Climate change is increasing tremendously the number of people suffering and in need of aid each year. In its report, The Cost of Doing Nothing, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – IFRC says if no urgent action is taken now, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance annually due to the climate crisis could double to 200 million by 2050. While this trend is clear, if appropriate climate adaptation measures are taken now these figures could stabilize, even drop.
In an address to the Stockholm High-Level Meeting on Addressing the Humanitarian Impact of Climate Change, Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of the UN office for disaster risk reduction – UNDRR, said the time had come to end the vicious cycle of disasters where disasters occur, response follows, affected communities recover from it and without a plan to avert or reduce the impact of future hazards, the next disaster finds communities unprepared. This cycle she said, is made worse by climate change. “The greatest risk amplifier ever is climate change. If we cannot tackle climate change, we cannot tackle disaster risk reduction,” she said. While the disaster risk reduction approach of anticipating and preventing risks can strengthen humanitarian intervention and reduce the rising burden of aid, humanitarian actors have not sufficiently integrated DRR in their implementation modality.
According to the Global Humanitarian Overview- 2020, a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only 3 percent of projects in five highly disaster-vulnerable countries had a component targeting disaster risk reduction and climate change between 2016 and 2018. The Stockholm High-Level Meeting sought ways in which disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation can be prioritized as part of humanitarian actions. Weighing in on the ballooning cost of disaster response, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Mr. Janez Lenarčič said that while humanitarian funding has been increasing yearly, it was not catching up with deepening needs and humanitarian actors are faced with an urgent task of applying resources to more sustainable approaches. “Much of the problems of climate change are predictable; sea level rise, crop failure, heatwaves and more. So, we can prepare for it,” he said.
The meeting heard that early warning systems can be an effective tool to reduce vulnerabilities and improve preparedness and response to natural hazards. Ms. Mizutori said, “people need to know what is coming and then what they can do about it,” adding that only 64 UN member states have reported to UNDRR to have early warning systems. “Of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), only five percent have an early warning system,” she said.
You can watch a recording of the meeting here: