COP26 must support communities already dealing with climate change
We need COP26 and the media to deliver for people and communities who are already feeling the harsh impacts of climate change writes Mary Friel, COP26 policy and advocacy manager at British Red Cross.
This summer we’ve seen extreme weather events dominate the news, from unprecedented heatwaves in North America, to flash floods in London and Belgium to wildfires in Southern Europe. As world leaders prepare to meet at COP26 in November, to negotiate global action on climate change, the urgency for action is growing day by day.
We have worked extensively with national media outlets, particularly broadcasters, across these particular high-profile events, to provide first-hand insight into the humanitarian response and the needs of the most affected. The flooding in parts of Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands especially, saw a demand for speakers and commentary, with the explicit impacts of climate change clear to see, relatively close to home. [Watch Sky News interview with Red Cross spokesperson, Naomi Nolte, who provides an update from the ground in Velmo, The Netherlands.]
Many of the communities hardest hit don’t make the headlines
From families skipping meals and going hungry as droughts cause crops to fail, to families made homeless by floods because their houses have been destroyed, to people displaced by cyclones and hurricanes.
We need COP26 and the media to deliver for people and communities who are already feeling the harsh impacts of climate change.
Some media outlets are leading the way
There are certain media outlets who are leading the way by producing holistic climate storytelling. Sky are both telling and delivering information on climate in many different and innovative ways. Our media team worked with the Daily Climate Show team earlier this year with Red Cross Disaster Risk Reduction specialist, Yasif Hasan, taking part in a 30-minute Instagram live, from Bangladesh. A platform that allowed for an in-depth conversation on climate that couldn’t have been achieved in another broadcast format. The piece provided live commentary from one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate, delivered straight to thousands of viewers on their smartphones.
We know that the last decade has been the warmest on record, with climate change driving more extreme weather events. This is increasing global humanitarian need. In July, British Red Cross launched its Feeling the Heat report which looked at how prepared the UK public is for rising temperatures and how aware people are of the risks of heatwaves. What was encouraging was that we achieved in-depth coverage across a range of right and left-leaning media outlets including print, online, radio and TV, reaching our influencer and general public audience, with a focus on at risk groups. The climate conversation in the UK continues to build – it has to.
The Red Cross World Disasters Report is an urgent wake-up call
The Red Cross World Disasters Report shows that 1.7 billion people have already been affected by climate and weather-related disasters in the past decade. As the scientific community and UN call the latest evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report a “code red for humanity” there’s no time for delay.
The Red Cross is calling for the most climate-vulnerable people and communities to be at the heart of COP26 discussions and decisions. We are well positioned, as the Red Cross and Red Crescent is as local as it gets, with 165,000 local branches and with the support of 14 million volunteers.
The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, through the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre, is engaged all year round in UN processes which support the annual UN Climate Conference (COP). Through this work the Red Cross raises the needs of the most vulnerable communities already facing humanitarian impacts from climate change, and offers solutions and ways of good practice working with communities.
The Red Cross Movement also supports the Risk Informed Early Action Partnership (REAP), a global network convened by IFRC, which aims to make one billion people safer from disasters by 2025. (REAP) REAP is part of the COP26 Presidency Race to Resilience campaign and is helping to build momentum for COP26.
We need urgent action to prioritise those communities that are likely to be worst hit
The Red Cross is calling for global leaders to take action – and for the UK Government to continue to use its diplomatic influence – to put communities already dealing with climate change at the heart of COP26. We want to see the scaling up of global climate finance for adaptation, increased access to climate finance for locally-led work and a commitment to invest in more adaptation, preparedness, early warning and early action to prevent future extreme weather events from becoming disasters.
Red Cross teams are on the ground right now, working side by side with communities, listening and responding to people’s needs. From communities to governments, media to the private sector, we all have an important role in tackling the impacts of climate change. We will continue to share our calls for action, our spokespeople and our local knowledge with the media and government in the lead-up to, and during, COP26 to better support communities to be able to prepare for, respond to and recover from climate related emergencies.
Mary Friel is British Red Cross’ COP26 policy and advocacy manager.