IFRC climate summit sets direction to address the climate crisis

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) first-ever virtual climate summit, Climate: Red, took place on 9 and 10 September, bringing together members, staff, youth activists, government officials, experts, and indigenous leaders from around the world to discuss how to tackle the climate emergency.

The summit, which consisted of 30 hours of conversation, debate, and talks, was created to discuss the humanitarian consequences of climate change, and mobilize support for climate action. Topics discussed ranged from how the RCRC itself can make a difference in the climate crisis, how indigenous communities respond to climate change, and the ways in which anticipatory technology can aid more effective and dignified humanitarian assistance.

Why is it important? Last year, the Red Cross Red Crescent leaders put climate-related shocks and hazards at the top of the list of global challenges for its humanitarian work in its Strategy 2030 adopted at the 33rd International Conference held in December 2019. The RCRC movement set out ways in which they would work to reduce - and prevent - climate impacts including early-warning systems, easy alerts, and new forms of financing. The virtual summit this week was intended to kick-start the process of putting those commitments into action.

This summit will help put the wind into the sails of our ambition, and share ideas on how we can start turning strategy into reality – Jagan Chapagain, secretary-general, IFRC

The summit was the first of its kind and brought together figures from all areas of interest and expertise to engage in constructive dialogue about climate change. Centered around the work of RCRC, many events explored the latest innovations in climate change, how to address the key climate risks, and how organizations can leverage their influence. All this without a single attendee having to board a flight.

What was discussed? The discussions explored a broad range of humanitarian issues in relation to climate change.

  • How to use science to scale up anticipatory actions to mitigate the effects of natural disasters through effective use of predictive analytics, early warning information, and pre-arranged financing.

  • How lessons from the Covid-19 crisis can be applied to climate change in social and economic terms. “A green recovery from Covid-19 is a unique opportunity,” said Krista Mikkonen, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in Finland. “Perhaps even the last opportunity we will get to bring our economies within the planetary boundaries.”

  • How the Red Cross Red Crescent can make a difference in the Climate Crisis through scaling up climate change adaptation and resilience work.

There's a long way to go. Events such as the IFRC virtual climate summit are a step in the right direction, allowing countries and key players to share their knowledge and ideas on how to tackle climate change. But, as secretary-general Jagan Chapagain noted, there is still a long way to go:

I am confident we can depart from here with clear ideas, plans and potential projects and programs that will help to advance our cause in tackling the climate crisis. However, let us make no mistake that more action is still required. As you have discovered, climate change is affecting many countries all over the world right now, and it is our duty as a humanitarian organization to meet needs wherever they may be found. This endeavor will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but we have started on the right trajectory.

But there is hope. The lasting message was a call to action underlined by an enduring optimism, summarized by Chapagain’s closing remarks.

Let's keep these young people and future generations in mind when we return to our regular lives. Inspired to act, empower, influence and transform our world in the face of the climate crisis. Nelson Mandela once said 'It always seems impossible until it's done ”. Well now, colleagues and friends, we have made the impossible possible. ”