The following joint statement can be attributed to the Presidents of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ahead of COP26 on the final day of the Red Cross-Red Crescent Summit on Pandemics, Climate Change and Local Action:
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis are affecting every aspect of our lives and society, including our physical and mental well-being, our livelihoods, and our economies. The hardest hit are the poorest and most vulnerable, who have contributed the least to the climate crisis.
In the run-up to COP26, the Red Cross-Red Crescent Movement calls on world leaders to act now for a quick and drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions while urgently addressing the existing and upcoming humanitarian impacts of climate change Considering the lessons of COVID-19 Crisis.
Poor and vulnerable communities around the world are facing multiple crises at the same time. The multi-faceted effects of extreme weather events, food insecurity, COVID-19 and conflict put millions of lives at risk and create an unprecedented humanitarian need.
Climate change acts as a risk multiplier with increasingly devastating effects. Since the pandemic began, climate-related disasters have killed the lives of at least 139 million people. Of 25 countries most vulnerable to climate change, 14th are also caught up in conflicts. Yet it is precisely these communities and countries that are among the most neglected by climate finance. This has to change.
No state or organization can do this alone. The Red Cross-Red Crescent Movement is committed to contributing to global efforts to contain the climate crisis.
We saw the “power of the many” as millions of volunteers from the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies got involved to help contain the global pandemic. As their government’s aid organizations in the humanitarian field, the National Societies are key players in the climate crisis.
Our staff and volunteers are on the front lines in communities around the world before, during, and after disasters. They also advise their authorities on strengthening disaster risk reduction through well-drafted disaster-related laws that enable effective preparation, response and coordination. They support those affected in building their resilience to future shocks and support authorities in strengthening their precautionary and preventive measures.
We also reduce the environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions of our programs and activities, and encourage others to do the same. The Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations has so far brought together more than 150 national societies, small NGOs and large international organizations ready to work together to translate their commitments into concrete action.
Human survival depends on the actions we take today to mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects. It is not too late to act and the world leaders meeting at COP26 must rise to the challenge.
These are the five requests made by the Red Cross-Red Crescent Movement to world leaders:
Make sure you focus on the weakest. We must prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable, including marginalized groups, people in crisis and displaced people. We need to understand their risks, vulnerabilities and capacities in order to become more resilient and ensure that they are informed and incorporated into global, national and local decisions and plans. Inclusive decision-making at all levels is essential.
Increase funding for adaptation measures targeting the most vulnerable countries and communities. Major mitigation efforts need to be accompanied by strong support for climate adaptation, which remains underfunded and subordinate.
Invest in precaution, enable more preventive and early action. We are already facing losses and damage in a more volatile climate. Nevertheless, in a crisis of this magnitude, it is not enough to react reactively. We need to invest in cross-sectoral preparedness and risk analysis in order to be able to better anticipate potential climate disasters so that we can act at an early stage.
Turn global commitments into local action. Global and national climate protection plans often do not enable those at risk to take effective local measures. It is important to support local institutions and organizations such as the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies by investing in institutional capacity and in access to adaptation finance and decision-making processes.
Protect the environment, also by complying with international humanitarian law (IHL). Environmental degradation exacerbates weak points. International humanitarian law protects the natural environment and limits environmental degradation. Respect for international humanitarian law prevents the deeply intertwined civil damage that goes hand in hand with environmental damage in armed conflict.
The climate crisis is here today; it will only get worse in the future. The world must now take steps to mitigate its gravity and its impact on the world’s most vulnerable. COP26 is an opportunity to reduce the harm. It is an opportunity that we must all seize together.
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross