European Commission and WFP sound alarm over humanitarian impact of climate change

Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid and Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) jointly warned that "climate change is an increasing threat to development and humanitarian relief efforts" during WFP's Executive Board meeting today.

Mr. Michel, who is in Rome to address WFP's Executive Board, said: "The recent spate of weather-related disasters across the globe sets the alarm bells ringing. We have had devastating, floods and typhoons in East and South Asia, flooding on an unprecedented scale in East and West Africa and two category five hurricanes in quick succession in the Caribbean. Humanitarian agencies are under increasing pressure in seeking to meet the basic needs of communities affected by these disasters." He continued: "The European Union is the world's main source of humanitarian funds. WFP is the world's largest relief agency. Through our existing close partnership, the suffering of millions of people is already being alleviated. But we must now confront the challenges presented by ever-more extreme climate events to see how the humanitarian community can best prepare itself since the most vulnerable people will be those that suffer the most. There is a real risk that, in the future, we'll have climatic refugees."

Ms. Sheeran said the EC and WFP were working closely together on ways to help the world's hungry - those most vulnerable to the devastation caused by climate change - adapt to an increase in floods, drought, and other climatic shocks. "We may be facing the perfect storm for the world's hungry and most vulnerable people. The combination of climate change and soaring food prices require global actions. WFP will work with the EC to get ahead of this challenge and help small farmers and villages adapt."

She thanked Mr. Michel for the EC's contributions to WFP's humanitarian efforts worldwide, which total approximately 145 million euros (US$ 197 million) so far this year, making it WFP's second largest donor. EC contributions, mostly in cash, help WFP purchase food from farmers in 70 developing nations to help combat hunger.

The WFP and EC have worked closely on innovative programs to ward against famine, such as establishing a food security safety net in Ethiopia. During the past three months, the European Commission has provided urgent funding for WFP relief actions in various countries including flood-stricken Uganda and Nepal, and Nicaragua, which was badly affected by Hurricane Felix. In certain locations, the Commission's community-preparedness work has helped limit the negative impacts of the disaster. This is in addition to its long-running support for WFP food operations in other crisis zones including many conflict-affected regions.

Climate change will be the main topic of discussion at the European Development Days in Lisbon on 7-9 November 2007, where Louis Michel and Josette Sheeran will take part in discussions with other key development and humanitarian stakeholders. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that climate change may dramatically decrease yields in many of the world's most vulnerable nations, particularly in Africa. In September 2007, the European Commission launched a Global Climate Change Alliance that will support the least developed countries to adapt their development policies and strategies to take account of climatic changes (see IP/07/1352).

Contacts:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

Nancy Roman, WFP Director, Communications and Public Policy Strategy
Tel +39 06 6513 2628 - www.wfp.org