This year’s United Nations Climate Change conference, or the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), is the first to include a day dedicated to conflict, disaster, and the humanitarian implications of climate change.
Relief, Recovery, and Peace Day, which was held on December 3, and the COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery and Peace, aimed to accelerate adaptation and address loss and damage, particularly in fragile and conflict affected areas which are frequently excluded from climate funding and mitigation efforts. A day dedicated to bringing climate and humanitarian policy together offered an opportunity for governments, donors, and civil society to make progress toward supporting affected populations in ways that strengthen their resilience to climate events.
As the largest coalition of U.S.-based humanitarian and development NGOs, InterAction is heartened to see the inclusion of humanitarian issues in the COP28 agenda and is pleased to endorse the Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery, and Peace—but words must now become action.
The overarching message within the COP28 Declaration is the need for climate action to be expansive. Refugees and other displaced people often live in areas that are among the most at risk to climate impacts and on the frontlines of sustainable adaptation and resilience efforts. The outcomes document of the previous COP, COP27 highlighted the effect of climate change on forced displacement and human mobility and established a Transitional Committee on the operationalization of new funding arrangements to address climate-induced Loss and Damage, including the challenges of displacement, relocation, and migration. InterAction encourages negotiators of COP28 to acknowledge the importance of addressing the challenges of displaced communities affected by climate change. It is imperative that the final outcome document for COP28 currently being negotiated and the Global Stocktake process maintain the progress already made, push for more robust commitments, and address forced displacement for policymakers to draw on as they implement their climate commitments.
The COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery, and Peace builds on the momentum of COP27 outcomes by calling for financial investment in national and regional climate adaptation strategies, and mapping of transboundary vulnerabilities. National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) enhance eligibility for funding toward adaptation, but regularly fail to include mention of displaced populations.
Adaptation should also promote leadership by affected communities in the development of policies and programming and consider human mobility as a potential adaptation measure. Investment in climate resilience is critical to reduce humanitarian needs across diverse groups including refugees, conflict victims, internally displaced and stateless people, and migrants in situations of vulnerability who are often disproportionately affected by climate impacts.
InterAction’s Members have seen how the communities they serve, especially those in fragile and conflict-affected settings, disproportionately suffer the consequences of climate change and are routinely excluded from climate adaptation efforts. A recent Mercy Corps report shows that 19 of the 25 countries on the World Bank’s Fragile and Conflict Affected Situations list are also among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
However, despite their vulnerability, these countries are often neglected by climate action initiatives and overlooked by public and private sources of climate funding, with the bulk of international funds flowing to middle-income countries and funding mitigation (rather than adaptation). This translates into increased climate change-induced food and water insecurity, agricultural disruptions, displacement, and a diminished ability to respond to extreme weather events. An International Committee of the Red Cross report emphasized that “waiting for peace before addressing climate risks is not a viable option”—this only allows climate impacts to intensify and leaves communities in a prolonged state of intensifying insecurity.
Bringing these communities front and center at COP28 is a promising step toward including affected populations and humanitarian voices in an otherwise state-centric process. COP28 comes at a critical time and opens the door for stakeholders to acknowledge the links between climate justice, conflict, displacement, and the humanitarian needs of those most impacted by climate change.
With vulnerable communities facing these multiplying threats, response rebalancing is a moral necessity—one InterAction will continue urging world leaders to meet. Vulnerable nations must not be left to suffer the impacts of climate change alone and carry the financial burden, particularly since they have contributed the least to global greenhouse gas emissions.
We applaud the Declaration’s direction and call for accelerated implementation guided by those facing consolidated climate and conflict threats worldwide. InterAction will continue to advocate for robust and predictable funding toward vulnerable communities, a scale up in early warning systems, strengthened collaboration and partnerships, and other key objectives of the COP28 Declaration on Climate, Relief, Recovery, and Peace.