IASC Key Messages: Common Narrative on the Climate Emergency and Humanitarian Action, Results Group 3 on Collective Advocacy (April 2021)

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IASC Results Group 3 on Collective Advocacy Common Narrative on the Climate Emergency and Humanitarian Action

Purpose of this document: Develop a common narrative and talking points on the humanitarian impacts of the climate emergency and action needed that members of the IASC can use in their advocacy and media engagements. To this end, the common narrative includes an introduction framing the common narrative; key facts and figures; key messages, including sector-specific messaging; and a terminology cheat sheet.

1. Introduction

Climate change is a humanitarian emergency

We are all facing a climate crisis.

Change in seasonal temperatures and rainfall patterns (climate variability), sea-level rises, glacier and arctic ice melting, desertification, and an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as floods, violent storms and heatwaves, are causing loss of lives and livelihoods as well as injuries and displacement. Climate- and weather-related disasters also undermine food and water security, access to essential services and people’s resilience to shocks, and impact the enjoyment of human rights.

Climate change also drives stresses which undermine people’s livelihoods and make them more vulnerable so that even smaller shocks can turn into humanitarian emergencies. These climate stresses include more irregular rainfall and changes in agricultural seasons; rising trends of soil erosion and salinity; shifting patterns of biodiversity, pests and diseases; greater risks of wildfires and growing heat stress in humans, crops and animals. In the absence of strong governance and inclusive institutions, climate change can also amplify existing tensions and grievances around access to climate-sensitive natural resources, and may, in a complex interplay, ultimately fuel conflict.

In 2019, natural hazards triggered 308 disasters, 77 per cent of which were climate and weather related. This is six times more than in the 1970s. In the past ten years, climate and weather-related disasters have claimed more than 400,000 lives, affected 1.7 billion people and displaced and average of 25 million people each year.

Unless action is taken, these numbers will continue to rise.

The women, men and children most exposed are those who do not have the resources to protect themselves and who, more often than not, live in areas where climate impacts such as droughts, floods and storms hit the hardest.

The unfolding climate emergency is adding an additional layer of stress to a humanitarian system that is already overstretched, as it addresses the consequences of conflicts, food insecurity, displacement, the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather events, among other crises.

Without ambitious actions to mitigate climate change and help countries and communities adapt to it, the humanitarian toll will increase exponentially. Humanitarian assistance can help address the impacts of climate-related emergencies, but a massive increase in global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change and reduce the risk of disasters is critical to contain the suffering.

Action is needed now

We must act now to save lives and livelihoods. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out in September 2020, “the climate emergency is a race we are losing, but it is a race we can win.” Communities need to understand the range of climate threats that could affect them, so they can anticipate, absorb, adapt and transform to them.

Local communities, local organizations, governments and aid agencies all have crucial roles to play.