Improved preparedness for response: Meeting the challenge of increasing extreme weather events and climate change risks
By Thorsten Klose

Friday, 23 January 2015

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years and the impact of climate change is partly responsible for this increase. At the same time there are many systems for early warning of the temporarily increased likelihood of disasters available, such as forecasts of storm tracks or weekly rainfall. Looking at rainfall upstream in a river basin, storm forecasts and seasonal forecasts for El Nino and La Nina, the humanitarian system can get such early warnings days, weeks, months and even longer in advance.

These scientific information and early warnings provide a crucial window before a potential disaster occurs in which local communities and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies helping them can take action. This is becoming even more important in a more uncertain and variable climate.

Making scientific information of temporarily increasing extreme weather risks available and operational in the right way offers the opportunity for more efficient and effective preparedness for response by taking additional measures of risk reduction and preparing countries, regions and communities on time.

But very often in the humanitarian system there are no funding mechanisms that facilitate such early action following early warnings. This is a bottleneck in enabling early action for preparedness to response ahead of disasters. Funding often only becomes available after a disaster has already occurred or it is given for long-term projects based just on an average level of risk, not taking into account temporarily increasing risks.

In 2012 the German Red Cross started a project together with the Red Cross / Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC), the Togolese Red Cross and Uganda Red Cross to pilot a new mechanism called “forecast-based financing” that will plug this humanitarian gap between early warnings and early action.

This pilot projects in Uganda and Togo are funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Red Cross disaster managers will select activities based on the level of warning that are encoded in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that marry packages of ad hoc risk reduction and preparedness measures with specific alerts and assign responsibilities. The costs of each action are calculated and will be funded out of a preparedness fund established at the Red Cross.

Also the German Federal Foreign Office is seeking to improve the utilization of existing short, medium and long-term extreme weather forecasts in order to take action towards effective preparedness in threatened communities, regions and countries before a disaster.

Therefore the Federal Foreign Office developed an action plan to face the humanitarian challenges of climate change. The German Red Cross is coordinating this action plan since 2014 and is working together with a multitude of actors at different levels, including the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the RCCC, the Welthungerhilfe, UNOCHA and the World Food Programme (WFP).

The different partners of this Federal Foreign Office action plan have major experience in the field of climate change adaptation and humanitarian assistance both in theory and practice. The action plan consists of the following objectives:

To get more information about this action plan, you can visit the booth of Germany during the WCDRR.

Dr. Thorsten Klose is the senior advisor for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation of the German Red Cross and has worked in the international cooperation department since 2009. He studied geography, political science and social history at the Ruhr-University in Bochum (Germany). From 2006 to 2007, he worked in Sri Lanka as project coordinator of an educational DRR project, as part of the recovery program of the German NGO HELP from Germany after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Between 2006 and 2009, he completed his PhD on the relevance of disaster preparedness and Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD) inside humanitarian assistance and rehabilitation activities after natural disasters.