As world leaders gather at COP26, the IRC calls for a more concerted effort to address climate change in Northern Central America, a root driver of migration which has helped push an unprecedented number of people this fiscal year to the US Southern border. In Northern Central America (Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala), millions of lives and livelihoods depend on strong political will at COP26. 

In 2020, more than 1.4 million people were internally displaced in Northern Central America, namely by climate change and conflict:  

Overall, climate change will only compound humanitarian need and displacement in the region. With two-thirds of those living in poverty globally working in agriculture, economic deprivation and negative coping strategies will only increase, with women and girls set to suffer most. Strain on natural resources, basic services and livelihoods drives conflict and fragility: 60% of the 20 countries identified as the most vulnerable to climate change are affected by armed conflict - which only reduces their mitigation ability. Forced displacement, already at record highs in 2021, will only increase: according to the World Bank, without immediate and concerted action, climate change could force over 200 million people worldwide into internal displacement alone by 2050. Overall, climate change impacts are estimated to contribute to more than 200 million people in need of international humanitarian assistance each year.

Meghan López, International Rescue Committee’s Regional Vice President of Latin America, said, “International cooperation and funding are necessary to address the root drivers of displacement, including climate change, that cause thousands of people to make the desperate journey out of Northern Central America to Mexico and the US. 

"The IRC supports an integrated response: both responding urgently to crises rooted in violence, inequalities and food insecurity while simultaneously building resilience to climate change. Donors must increase multiyear, flexible financing with a greater percentage of funding reaching frontline responders - including indigenous communities and women-led organizations experts in local biodiversity, agriculture and ecosystems. It is also critical that there is sufficient funding for early warning and early action mechanisms in response to rising food insecurity, with a focus on support to livelihoods before the onset of crisis, as well as targeted responses to the most vulnerable groups.

"Adaptation funding for states in Northern Central America and beyond is especially crucial - this is a today, not a tomorrow problem for these populations, facing emergency conditions at current levels of global warming. The IRC welcomes President Biden’s pledge to provide $3 billion in adaptation finance annually for those most vulnerable to climate change worldwide, but this is not nearly enough.  Climate finance to least-developed countries currently stands at $15 billion per year; the United Nations has estimated that $300 billion will be needed per year by 2030 for climate adaptation alone. As the most vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted, this cost only rises, and the needs only become more complex. These populations are being left alone to face a problem they did not cause.”

Through its Climate Action Plan, the IRC is committed to responding to the impacts of climate change on the communities we serve. As a feminist organization, the IRC aims to tackle inequalities of power for women and girls in climate change programs and policy. In the last year, the IRC has developed partnerships for advocacy and policy change at the intersection of climate change and peacebuilding. The IRC is a signatory of the InterAction NGO Climate Compact, and members of several working groups including Climate Mainstreaming and Environmental Sustainability. The IRC is also an original signatory of the WWF New Deal for Nature and People Call to Action and a member of the Global Resilience Partnership.