As emissions targets fail, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that least prepared communities on climate crisis frontlines will bear the most cost


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Today, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a dire warning of the future of global climate. Climate scientists have clearly linked human-caused warming and the need for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Without drastic cuts, the world is nearing the 1.5-degree limit established in the Paris Agreement, which has catastrophic consequences.

In the regions and countries where the International Rescue Committee works, the climate crisis is already the reality for communities at the frontlines of the climate crisis. Over the last year, intense heat waves, droughts, and floods are increasingly becoming the norm. These communities  are the least responsible for the climate crisis yet bear the brunt of its harms. The 20 countries on the IRC’s 2023 Emergency Watchlist (over half of which are in Africa) contributed just 1.9% of global CO2 emissions in 2019 and emit just a fifth of the CO2 per capita when compared to global averages.

Nearly 21 million people across East Africa are facing extreme hunger due to the fifth consecutive season of failed rains – the worst drought in history, exacerbated by the climate crisis. 
The Sahel region is warming at 1.5 times faster than the global average, which impacts the spread of diseases, livestock health, and food production. Since 2015, the number of people in need of emergency food assistance has more than quadrupled – from 7 million to nearly 40 million.
A quarter of Pakistan, including much of its arable land, is still submerged from last summer’s floods, with 14.6 million people in need of food assistance, 8.6 million of whom are experiencing an extreme level of food insecurity.

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The climate crisis is one of the three primary drivers of humanitarian needs according to the Watchlist. Countries that are fragile or conflict-affected are also highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The implications for global hunger are enormous – already, 690 million people (or 1 in 11 people) on the planet are hungry, which is exacerbated as climate change continues to cause loss of work and access to resources, interrupt agricultural cultivation and production, and increase displacement and conflict. People living in conflict zones and displaced from their homes are at greatest risk, including women and girls, who experience increased risks of violence and exploitation. Battering their economies and infrastructures, extreme weather events cause devastation to people’s health, livelihoods, and abilities to cope with or recover from compounded climate shocks.

David Miliband, the IRC’s President and CEO, said: “This sobering report from the IPCC shows that the global community has neglected the mounting cost of the climate crisis, especially to the world’s most vulnerable people. A report by 55 countries at COP27 estimated their combined climate-linked losses over the past 20 years at $525 billion–an enormous cost destined to grow without sufficient support for the communities bearing the biggest brunt of the crisis.

“To curtail the worst climate and extreme weather disasters, major-emitting nations must take drastic actions to rein in global warming emissions. But the future gains of climate mitigation efforts are insufficient for the fragile communities already being harmed by a warming world. As the mechanisms of the historic loss and damage fund and setting a new collective quantified goal for climate financing are underway, investments must be tailored to the present – not projected – reality of extreme weather. The global community should fulfill its long delayed promise of $100 billion per year in climate financing to developing countries and commit 50% of these resources to climate adaptation measures. 

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“Climate finance must be fit for purpose. Only 5% of the $50 billion that donors have put into climate funds administered by the World Bank have gone to the ten most climate-vulnerable nations, including Niger and Chad, and only 13% went to low-income countries, in part because these countries face barriers to accessing climate financing. Efforts like the Bridgetown Initiative are crucial to rectifying this and should be paired with a ‘people-first’ approach to financing that can partner with a wider range of civil society groups, such as NGOs that are often better-placed to reach communities in need. 

“There is not a moment to lose. The world’s most vulnerable populations are already on the frontline of the climate crisis. Not only do they contribute the least to carbon emissions, but they continue to suffer disproportionately. Let’s take the decisive action needed to change course.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Rescue Committee.