Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

What is climate-smart programming?

As outlined in the IFRC Framework for climate action towards 2020, the Red Cross Red Crescent network will address increasing risks from climate change by focusing on four areas of work: 1) building knowledge and awareness, 2) adaptation and climate-smart practice, 3) influence and partnerships, and 4) mitigation and greening.

This document expands on the practical aspects of climate-smart programming.

There is no universally accepted definition of climate-smart programming. Climate-smart programming equates simply to ‘good programming’ and development, enabling people to anticipate, absorb and adapt to climate shocks and stresses by using climate information across timescales, considering landscapes and ecosystems as key areas of intervention – all in close collaboration with governments, specialists and the private sector.

Most of what the Red Cross Red Crescent does can be affected by climate variability and change – in terms of climate-related events like storms, floods and droughts but also conflict. Therefore, projects and planning can no longer be based just on past experience; we must adjust to the new context of heightened uncertainties, growing vulnerabilities, scarce resources, and long-term change in general.

For the humanitarian and development sectors, climate-smart programming means that planning is not only based on past and current risks, but also prepares for future changes and variability (see table ).

Table 1. Levels of integration of climate change in projects 

Climate smart

Projects incorporate climate and weather information in assessing risk and vulnerability, enable early warning early action, and sustainably address climate risks and trends (see the 2013 Minimum Standards).

Climate aware

Projects have not considered changing climate risks nor made use of climate and weather information.

Climate not considered

Projects have not considered changing climate risks nor made use of climate and weather information.


In addition to adapting to new risk levels, the Movement also, of course, aims to do its bit in reducing carbon emissions and greening our organization – i.e. playing our part in limiting the long-term impacts of climate change on vulnerable people and the planet. Climate mitigation is an obligation on us all. 

Download the full pdf here, which elaborates further on preparatory steps, planning & implementation and complementary actions to strengthen the enabling environment for climate-smart programming – which is applicable to the entire ‘humanitarian-development contiguum’ es exemplified below and in the IFRC Framework for climate action towards 2020.