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Remarks by SRSG Mizutori at High-Level Panel: Humanitarian action and climate change: advancing anticipatory approaches, strengthening resilience and enhancing collaboration in response to the climate crisis

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Remarks by SRSG Mami Mizutori
2021 Humanitarian Affairs Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council
High-Level Panel: Humanitarian action and climate change: advancing anticipatory approaches, strengthening resilience and enhancing collaboration in response to the climate crisis

Thursday 24 June

Ambassador Baeriswyl, Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

And Good afternoon to my dear fellow panel members,

Thank you for the invitation to be on this high-level panel for a timely discussion on a subject that has been a challenge for many years now.

Climate change poses a double threat. While increasing the frequency and intensity of climate related hazards, it also increases vulnerability of humans and ecosystems.

Climate-related events now account for 90% of all major disasters resulting from natural hazards, and the number of people living in flood-prone areas and cyclone-exposed coastlines has doubled.

Climate change is exacerbating inequalities within and between countries, with those contributing least experiencing the worst impacts of the climate emergency.

The consequences of climate change are especially damaging in humanitarian contexts where vulnerabilities are high, but coping capacities and resources are limited.

Last year over 30 million people were evacuated or newly displaced due to extreme weather events.

We know that even with a significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, climate change will continue to drive up disaster risk beyond the year 2050.

The interaction between climate change and conflict is particularly devastating: continued loss of livelihoods, food insecurity, protracted displacement – all posing a grave risk to sustainability of systems.

Driven by climate and conflict, which are often interrelated, humanitarian needs are at their highest-ever level with one in 33 people globally in need of assistance and protection.

We must do better to prevent climate change from generating new humanitarian needs and exacerbating the needs that already exist. Because the truth is that the gap between humanitarian needs and what can be provided is getting wider and wider.

Yet, carbon dioxide and methane levels in the atmosphere continued their unrelenting rise, even during last year despite the economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This apathy has brought us to where we are today: in the middle of a climate emergency.

The importance of climate adaptation is on the rise, but research shows that still less than 6% of all global multilateral adaptation funding goes to the 15 countries most vulnerable to climate change. We need a dramatic scale-up of adaptation funding including in humanitarian contexts.

And we cannot look at climate risk in isolation from all the other risk drivers that contribute to humanitarian emergencies. We need a comprehensive and coherent approach to managing the systemic and inter-connected nature of disaster risk.

There is no denying that we are seeing some progress on anticipatory action and risk-informed humanitarian action. However, I see five necessary pre-conditions to scale it up:

  • First, there is an urgent need for humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors to have a shared understanding of climate and disaster risks and how these relate to conflict in protracted crises. A joint-up and comprehensive analysis is the very basis for addressing climate change in humanitarian and development contexts.

  • Second, we need to invest in reliable forecasting capacity and technology, and make good use of the information that is produced. Through the years, climate science and forecast information have greatly improved. The IPCC 1.5 Degree Special Report has identified climate change hotspots and enhanced risk patterns in different regions under different degrees of global warming. The DRR and humanitarian communities should use this type of information to inform our work.

  • Third, donors need to help create the right incentives for climate-sensitive, risk-informed humanitarian action to take place. UN Humanitarian Country Teams that integrate DRR in their plans face challenges in getting them funded. More timely, flexible and layered funding for DRR across humanitarian and development actions is needed.

  • Fourth, risk-informed humanitarian action and longer-term resilience building should be implemented together. Comprehensive climate and disaster risk management is needed to manage the drivers of conflicts and other risks. We need to strengthen social safety, build local resilience and help governments put strategies in place to adapt to climate change and build long-term resilience, before disasters strike us.

  • And fifth, we need to scale up solutions that are developed and led by local actors. Local women-led organizations are often the first responders during a crisis. They have strong networks and trust within the community which helps them identify the most vulnerable groups that need assistance.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, with OCHA and a wide range of partners, has developed recommendations and a Checklist for Scaling up DRR in Humanitarian Action.

At the same time, we are scaling-up accessibility and utility of climate and disaster risk related information, to support the next generation of analytical tools that can improve decision making across the humanitarian-development spectrum.

By risk-informing humanitarian action, we can reduce long-term humanitarian needs and build resilience of the most vulnerable in the face of climate change and other threats.

Thank you to all and I look forward to hearing from fellow panelists who will be sharing their experiences today.