Ahead of COP26, Red Cross Red Crescent Movement’s five asks to world leaders: “It is not too late to act: the survival of humanity depends on the actions we take today”

A man carries his bike through flood water in Burkina Faso. Climate change in the Sahel region has made the rains more erratic and led to localized flooding and droughts.

A man carries his bike through flood water in Burkina Faso. Climate change in the Sahel region has made the rains more erratic and led to localized flooding and droughts.

Photo: Finnish Red Cross/Suomen Punainen Risti

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 last day of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Summit on pandemics, climate change and local action:

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis are affecting every aspect of our lives and societies, including our physical and mental wellbeing, our livelihoods, and our economies. The poorest and the most vulnerable, who have contributed least to the climate crisis, are being hit hardest.

In the lead-up to COP26, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is urging world leaders to act now for rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and at the same time to urgently address the existing and imminent humanitarian impacts of climate change, taking into account the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis.

Around the world, poor and vulnerable communities are facing multiple crises at once. The layered effects of extreme-weather events, food insecurity, COVID-19 and conflicts, are putting millions of lives at risk and creating unprecedented humanitarian needs. Climate change is functioning as a risk multiplier, with increasingly devastating impacts. Since the beginning of the pandemic, climate-related disasters have severely affected the lives of at least 139 million people. Of the 25 countries most vulnerable to climate change, 14 are also mired in conflict. And yet these very communities and countries are among the most neglected by climate finance. This needs to change.

No state or organization can do this alone. The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is committed to playing its part in the global efforts to stem the climate crisis.

We have witnessed the ‘Power of Many’, as millions of volunteers from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, stepped up to help curb the global pandemic. As auxiliaries to their government in the humanitarian field, National Societies are key players in the climate crisis. Our staff and volunteers are on the front lines in communities across the world before, during and after disasters hit. They also provide advice to their authorities in strengthening disaster risk governance through well drafted disaster-related laws which enable effective preparedness, response and coordination. They are supporting people affected to build their resilience for future shocks and supporting authorities to strengthen their preparedness and prevention measures.

We are also reducing the environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions from our programmes and operations and calling on others to do the same. The Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations has rallied to date more than 150 National Societies, small NGOs and large international organizations ready to work together to turn their commitments into tangible action.

The survival of humanity depends on the actions we take today to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts. It is not too late to act, and world leaders gathering at COP26 must rise to the challenge.

These are the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement’s five asks to world leaders:

  1. Ensure a focus on the most vulnerable. We must prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable people, including marginalized groups, people in crises and those displaced. We must understand their risks, vulnerabilities, and capacities to be more resilient, and ensure they are informed and included in global, national and local decisions and plans. Inclusive decision making at every level is essential.
  2. Increase finance for adaptation that targets the most vulnerable countries and communities. Vital mitigation efforts need to be accompanied by strong support to climate adaptation, which remains underfunded and underprioritized.
  3. Invest in preparedness, enable more preventive and early action. We are already confronting losses and damages in a more volatile climate. And yet, responding reactively won’t be enough in a crisis of this magnitude. We must invest in preparedness across sectors, and in risk analysis to better anticipate potential climate disasters for early action.
  4. Turn global commitments into local action. Global and national climate action plans often fail to empower those at risk to take effective local action. It is essential to support local institutions and organizations such as National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies through investment in institutional capacities, and in access to adaptation finance and decision-making processes.
  5. Protect the environment, including through adherence to international humanitarian law (IHL). Environmental degradation exacerbates vulnerabilities. IHL protects the natural environment and limits environmental degradation. Respect for IHL prevents the deeply interlinked civilian harm that accompanies environmental damage in armed conflict.

The climate crisis is here, today; it will only worsen in the future. The world must take steps now to mitigate its severity and its effects on the world’s most vulnerable. COP26 is an opportunity to reduce the damage. It’s an opportunity we all must seize together.

Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

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For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC, +41 79 708 43 67, tommaso.dellalonga@ifrc.org

Aurélie Lachant, ICRC, +41 79 244 6405, alachant@icrc.org