(Posted 03rd November 2022)
The year between Glasgow and Sharm el-Sheikh saw worsening heatwaves, droughts, and floods all over the world. In nearly every case, the most vulnerable, the poorest, and those least responsible for the climate crisis paid the greatest price. Floods in Pakistan displaced 33 million people and submerged a third of the country; the economic toll is at $30 billion. The unprecedented fifth season of failed rains across East Africa means a loss of crops, herds, and livelihoods – over 36 million people are facing extreme hunger, and famine is imminent.
The past year should serve as a reality check for international negotiators at COP27 and raises the question whether they are delivering meaningful action for the millions of people on the frontlines of the climate crisis, already living with its extreme consequences. Ahead of COP27, the International Rescue Committee calls on global leaders to set out clear, time bound action plans to realize the increased ambitions on mitigation, adaptation, and finance, prioritizing communities living in fragile and conflict-affected states. The cost of doing too little is evident in the regions where the IRC works.
David Miliband, IRC President and CEO, said: “The risks of the climate crisis are globalized, but resilience against the climate crisis is localized – left to the task of people and communities, even as climate events become more frequent and more intense. This is a recipe for continued disaster, continued famine, and continued displacement. The communities most vulnerable to the extreme effects of our changing environment are the communities already affected by conflict, food insecurity, and the economic crisis, compounded by a global pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
“It is not enough for wealthy countries to commit to emissions reductions and pledge to help developing countries with low carbon technology and capacity building. It is not enough to combine climate finance with debt relief and immediate cash relief to ease fiscal pressure on developing economies. It is not enough to respond to the needs of people who are most vulnerable by connecting poverty eradication and resilience building. Instead, all these actions must be taken at the same time – while bringing in the voices and needs of local communities and those historically marginalized in the decision-making process, such as women.
“The success of the COP negotiations will depend on whether negotiators strengthen local resilience to the risks of climate change, food insecurity, and economic instability. We can’t wait for the next catastrophic flood or drought to occur before responding – we must invest in prevention, and that requires more resilient food and agricultural systems supported by climate adaptation funding. From COP27, we need the strongest possible outcome: an actionable plan to provide decisive progress on climate finance so that fragile and conflict-affected states may access much-needed funds to adapt and take care of the loss and damage endured.”
Shashwat Saraf, IRC Regional Emergency Director for East Africa: “The countries in East Africa did not create the climate crisis but are highly vulnerable to its impacts. The region continues to reel under 24 months of drought and high temperatures linked to climate change. As the longest-running drought in 40 years continues – with the fifth and sixth season of rains also forecasted to fail – the situation has become catastrophic, with failed crops and dead livestock. Over 36 million people face extreme hunger as well as loss of livelihood, income, and their means to recover. In addition, the lack of clean water increases the threat of cholera and other diseases. It is not acceptable that in this ‘world of plenty,’ we continue to fight every single day to treat more than 7 million children in East Africa who are acutely malnourished.
“At COP27, the ‘African’ COP, the needs of our climate-vulnerable continent will be front and center. Even with data and early warning signs, global inaction meant that millions of people who suffered from extreme hunger paid the greatest cost. We must activate the humanitarian system to meet and support the basic needs of affected communities, adopt a ‘no regrets’ approach to funding, and mobilize resources for humanitarian access negotiations.”
Shabnam Baloch, IRC Country Director for Pakistan: “With less than 1% of the global emissions, Pakistan is certainly not a part of the problem of climate change. The IRC has chosen to be part of the solution in Pakistan, responding to natural and made-made short-term emergencies and helping communities recover through long-term development and resilience-building programming.
“The devastating floods in Pakistan struck as the IRC was already working on helping communities through extreme heatwaves and droughts in the country, which has meant low crop yields, water shortages, and loss of livestock. Pakistan is highly vulnerable to climate change, with 80% of our people depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. The country is also facing an economic crisis with historic inflation. These factors are providing a challenge for people to cope and recover. At COP27, it is imperative for the world and leadership to come together to deliver humanitarian relief assistance to the worst affected communities and to plan development with climate change – and people at the frontlines of the climate crisis – in mind.”