Interview: Climate-change response failing people most at risk, warns Red Cross chief

Source: Xinhua| 2020-11-17 20:45:16|Editor: huaxia

by Martina Fuchs

GENEVA, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Global efforts to tackle climate change are failing to protect the people in greatest need, the head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) told Xinhua, calling for urgent government action to stop a rise in disasters and appealing for more smart financing to protect the most vulnerable communities.

In its "World Disasters Report 2020" released on Tuesday, the Geneva-based IFRC showed that the countries most affected by climate-related disasters receive only a fraction of the funding available for climate change adaptation and thus struggle to protect people from the aggravating effects of climate change.

Secretary General Jagan Chapagain warned of "a clear disconnection between where the climate risk is greatest and where climate adaptation funding goes," stressing that "this disconnection could very well cost lives."

In an interview with Xinhua, he said: "One of our key recommendations to the governments is to get the priorities right. Where do we really want to prioritize the resources to go to? The number one priority would be those who are the most vulnerable, those who are the most at risk."

"We also have to prioritize the most vulnerable communities within the countries. Sometimes the resources, even if they reach the countries, they don't reach the communities or local governments where things actually happen," he said.

The report reveals that 38 high vulnerability countries (out of 60) and five very high vulnerability countries (out of eight) received less than 1 U.S. dollar per person in climate adaptation funding.

According to the report, the average number of climate and weather-related disasters per decade has increased nearly 35 percent since the 1990s, and over the past decade, 83 percent of all disasters were caused by extreme weather and climate-related events such as floods, storms and heatwaves.

The data also showed that together, these disasters killed more than 410,000 people and affected 1.7 billion people.

Founded in 1919, the Geneva-based IFRC is the world's largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.


Chapagain urged that climate adaptation work should not take a back seat while the world is preoccupied with the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the two crises must be tackled together.

He also warned that the number and scope of extreme weather events and climate-related disasters are expected to increase:

"The impact of heatwaves especially in urban settings is going to get worse, unfortunately. We also anticipate that floodings and landslides continue to get worse. This is of course also linked to deforestation," Chapagain told Xinhua.

"We also anticipate category 4 and 5 storms. We will also see more wildfires... In different parts of the world we will see the sea level rise on coastal areas on the one hand, and increasing drought in inland areas on the other hand."


The IFRC said that smart financing, focused on early warning and anticipatory action to reduce risks and prevent disasters before they strike, as well as risk-reduction measures, would play a major role in protecting the most exposed communities.

Chapagain said that China, as the world's second-largest economy and most populous country, could help play a very important role:

"There could be two things: one is making smart investments on development funding," he said. "At the same time, making investments on risk-and-disaster reductions and resilience building becomes extremely important."

Chapagain suggested investing more in anticipated funding. "Instead of releasing funding after the crisis has already happened, we release the funding beforehand." Enditem