IFRC: Francesco Rocca and the humanitarian price of climate change

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NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 19 – Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, made his appearance at the United Nations Headquarters to present ‘The Cost of Doing Nothing’ report which stems from the understanding that climate change is a humanitarian problem.

“By 2050, 200 million people every year could need international humanitarian aid as a result of a cruel combination of climate-related disasters and the socioeconomic impact of climate change. This is nearly twice the people who need help today,” highlights the report. This increase would come with a heavy cost. Meeting the needs of people hit by climate-related disasters today costs funders between 3.2 and 12 billion yearly. If no action is taken, this cost will balloon to 2000 billion yearly by 2030, which is only one decade away.

The message of the report is clear: doing nothing to help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change comes at a grave cost. But something can be done: “It is crucial to invest in climate adaptation, and to build resilience in the communities, countries and regions at risk. By helping communities and countries to prepare and adapt, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance will drop, along with the amount of money needed by international humanitarian organizations”. Investing in climate adaptation has the potential of decreasing the number of people in need of assistance to 68 million by 2030, and 10 million by 2050.

The report presents three actions which can help avoid the menacing costs of doing nothing. Reducing long-term vulnerability and exposure, through efforts like the construction of stronger buildings and more resilient infrastructure. Anticipating disasters, improving early warning and strengthening emergency responses so to minimize the number of casualties and collect financial resources before a disaster hits. Lastly, rebuilding and repairing with the next emergency in mind because -even if we stop all CO2 emissions tomorrow- temperatures will continue to rise and weather related hazards will continue to strike. It is therefore imperative for climate mitigation to be paired with greater investments in climate adaptation.

Francesco Rocca closed the session by taking off his hat as Red Cross President and speaking as a human and volunteer. “I am fed up with just words,” he proclaimed, emphasizing the desperate need for concrete actions. “I went, as a volunteer, to countries hit by climate-related hazards and witnessed immense suffering. I am sick of political leaders being led by their political and economic interests. Sick of seeing no action being taken and not enough people getting better.” The report displays a lot of big numbers, “but don’t forget that behind these numbers are human beings, all equally deserving of dignity and respect”. (@OnuItalia)