Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

What is climate-smart programming?

The humanitarian system is under pressure from climate impacts that are aggravating existing vulnerabilities such as poverty, conflict and displacement, requiring a long view from humanitarian organizations and donors.

Deep concern and many compelling voices demanding change placed climate change at the top of the agenda for 33rd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2019.

The rapidly rising humanitarian demands on the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement mean we have to engage in climate-related policy dialogues and scale up climate-smart programming worldwide.

But what is it exactly? A new guide published in 2020, What is climate-smart programming and how do we achieve it?explains the concept.

‘Climate-smart programming’ helps people to anticipate, absorb and adapt to climate shocks; it stresses the need to use climate information across timescales, considering landscapes and ecosystems as key areas of intervention – all in close collaboration with governments, specialists and the private sector.

We have seen examples of government or private investors establishing irrigation schemes in rivers that go dry, for example, or drinking water tanks that get flooded. It is these types of unsustainable practices that fail to allow for what is likely – even in the near future – and hence fail to be climate-smart.

Table 1. Levels of integration of climate change in projects 

Climate smart

Climate-smart programmes and initiatives that strengthen people’s awareness and incorporate climate and weather information in assessing and addressing climate risks and vulnerabilities. They enable early warning early action and empower people to anticipate, absorb and adapt to climate shocks and changing risks (see the 2013 Minimum Standards for detailed guidance for community-level programming).

Climate aware

Programmes and initiatives that use climate and weather information and include educational elements to raise people’s awareness of climate risks. They are an important first step in climate-smart programming, short of systemic action based on climate and forecast information. 


Climate not considered

Programmes and initiatives that have not considered changing climate risks or made use of climate and weather information. This may be deliberate because climate may not be affecting the particular activity, or it may be due to lack of capacity or resources.

 

The Movement also aims to do its bit in reducing carbon emissions and greening our own organization, playing our part in limiting the long-term impacts of climate change on vulnerable people and the planet. 

As emphasized in the 2020 IFRC publication Ambitions to address the climate crisis, the scaling up of climate-smart programming is key to it all, and is echoed in the IFRC’s Strategy 2030, focusing on ‘integrating climate risk management across all of our programmes, operations and advocacy’ and calling for further guidance for National Societies. 

Most of our development, preparedness, response and recovery work is now affected by climate variability and change, such as more intense rainfall, prolonged droughts, more intense storms and heat waves.

We must adjust to the new context of increased uncertainties, growing vulnerabilities, scarce resources, future trends and long-term change in general: climate-smart programming is one way to do that.