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The humanitarian impact of combined conflict, climate and environmental risks

Briefing/policy paper

Written by Katie Peters, Mairi Dupar

Hero image description: Women leaving a camp for internally displaced persons to collect firewood, Gereida, South Darfur, Sudan Image credit:Sven Torfinn Image license:© Panos

Highlights and recommendations from a high-level side event at the 75th United Nations General Assembly

The intersection of conflict, climate change and environmental risk has been the subject of academic research for more than two decades. It has featured in reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and been the subject of a plethora of media articles. It has been hotly debated at the United Nations (UN) Security Council and scrutinised by the world’s largest military powers. However, little space has been dedicated to exploring the implications for the humanitarian sector.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) ministerial event ‘The humanitarian impact of combined conflict, climate and environmental risks’ on 25 September 2020 marked an important step forward in focusing governments, donors and aid agencies’ attention on these intersecting risks.

This briefing note summarises core themes from the UNGA75 event, with extracts from official statements submitted by government, UN and humanitarian agencies. The full statements can be found in the separate annex.

Key recommendations

  • Humanitarian agencies need to ‘green’ their operations by establishing a baseline environmental footprint and ambitious long-term plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage. They should set and work towards interim targets and milestones, and monitor and report progress against these, putting the humanitarian system on the road to truly climate-compatible and environmentally sustainable relief.
  • Partnerships between meteorological organisations and humanitarian actors are required to scale up delivery of ‘anticipatory action’ to avoid and minimise climate-related damage, particularly in conflict contexts.
  • Accelerated investment is essential to enhance disaster risk governance systems in conflict contexts.
  • Existing legal instruments should be utilised to strengthen protection, particularly for displaced populations and children.
  • Further financial, technical and political support is required to strengthen the Climate Security Mechanism.