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Working to make Red Cross responses greener

Around the world, a weather or climate-related disaster occurs every one to two days, with an estimated 108 million people needing life-saving assistance each year. A recent report by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent shows that this number could double by 2050.

Red Cross workers in flooded areaAs the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increase due to climate change; it is also becoming clear that the most vulnerable in our society will face the worst consequences.

For decades, the Canadian Red Cross has been working with communities internationally to reduce their risks to extreme weather events and the impacts of climate change. Not only is this work being scaled up in the most at-risk areas, but the Red Cross is now starting to review our role in mitigating further causes of climate change as well.

Carla Taylor, Senior Disaster Risk Management Advisor for International Operations said ‘for years, the Red Cross has had a ‘do no harm’ approach to ensure that our humanitarian efforts do not have unintended negative impacts on those we are trying to help. Today, we now need to extend this do no harm to include the environment.’

Carla is part of a Global Green Response Working Group that is dedicated to making sure the Red Cross can continue to save lives and reduce suffering but do so in a way that limits the damage to the livelihoods, health and survival of the affected people. ‘A healthy community is more than the sum of its people, and a degraded environment hinders people’s survival and recovery after disasters.’

The global group works with environmental partners like the World Wildlife Fund to increase basic understanding of how to consider environmental impacts in planning and preparing for emergency response operations.

 ‘This is increasingly becoming an area that we need to get better at – countries are increasing their environmental regulations, there is a higher expectation to think beyond the immediate, we also need to be more efficient with our resources.’

Carla added, ‘this is not about changing what the Canadian Red Cross does, but rather how we do it – we need to continue to advocate on behalf of those most vulnerable, but we also need to change our own practices to ensure we are not part of the problem.’

IFRC report: The Cost of Doing Nothing
Climate change: Emergencies and disasters in Canada
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