Climate and environmental crises threaten the survival of humanity now and in the future. We must do our part to ensure that our humanitarian response and recovery operations do not cause harm to local environments, and to minimize the contribution we make to further climate change.
Green response is all about improving the environmental sustainability of our work and avoiding, minimizing and managing the damage we cause to the environment and climate.
It requires us to consider environmental risks, the environmental impacts of a crisis and the potential environmental impacts of our humanitarian action. We must integrate these risks and potential impacts into every stage of our work: in preparedness activities, needs assessments, project design and delivery, and monitoring and evaluation.
We have committed to improving the environmental sustainability of our work through our Environmental Policy [link to policy] and through the Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations.
Why adopt a green response approach?
Protect the environment
Flying 120 metric tons of relief materials over 2,000 km produces 325 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, roughly the amount that 50 hectares of tropical forest captures per year. As humanitarians, we are committed to 'doing no harm'—to the environment as well as to the people we support.
Minimize disaster risk and support recovery
A degraded environment will ultimately hinder the survival and recovery prospects of people affected by disasters, possibly increase the risk of future disasters and disrupt sustainable development.
Value for money
Being more environmentally sustainable doesn’t necessarily cost more and can actually lead to cost efficiencies in the long run. For example, using solar energy instead of diesel generators now has a relatively short payback period.
What types of practical green response actions are we taking?
Photo: IFRC/Jess Letch
- We are improving the sustainability of our supply chain for relief items by reducing packaging, eliminating single use plastics, purchasing materials with a lower carbon footprint, and promoting local procurement
- We are increasingly using renewable energy, such as solar power, in our projects and emergency operations
- We are improving waste management in our operations and in our field offices
- We are promoting solutions to waste management in camps and communities which have positive outcomes, such as creating livelihoods opportunities
- We are using local sustainable construction materials for shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects, including reusing debris wherever possible
What green response actions has the IFRC committed to under the Climate and Environment Charter?
Through Commitment 2 of the Climate and Environment Charter—maximize the environmental sustainability of our work and rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions—we have committed to:
- Avoid, minimize and manage the damage we cause to the environment and the climate, while maintaining our ability to provide timely and principled humanitarian assistance.
- Implement sound environmental policies and systematically assess the immediate and longer-term environmental impact of all our work, including our programmes, procurement, logistics and premises.
- Measure and significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, in line with global goals. Supporting high-quality emission reduction projects to offset unavoidable emissions, including through conservation and restoration of forests and land, will complement reduction efforts, but will not be considered a substitute for such efforts.
- Responsibly manage and use natural resources, including water, and reduce and properly manage the waste generated in our premises and by our programmes.
Humanitarian efforts can have negative impacts on the environment, harming the people they are intended to help and undermining resilience outcomes. Local environmental degradation can increase the vulnerability of communities to disasters and the impacts of climate change and have other negative effects on affected communities (including on health and livelihoods).
Green Response Working Group
If you are from a National Society and would like to learn more about green response or get involved in any of the above actions, join the IFRC’s Green Response Working Group by contacting Richard Casagrande, IFRC Senior Officer for Recovery & Green Response.