Remarks by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths at the COP27 High Level Roundtable on Climate Change and the Sustainability of Vulnerable Communities – Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, 8 November 2022 – World
As prepared for delivery
Honorable Prime Ministers
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak today.
I come here to represent the global humanitarian community which I have the honor to coordinate and on whose behalf I defend.
I want to focus my remarks on the perspectives of the humanitarian community on climate change, on our ideas, on our obligations and responsibilities. And on some of the ways we think, from this experience, we can better support people crushed by climate change.
The humanitarian community is defined by its global presence, by the primacy of the communities we serve, and by the courage and commitment of its members, including local and national frontline organizations.
This means that we are privileged to witness the terrible and undeserved impacts of climate change. We see them first hand. And because with privilege comes responsibility, we seek, at best, to support communities whose lives are being snatched and whose way of life is threatened.
None of the people I have met on my travels have contributed to the climate crisis. In fact, as we gather here in the beautiful city of Sharm el-Sheikh, I remember that we are on the continent that has the lowest total greenhouse gas emissions and the lowest per capita emissions .
Isn’t it the worst irony and most egregious injustice that the communities least responsible for the climate crisis are the most likely to suffer its consequences, and the least likely to receive climate finance to adapt? and recover from its impact?
Ladies and gentlemen,
The humanitarian community can provide a pathway to the experience of local communities to understand how we can collectively do better. We are where the needs are greatest.
We provide immediate support. We are getting better at anticipating disasters so communities can prepare and respond before shocks happen. We find ways to build longer-term resilience, even as we meet life-saving needs. And we have the tools and the know-how to provide quick and effective funds to local organizations operating in the most fragile places.
But the pace and scale of change is rapidly outstripping our ability to respond, pushing an overstretched humanitarian system to breaking point.
That’s why I want to make it clear that I’m not here to seek funds for humanitarian work. The climate crisis is not a crisis that the humanitarian system can solve. The number of people affected by climate-related disasters has doubled over the past two decades. Yet the funding needed this year to respond to escalating humanitarian crises around the world is a staggering 60% short.
We need your climate funding for the work that will eliminate the need for humanitarian aid.
Because the countries that are paying the price for my generation’s recklessness and the inaction of the big polluters are done waiting. They need climate money – not tomorrow, not in three years, they need it now.
Ladies and gentlemen,
What people on the front lines want from this COP is a paradigm shift to ensure desperately needed resources get to the right place at the right time.
Here’s how it could be done:
First, as others have noted here, funding pledged to developing countries must be delivered in full. And half of that must be spent on helping people adapt to the changes already in place.
Second, we need to stop shifting development climate money to humanitarian budget lines.
There is an urgent need to find new sources of funding so that these sectors can work together. We need more funding for resilience and adaptation, because less resilience today means more humanitarian needs tomorrow.
My friends, in just 12 days on average, the six largest oil and gas companies generated enough profit to cover humanitarian needs around the world for an entire year, according to Oxfam data.
That means one day’s oil profits could fund a year’s worth of aid to Afghanistan or Ukraine.
Why do Somalis have to starve to death in the wake of a climate catastrophe, when so much money is filling the pockets of those responsible for environmental destruction?
This seems immoral and unfair to me. I wholeheartedly echo the Secretary-General’s call for a windfall tax on oil and gas profits.
Third, I urge the G20 to follow through on its commitment to reallocate US$100 billion in special drawing rights to low-income countries and strengthen the common framework that allows countries with unsustainable debt to restructure them. Countries must be able to afford the essential investments needed to adapt to climate change. I also want to make it clear that middle-income countries facing systemic risk due to climate change also need much better support.
Without loans on better terms, the Pakistans, Fijis, Barbados and Kenyans of this world will find it increasingly difficult to bounce back from crises.
Fourth, governments must urgently fund early warning and early action. When early warning systems are linked to effective anticipatory action, they can reduce suffering and the financial costs of humanitarian action.
Finally, countries must commit funds for loss and damage. The impacts of the crisis are now so severe that for many adapting is no longer an option. They desperately need help now.
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.