On the eve of COP28, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) urges global leaders to take urgent climate action that supports countries affected by the dual challenges of conflict and climate change. 

Far from being on the periphery of the fight against climate change, these climate-vulnerable, conflict-affected communities like Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria increasingly represent the sharp end of the climate crisis. While these communities only account for 10% of the global population and less than 3% of global carbon emissions, they also account for 60% of global humanitarian need, over 70% of internal displacement, a growing share of extreme poverty, and half of all people affected by natural disasters over the past 3 years. Despite these dire statistics, these same communities are only receiving one-third of the climate financing compared to their stable counterparts. 

The IRC’s Climate Action for the Epicenter of Crisis: How COP28 Can Address the Injustices Facing Conflict-Affected Communities lays out the four core areas IRC and its staff and clients in these communities are calling for at COP:

David Miliband, President and CEO of the IRC:

“This year’s COP must not fail climate-vulnerable states. Negotiations in Dubai must prioritize the distinct challenges faced by conflict-affected, climate-vulnerable countries that have been left out of business-as-usual global climate action thus far. Devastating flooding in Pakistan and Libya, drought and the resulting impact on food security in Somalia and Afghanistan all highlight the present danger of inaction.

“But it doesn’t end there. Climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing fractures in fragile societies. The lack of support means injustices in these communities in particular are growing. The litany of warnings issued by humanitarians and climate scientists alike continue ad infinitum: 1.5 billion people could be displaced by 2050 as a result of climate shocks, food insecurity and overall humanitarian needs without sufficient investments in climate resilience. 250,000 additional deaths per year are expected due to climate-induced malnutrition, malaria, and heat stress over the next 25 years -  the equivalent of 500 Boeing 747s crashing every year during that same period. Twenty years of progress toward gender equity could be reversed if the impact of climate change on women goes unaddressed. 

“Behind a sea of dire statistics is a clarion call. The IRC and the people it represents are calling for a focus on the solutions within our grasp, and the clear opportunity presented by COP28 to make them a reality for millions. 

“The recently-released Climate Relief, Recovery, and Peace Declaration is a critical first step, recognizing the unique effects of the climate crisis on fragile and conflict-affected communities and making important calls for scaling up more accessible climate financing, investing in innovative climate adaptation program for these settings, and ensuring women, disability, and youth-led organizations have a seat at the table. But turning this substantive declaration into tangible impact for the communities hit hardest by the climate crisis will require an action plan to go with it. Governments, banks, climate funds and the private sector should endorse the declaration and commit to specific targets on the amount of finance going to these communities, the share going to adaptation, and the accessibility of this finance for non-governmental partners. 

“The bar for COP28 to be considered a success is whether it can commit to a new chapter of climate action- accountable to the least prioritized, and the most vulnerable.”