Since last year's COP27 meeting, the world has seen worsening heatwaves, droughts and floods. Extreme weather patterns are destroying people's homes and ability to earn a living, especially in conflict-affected countries. Global climate actionespecially in these contextshas never been more necessary. 

What is COP28?

COP (Conference of the Parties) is a global climate conference, where governments from around the world agree on policies to tackle climate change. This year COP is taking place in the United Arab Emirates from November 30 to December 12, 2023. 

COP stands for “Conference of the Parties” which refers to the meeting between governments (parties) who have promised to act on climate change. This year’s conference will be the 28th hence the shortened name COP28.

The Conference is expected to convene over 70,000 participants, including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts and youth representatives.

Why is COP28 important?

Climate change is happening now and its devastating effects are focused within a small handful of countries. These countries bearing the brunt of climate crisis are not being supported by climate action, despite contributing very little to emissions. At COP28 world leaders must address climate injustice and support countries where climate change is contributing to natural disasters, food insecurity, displacement and suffering. 

Addressing climate injustice

While climate change is a global crisis, it does not impact all countries equally.

Countries like Afghanistan, Syria and South Sudan are bearing the brunt of rising temperatures, alongside the devastating effects of conflict. Just 16 countries1 now make up 60% of global humanitarian need. In all of these countries climate change is exacerbating existing problems caused by conflict and extreme poverty. 

1. The IRC has identified 16 countries at the epicenter of crisis, where climate change and conflict are combined: Afghanistan; Burkina Faso; CAR; Cameroon; DRC; Ethiopia; Mali; Mozambique; Myanmar; Niger; Nigeria; Somalia; South Sudan; Sudan; Syria and Yemen.

Abuk, holding her 4-year-old son, walks through the floods surrounding her home in South Sudan.
Abuk, holding her 4-year-old son, walks through the floods surrounding her home in South Sudan.
Photo: Adrienne Surprenant

This is despite people in these countries having done the least to contribute to the climate crisis and being the least prepared for its impacts. They are on the frontlines and reeling from its effects. More frequent and intense natural disasters and extreme weather are destroying livelihoods, intensifying conflicts, and uprooting people from their homes.

The IRC is calling on world leaders to prioritize conflict-affected states in climate action. In practice, that means making climate change adaptation a global priority for countries where climate change is already the reality. These countries need funding and specific policies that focus on improving climate adaptation, resilience and preparedness for climate shocks. This includes anticipatory action programs, where people likely to be impacted by climate change are given resources to prepare for its impacts.

Climate action for women and girls

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change. COP28 is an opportunity to address this imbalance and put women at the heart of climate change action.

Women and children are up to 14 times more likely to be killed by climate disasters than men. Displacement and poverty resulting from disasters can also lead to increases in gender-based-violence and child marriage

Women and girls are also more likely to depend on agriculture and have fewer opportunities to relocate or adapt their farming model when faced with effects of climate change. The IRC is calling for world leaders to address this imbalance by funding adaptation and climate resilience programs that will support small-scale farmers. Furthermore, climate finance needs to be more accessible to non-governmental and women-led organizations.  

80-year-old Hawo at her farm with goats in Somalia
“Droughts are not new to me, but to my experience, this is the worst I have ever seen.” 80-year-old Hawo Hashi Mohamud of Somalia during the unprecedented 2022 drought in East Africa.
Photo: Martha Tadesse for the IRC

What the IRC is calling for at COP28

The IRC is calling for:

Read more details about the IRC’s climate action plan in our report: 

How is the IRC working to tackle climate change?

The IRC works in some of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world, where conflict and extreme poverty are exacerbated by climate disasters like droughts and floods. We have been working in many of these contexts for decades, providing humanitarian aid, responding to droughts and protecting livelihoods under threatall while putting women and girls’ agency at the center of our work.

But climate change is also presenting new challenges that require innovative solutions in the countries on the frontline of climate change.

Anticipatory action in Northeast Nigeria

Northeast Nigeria is particularly prone to flooding and the community rely on farming and livestock for food and livelihoods, making them highly vulnerable to floods. Together with local partners, the IRC is mapping flood risks in the area, and providing anticipatory cash assistance to households before floods occur. This means the community can prepare for and avoid the worst effects of climate shocks.

Nyapar Kujiek received support from the IRC Women’s Empowerment Center to build her farming business in South Sudan.
Nyapar Kujiek received support from the IRC Women’s Empowerment Center to build her farming business in South Sudan.
Photo: Raissa Karama Rwizibuka

Seed security in Syria, South Sudan, Pakistan and Niger

In Syria the IRC is working directly with farmers to test, identify and multiply seeds most suited to a changing climate. This project is also targeted at women working in agriculture, encouraging women’s participation as early adopters of new climate-resistant crops.

Read more about climate change and the IRC.