Red Cross/ Red Crescent Climate Centre

Newsletter, issue 9


Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre Conference on the humanitarian consequences of climate change, 26-28 June 2007, The Hague

Climate change creating new complex emergencies - by Alex Wynter and John Sparrow

28 June – Climate change impacts are creating new complex emergencies around the world, above all in Africa, according to speakers at a conference in The Hague organized by the Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre.

Opening the conference, on the humanitarian consequences of climate change, deputy secretary general Ibrahim Osman of the IFRC said global warming has “intensified conflict and tension in places like Darfur” and is now "an International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement issue". The Movement, according to Osman, has always focused on the humanitarian consequencesof climate change, rather than the scientific debate about the role of carbon emissions.

The conference brought together Red Cross Red Crescent disaster managers from the regions of the world most affected by climate change, including the small island nations of the Pacific and the  Caribbean, and from Africa, Asia and the Americas. Furthermore, European national societies participated, as well as the International Federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Read more.
Take a look at the photo collection.

Prolongation of the "Preparedness for climate change" programme

The Climate Centre is pleased to announce the prolongation of the "Preparedness for climate change" programme until December 2008, made possible by the programme’s donor the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Originally, the programme was to run in 2006 and 2007.

Waiting list

During the first half of this year the Climate Centre received many applications from national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies wishing to participate in the programme.  In May, the Centre decided to set up a waiting list for national societies applying after that date, because we felt our capacity could only guarantee good assistance to those societies already in the programme. National societies can still apply to the programme, and will hopefully be able to join at a later stage. 

National societies in the programme

Current participants of the "Preparedness for climate change" programme: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.

Busy months ahead: Red Cross and Red Crescent International Conference, United Nations Climate Change Conference 13 (COP 13) and a guide on climate change and disaster preparedness

The Climate Centre is heading into some very busy months, preparing for two important events and working to finish a practical guide on climate change for national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. The first event coming up is the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent held in November. Every four years the Conference brings together all national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the IFRC, the ICRC and the States party to the Geneva Conventions. This year, the Conference will specifically address the humanitarian consequences of climate change. Background documents and draft outcomes are currently being prepared, which keeps the Climate Centre busy. The materials are to support national societies in the dialogue they have with governments, in the process towards the actual meeting.

At the meeting, the Climate Centre will present its Climate Change Guide (still a work title) on integrating climate change into the work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The guide is based on the valuable input of participants of the Climate Centre’s conference in June 2007 on the humanitarian consequences of climate change. It will consist of a general introduction on these consequences, plus six thematic modules: each module includes very practical suggestions and examples of experiences from national societies.

In December, shortly after the International Conference, COP 13 will take place: the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which this year will be held in Bali, Indonesia. International expectations are high because the Bali Conference will see the start of negotiations on the global climate rules for the period after 2012. In that year the Kyoto Protocol expires, making new global agreements necessary. The Climate Centre aims to generate more commitment from governments to address the humanitarian effects of climate change in the successor-protocol of Kyoto. It wants more commitment in particular to address humanitarian consequences for the poorest people in the poorest countries.

More information on COP 13 can be found at website of the UNFCCC.
More on the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will be posted on the website of the IFRC.

Preparing for climate change on the Bahamas

The Bahamas Red Cross is one of the national societies that entered the Preparedness for climate change program set up by the RC/RC Climate Centre. Last fall, it took the program’s first step by inviting the Centre’s technical advisor Pablo Suarez to conduct a workshop. As a prelude to completing step 2 of the Preparedness for climate change program and to begin to create more awareness on the issue, the Bahamas Red Cross introduced a short film competition on climate change. There were eighteen entries, with three finalists chosen by a panel of judges. The panel comprised of representatives of  the Ministry of Tourism (Environmental Committee), the Bahamas International Film Festival, New Providence Community Centre, the Bahamas Reef Environmental and Educational Fund (BREEF),  and the Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation. Read more.

An update on climate change activities in Latin America

Funded by the ´Dutch National Lottery´, the national Red Cross societies of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Columbia and Guatemala work to strengthen the resilience of people most at risk of the adverse effects of climate change. Many of them are poor. They face floods, hurricanes, droughts and often massive deforestation, making them vulnerable to natural disasters. Red Cross efforts to help them include raising awareness on the risks of climate change, implementing micro projects enabling them to deal with its negative effects, developing disaster plans and setting up alliances with government institutions, universities, media, businesses and other stakeholders in adapting to climate change. Read more.

New case study: Pacific Red Cross societies preparing for a changing climate

A new case study on climate change related activities undertaken by national societies in the Pacific region is now available. Pacific Red Cross societies preparing for a changing climate covers very interesting backgrounds, project activities, lessons learned and more from Samoa, Tuvalu, Tonga, Cook Islands and Solomon Islands. Read more.

The Independent (UK) has published articles on the plight of Tuvalu

Read: Tuvalu sounds the alarm
Read: S.O.S.: Pacific islanders battle to save what is left of their country from rising seas

First draft of heatwave plan in the Netherlands

The Netherlands have moved forward regarding heatwaves. Last month the first draft of the national heatwave plan was presented and sent to the Members of Parliament. The definitive heatwave plan is to come into force next year (with the current draft being used this year, as a pilot).

The plan results from good cooperation between the Ministry of Health, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), the Royal Dutch Meteorological Office (KNMI), the Netherlands Association of Community Health Services (GGD) and the Netherlands Red Cross. It targets those people who are most vulnerable to extreme heat and describes the tasks and roles of different parties involved, such as health services, general practitioners, nursing homes and volunteer organizations. Part of the plan is a heat health warning system for these parties and for the population at large, guidelines for volunteers and a sticker with  ‘what to do’s’ when temperatures rise. The most important advice on the sticker:

  • drink sufficiently, two litres a day, even if you are not thirsty;
  • water is best, alcohol is to be avoided;
  • avoid strenuous activity, in particular between 12 and 16pm (the hottest time of the day);
  • stay out of the heat, at least during the hottest hours, wear a hat, sunglasses and light clothes;
  • keep cool, for instance by putting a wet towel in your neck, taking a cool shower or bath, lowering sunshades or closing curtains in sunny rooms, closing windows when it is warmer outside than inside; 
  • look after each other, help elderly or sick people follow this advice.

The sticker mentions a phone number for people wishing to obtain further information or advice.

Australian Red Cross approaches parliament on climate change

The Australian Red Cross recently distributed to all Members of Parliament this year’s first issue of Red Cross Red Crescent magazine, which highlights climate change, plus a newsletter about Red CRoss Red Crescent climate change work in the Pacific. Several Members of Parliament responded by expressing a keen interest in especially accounts of projects which make a clear impact. This shows there is a desire to hear about practical, people focused projects, when so much of the reporting on climate change is about its scientific, economic and political aspects.

Debating on the European Commission’s Green Paper Adapting to climate change in Europe – options for EU actions, 3 July 2007, Brussels

Climate change poses a double challenge: Europe must sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to prevent future climate change from reaching dangerous levels. It must also take measures to adapt to current and future climate change in order to lessen the adverse impacts of global warming on health, jobs and housing. If not, the most vulnerable members of society will be the hardest hit.

This is the key message of a Green Paper on options for European Union action to adapt to climate change in Europe and beyond. The Paper was published by the European Commission and aims to stimulate a broad public debate on the issue. In this context a major stakeholder conference was organized on the 3rd of July in Brussels, with more than 450 people participating.

The Climate Centre was invited to speak in the conference’s segment on EU policies aimed at supporting climate adaptation programs not in Europe itself, but in developing countries. In her speech, the Climate Centre’s head Madeleen Helmer raised concerns about the current EU imbalance in addressing climate risks: there is a tendency to protect Europe first. Yet, the poorest and most vulnerable countries and people, who have contributed least to the climate change problem, are outside of Europe and deserve more attention. While the current Green Paper dedicates only one of its 24 pages to adaptation in developing countries, the next version, according to the Climate Centre, should be better balanced.

This autumn, there will be four regional consultations in Europe and a public internet consultation open until the end of November. More information.

777 Live Earth

Scores of people around the world will have heard of the 7/7/07 24-hour, 7-continent Live Earth concert series aiming to spread the SOS campaign message that “everyone, everywhere can and must answer the call to solve the climate crisis”. Millions were inspired to answer the call indeed with web and SMS pledges made in 178 countries and 35 territories. Records were broken: more than thirty million Live Earth videos were streamed on MSN by eight million people – the largest audience ever for an online concert. Approximately one million people participated in more than 10,000 Friends of Live Earth events in 131 countries – the largest grassroots organizing program in history. It is estimated that some two billion people watched the show, which staged some 150 artists, on television. Read more.

Annual report 2006

The annual report 2006 of the Climate Centre is available on line.