videos will soon be uploaded on the Climate Centre website. Watch other films.

Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change in the Austrian Red Cross

In 2007, the Austrian Red Cross (Aut RC) International Aid Division defined the cross-cutting topic disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change as one priority for its international work. After an initial internal workshop on the humanitarian consequences of climate change supported by the RC/RC Climate Centre in Den Haag, the Aut RC started to bring forward the DRR & climate change agendas, namely to mainstream these issues in current and future international programmes and projects in focus regions (Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and Eastern Europe/Western Balkans) and to raise awareness about the humanitarian consequences of climate change. Aut RC Secretary-General Wolfgang Kopetzky:  “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. With every step we take in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, the Austrian Red Cross reduces the vulnerability of communities to disasters worldwide.” Read full article and please read in (German only) "dialogforum klimafolgen" and  "a background study of the Allianz fuer Klimagerechtigkeit"
A South East Europe climate change workshop will be held in Montenegro with assistance of the Austria Red Cross in May 2009. Read more.

Canadian Red Cross dealing with climate change

In line with the IFRC’s position on climate change, the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) has made this a priority because of the humanitarian impact on vulnerable populations. It is clear that vision and strategy is required to meet this challenge head on. The CRC is currently finalizing a National Climate Change Strategy by solidifying its role in Canada.  Given that the Red Cross already has strong disaster response programming in Canada, it is well positioned to be the organization the public turns to when the impacts of climate change demand humanitarian assistance, particularly for vulnerable populations. Stakeholder consultations have been completed with staff, volunteers, and external groups such as government and corporate partners. Together with Deloitte (a Canadian firm), the Canadian Red Cross is establishing a clear business case around the humanitarian impacts of climate change, in order to support capacity building.

The alignment of Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is clear, and Canadian RC recognizes the importance of bringing these agendas together in their work. The Red Cross’s activities have long included elements of DRR, and with the development of a DRR Framework, is well-positioned to work with the governments. This would include establishing a clear DRR framework for Canada, as it relates to the Hyogo commitments and preparing for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) platform meetings in June in Geneva. In preparations for this, the Canadian Red Cross participated in the Americas regional preparatory meeting in Panama this March with the federal government.  They expect much more dialogue and development of their strategy as they move towards key meetings, particularly on DRR in June in Geneva and the Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings in Copenhagen in the December of 2009.

Third International Conference on Community Based Adaptation to Climate Change

Held only once every two years in Bangladesh, this conference brings together climate change adaptation practitioners from around the world to share approaches to addressing climate change at the community level. Topics covered included communications, disaster and livelihood linkages to climate change. Definitions were debated, funding opportunities such as the UNDP small grants programme were emphasized and tools were shared. A Global Climate Change Initiative was announced for sharing of knowledge. The Climate Centre presented Red Cross Red Crescent approaches and initiatives on climate change, giving examples of National Society initiatives from around the world.

Field visits to 6 sites included one to Mongla in the south west of Bangladesh - seeing first hand the melting pot of issues that communities face such as more intense cyclones, saline intrusion into crops, riverbank erosion, water accessibility and natural resource depletion. Adaptation has included more secure and raised housing, emergency water storage and diversification of livelihoods. Read the full report.

World Red Cross/ Red Crescent Youth Meeting in Solferino, Italy

Held only once every 10 years, the World Youth Meeting (WYM) will be held in June 23-28 2009 in Solferino, Italy to mark the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the birth of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement. In 2007 the Movement identified climate change as one of four key humanitarian concerns that it has committed to addressing. These four issues will be explored at the WYM during a series of workshops. Currently it is anticipated that there will be three workshops allocated to the topic of climate change for participants to choose from.
Young people are inheriting the growing impacts of climate change and RC/RC youth networks have started asking the question of how they can address this global issue. A global issue as seemingly large as climate change doesn’t have to lead to a sense of hopelessness. Empowering young people can contribute to alleviating the impacts of climate change on their communities and can be a way of harnessing young energy in disaster risk reduction, health and care and other Red Cross/Red Crescent priorities. Indeed, the issue of climate risk can be the entry point for attracting a new generation of motivated people to the humanitarian work of our Movement! Recently the Federation made a submission to the World Youth report containing examples of RC/RC youth action on climate change. We are constantly sharing experiences and ideas from around the world – so if you know of RC/RC youth action on climate change or have ideas or information that is needed, then let the Climate Centre know and we will help spread the word!

South Asia Thinks Climate

A flurry of activity is going on in South Asia: the South Asia region has a new draft climate change framework for taking steps to integrate climate change into disaster risk reduction. Already the framework has been utilised for funding submissions. The Bangladesh Red Crescent and the Federation hosted a four day think tank work shop on climate change and disaster risk reduction in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 10-13 Feb 2009. Three days of the workshop were attended by nearly 50 participants from over 20 organisations! Participants from climate change, disaster risk reduction and development fields came together to learn from one another and created recommendations for future action based under the themes of assessing and addressing community climate risk, communications, advocacy, partnerships and integration into tools, plans and training. A fourth day was dedicated to Red Cross/Red Crescent taking recommendations from the workshop and narrowing down which were appropriate for RC/RC and prioritising them – participants were divided into Bangladesh Red Crescent and regional groups. Bangladesh Red Crescent and the Federation are also working on a climate change document that outlines the humanitarian implications of climate change in Bangladesh, identifying further opportunities for the National Society to address the issue. Read more about the workshop and the recommendations highlighted by participants.


Available again: The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Guide

The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Guide has been printed and is now available free of charge.
The guide presents five years of experiences from over thirty national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, in particular in developing countries. It relates the experiences of Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers all around the world trying to understand and address the risks of climate change.
The Climate Guide can also be downloaded.