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Faced with the climate and environmental emergency, the humanitarian sector is mobilizing


Prevention | International | PUBLISHED ON May 6th 2022
India, West Bengal

India, West Bengal | © HI

11 French civil society organizations welcome the launch of the Humanitarian aid donors’ declaration on climate and environment.

The Humanitarian aid donors’ declaration on climate and environment should lead to concrete actions to support and accompany increased consideration of climate and environmental issues by humanitarian actors.

More than 3 billion people threatened

From Zambia to Guatemala; the Philippines to Vanuatu: climate change is triggering humanitarian crises and exacerbating existing ones. Over the past 50 years, an average of one disaster related to climate or hydro-meteorological hazards has occurred every day - killing 115 people and causing $202 million in losses per day, according to a recent report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). 

Climate change increases the risk of food insecurity and water shortages, and jeopardizes development. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just announced that the next 3 years are crucial to keeping the planet inhabitable, including reaching a peak in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Faced with the climate emergency that severely affects more than 3 billion people around the world, the humanitarian sector has decided to mobilize and adapt its practices. 

NGOs are going green

Over the past two years, a growing number of humanitarian organizations have committed to taking climate and environmental issues into account in their response to humanitarian needs. 225 organizations have signed the Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations1, launched in May 2021 by the Red Cross movement. In December 2020, 10 French NGOs also adopted a Declaration of Commitment by Humanitarian Organizations on Climate Change2. What is the objective? On the one hand, to better integrate climate risks into humanitarian projects by focusing on improving the preparedness of populations and early action; on the other hand, to ensure that the activities carried out by NGOs cause as little harm as possible to the environment (greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution, significant consumption of natural resources).

Faster alone, further together

These efforts need to be supported and financed by donors. On March 21, 2022, France announced the adoption by the 27 Member States of the European Union of the Donors' Declaration on Climate and the Environment3. This declaration, which was developed in consultation with NGOs, is an important first step and must now be translated into concrete actions around three areas:

  • We are calling on governments to increase funding to support disaster prevention, preparedness, anticipatory action and response actions. Why do we do this? Because, according to WMO, while the number of disasters has increased fivefold in 50 years due to climate change and extreme weather events, the number of deaths has been reduced almost threefold due to improved early warning systems and disaster management measures. Every US dollar invested in risk reduction and prevention can save up to $15 USD in post-disaster response4. These investments must not only increase in volume but also contribute to enhancing the knowledge and capacities of the actors involved at the local and national levels, and to strengthening the resilience of the most vulnerable and marginalized people, in particular women, persons with disabilities and children. It is time to demonstrate that, similar to the collective ambition and speed of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ukrainian crisis, states can also cooperate effectively in the face of an emergency that is already severely affecting over 3 billion people: the climate emergency.
  • We call on governments to support, technically and financially, the approach to reducing the environmental footprint adopted by a growing number of humanitarian organizations concerned with applying "do no harm" to the environment, while responding promptly to the humanitarian needs of populations. Indeed, this transition requires additional resources, be they financial, human resources or work time. It means developing and implementing projects that take longer than traditional humanitarian responses, working with suppliers of goods and services that are more costly but meet higher environmental standards, and adjusting our modalities of operation, as well as strengthening technical expertise within our organizations to integrate this dimension throughout the project cycle.
  • Finally, we invite the European Commission to set up an accountability mechanism to monitor the concrete implementation of the commitments made by donors, through annual public reporting and the organization of an annual exchange session. The European Commission, in collaboration with the Member State holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), could lead the organization of such a session, for example during the next European Humanitarian Forums, so that the signatories of the donors' declaration can share the progress made, identify ways to overcome the obstacles encountered, and strengthen their collaboration in this area. It would be highly desirable for civil society organizations to be fully involved in these discussions.

Through this donor initiative, France, which holds the Presidency of the Council of the EU from January to June 2022, is positioning the EU as the driving force behind this mobilization. It is now time to turn this into a success and to encourage other governments to join the movement. It is time to prove to the IPCC that the humanitarian world (international NGOs, local associations, donors, UN agencies, etc.) does not limit itself to reading scientific reports on climate, but is determined to adapt its practices and act accordingly.

NGO signatories:

  • Action contre la faim (Action against hunger)
  • CARE France
  • Coordination SUD
  • Electricians without borders
  • Humanity & Inclusion
  • Groupe URD
  • Medair France
  • Médecins du Monde France
  • Oxfam France
  • Secours Islamique France
  • Solidarity International

1 https://www.climate-charter.org/
2 https://www.urd.org/en/news/statement-of-commitment-on-climate-by-humanitarian-organisations/
3 The statement is available here: https://humanitarian.forum.europa.eu/outcomes-and-reports-2022_en
4 https://www.undrr.org/about-undrr/funding

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