– As the Global South works to overcome a history of weak institutions, armed conflict and poverty-driven forced exodus, key causes of its humanitarian crises, developing countries now have to also fight to keep global warming from compounding their problems.
“Disaster Risk Reduction and climate change adaption in fragile and conflict-affected states in the Global South have long been overlooked, as it is often perceived as too challenging or a lower priority,” Janani Vivekananda, an expert in security and climate change, told IPS.
Vivekananda, the head of Environment, Climate Change and Security in International Alert, a London-based non-governmental organisation working to prevent and end violent conflict around the globe, cited her country, Sri Lanka, as an example of problems shared by developing countries.
“Given the fragile political situation since 25 years of violent conflict ended in May 2009, ensuring that climate impacts do not fuel latent conflict dynamics is critical,” she said from London.
A politically unstable developing island nation like Sri Lanka, and many other countries in the South, will see their problems multiply in a warmer planet with higher sea levels, she said.
“Climate change is the ultimate ‘threat multiplier’: it will aggravate already fragile situations and may contribute to social upheaval and even violent conflict,” says “A New Climate for Peace”, an independent report commissioned in 2015 by members of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthiest nations.
This is the challenge faced by the governments and organisations that will attend the first World Humanitarian Summit to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul. The conference was convened by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “to generate strong global support for bold changes in humanitarian action.”
At the summit, the delegates will search for ways to integrate the traditional conception of humanitarian emergencies with new crises, such as those caused by climate change, which this year caused record high temperatures.
“This is why the World Humanitarian Summit’s initiative to remake the humanitarian system is so timely and so important,” said Vivekananda.
Ahead of the summit this week, torrential rains drove nearly 200,000 Sri Lankans from their homes, and 35 were killed by landslides, she said, citing one illustration of a crisis generated by climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that in the absence of policies that effectively curb greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures will rise by four degrees Celsius by 2100.
And even if the world were to reach the “safe limit” for global warming – a rise of 1.5 to 2.0 degrees C, the target agreed in the Paris Agreement in December – the effects would still be felt around the planet, warns the IPCC, which decided in April to prepare a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The landmark climate deal is one of the key elements that the national delegations will have when they reach Istanbul, along with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed in September, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, agreed in March 2015.