Climate change risks a ‘runaway’ humanitarian crisis, UN warns

In the six years since the Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted in 2015, Madagascar has only had one decent rainy season, leaving more than a million people severely hungry in the southeastern island nation of Africa.

Drought and unexpected sandstorms have ruined crops in the south, according to the UN World Food Program, forcing families to eat lobsters, wild leaves and cacti, with their malnourished children too weak to laugh or cry.

Approximately 14,000 people in Madagascar are now on the brink of famine.

From Madagascar to Afghanistan, where drought is displacing people already beset by conflict, higher global temperatures are fueling hunger, poverty and migration among tens of millions in the most fragile countries, UN agencies warned Tuesday. .

Humanitarian workers are struggling to keep up with the growing number of disasters even with global warming of 1.2 degrees Celsius today, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, pointing to the challenges of operate in troubled places like Haiti, Mali. and Yemen.

“A rise of 2.7 ° C, our current trajectory, or beyond, would lead to an uncontrolled global humanitarian crisis, the magnitude of which would seriously threaten the collapse of the (aid) system,” he said in a preview of a report released. will post early. next year.

Protesters hold placards as they take part in a protest, as the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) takes place, in London, Britain, on November 6, 2021. (Credit: REUTERS / HENRY NICHOLLS)

The research highlights that between 2000 and 2019, almost 7,000 disasters were recorded worldwide, an 83% increase over the previous two decades, with floods increasing by 134% during that same period and extreme temperature events in 232%.

“I think our time is up,” OCHA policy chief Hansjoerg Strohmeyer told reporters in Glasgow.

“Today, tens of millions have run out of time, because for them, the climate crisis is real, it is daily, it is irreversible and it is now.”

Aid agencies called for more funds to be channeled into efforts to help vulnerable countries adapt to the more extreme weather and sea level rise that now affect most of the world, and the poorest communities. they are the most affected.

Richard Blewitt, who leads international work for the British Red Cross, said the funds available to help people on the front lines of climate change, many in poor African countries, were too small and did not reach those most in need.

He contrasted the roughly 30 billion euros ($ 34.8 billion) that Germany is deploying to repair the destruction after this summer’s floods, with the floods in Niger in West Africa that are driving people from their homes. .

“We have great inequity in addressing our climate crisis,” he said.

The agencies asked governments to fulfill an unfulfilled promise to provide $ 100 billion a year starting in 2020 to help developing nations tackle climate change and ensure that money makes a difference in life in places like Niger and South Sudan.


In an attempt to build the resilience of vulnerable people to the impacts of climate change, donor governments this week made new contributions to two key funds established to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to a warmer planet.

On Monday, the British government said more than $ 232 million had been committed to the Adaptation Fund, its highest individual mobilization, by itself and others, including the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Germany, Norway. , Qatar, Spain and Switzerland. .

The European Commission followed up with an additional pledge of 100 million euros ($ 115 million) to the fund.

In addition, more than $ 450 million was mobilized for initiatives and programs that strengthen locally led approaches to adaptation, while Britain allocated 290 million pounds (about $ 393 million) of its international climate finance for adaptation, including a large resilience program in Asia.

On Tuesday at COP26, 12 donor governments pledged $ 413 million to the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDC), the only climate resilience fund that targets the 46 poorest countries and has helped more than 50 million people. since 2001.

Yet despite the new money, financing for adaptation, at just over $ 20 billion a year, remains well below the $ 70 billion a year in estimated needs among developing countries, an amount that it could rise to $ 300 billion by 2030, the United Nations said last week. .

In the Paris Agreement, governments said they would aim for a balance between international financing for emission reductions and adaptation in vulnerable countries.

But so far, only a quarter of climate finance goes to programs to build resilience through things like installing early warning systems for storms and floods, planting mangroves in coastal areas, and adopting tolerant crops. to drought.


Jagan Chapagain, secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said world leaders “were making progress, but COP26 commitments so far were” too small and unbalanced. “

He called for more support for adaptation and to repair the “loss and damage” caused by climate change, adding that “we must ensure that this funding actually reaches the most vulnerable communities.”

At a UN-led event on Monday, an official from the Philippines spoke about how his government is working to reduce the cost of flood insurance for small businesses through risk pooling and the use of geotagging.

Meanwhile, the head of Niger’s meteorological service unveiled a nationwide flood atlas and a system to train villagers and use WhatsApp to warn them before rivers overflow, noting that 2 million people had been seen. affected by floods since 2010.

The German government said it planned to allocate 5% of its humanitarian spending to such “anticipatory action” by 2023.

Meanwhile, UN agencies said the world needed further scaling up of the test projects they and others have carried out, from Bangladesh to Ethiopia to Malawi.

Selwin Hart, the UN deputy secretary-general for climate action, said climate impacts are now “unprecedented” and will increase even if global temperature targets are met, and called for urgent action and funding to keep people in the front line more secure.

“We know that adaptation and resilience work, and early investments protect lives and livelihoods,” he said. “Financial tools and instruments and technological solutions … are available now.”

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