American Red Cross joins partnership to support climate resilience in vulnerable countries

Published: 16 June 2015 14:12 CET

The American Red Cross joins with the US government and eight organizations in a partnership to promote resilience in developing countries affected by climate change. 

The new public-private partnership, which has the support of the Asian Development Bank, Esri, Google, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, and the British government, will initially work with communities in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Colombia to provide tools and educational resources which will improve preparedness and decision-making. Special effort will be made to ensure these resources are available in remote and hard-to-reach areas.

The Climate Services for Resilient Development partnership recognizes that acting alone is not an option for governments, civil society organizations or private enterprise.

“No single entity is capable of addressing the vast needs for improved climate services in these nations, for everything from projections of future sea-level rise that help planners identify places to build and develop that are out of harm’s way, to maps that overlay population, infrastructure, and climate data to help decision makers target resources to areas of greatest vulnerability.”

The partnership will provide climate services including science, data, information, tools, and training to developing countries working to strengthen community resilience, and has been established with 34 million US dollars from its founding partners.

The initiative was announced by the White House, which said that climate change was a threat to every country on earth. “Globally, 19 of the 20 warmest years on record all occurred in the past two decades, and the impacts of climate change – including more intense storms and storm surge damage, more severe droughts and heat waves, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and biodiversity losses – are already being experienced around the world,” it said in a statement. 

Moreover, the greatest impact is felt by the most vulnerable. “These impacts can be particularly damaging in developing countries, which often lack the resources and technical capacity to effectively prepare for and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

The US government’s involvement is led by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) but also includes support from National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Geological Survey. Alfonso Lenhardt, USAID Acting Administrator, said: “At its heart this partnership is about people – saving lives and protecting vulnerable populations.”

The American Red Cross will work through two relevant global reference centres - the Global Disaster Preparedness Centre, which it hosts at its Washington DC headquarters, and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, hosted by the Netherlands Red Cross in The Hague. David Meltzer, General Counsel and Chief International Officer of the American Red Cross, said its project would build on existing work undertaken by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). He said Red Cross volunteers were often on the frontline of the climate response: “This initiative will help us be smarter and more effective in what we’ve been doing for many years: building resilience and taking early action based on early warnings.”

The Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre Director, Maarten van Aalst, who was in Washington DC for the launch of the partnership said: “It’s great to see the American Red Cross taking such a prominent role in this partnership, which offers fantastic complementarities among governments, leading science agencies, the private sector and development banks.”

“It’s clearly also a recognition of the unique ability of the Red Cross Red Crescent to make climate information actionable – with real local impacts.”

“For the Climate Centre it’s also been a privilege supporting the American Red Cross with this agenda, and we look forward to engaging in an exciting partnership, through work on forecast-based financing, for example.”

The partnership will facilitate the application of technology and scientific expertise as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to support resilience in developing nations.

Its initial efforts would be organized for climate services in focus countries representing several primary regions: Andean region (Colombia), East Africa (Ethiopia) and South Asia (Bangladesh).