As the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said – 2021 is going to be the make or break year for climate action.
And the triple threat of conflict, climate change and COVID-19 has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that is still growing. An estimated 237 million people will require humanitarian assistance this year, a record high. Many of these people are among the very most vulnerable to climate change. Some are tragically facing famine.
It is therefore vital that our efforts to address climate change include a sufficient focus on these contexts, where humanitarian need is concentrated.
At COP26, the UK aims to represent the interests of all Parties in this process, but there is a very real risk that the voice of people in fragile and conflict-affected contexts has been significantly weakened, where protracted conflict has left governments unwilling or unable to engage.
Theirs are the voices most at risk of being drowned out or forgotten in the wider debate – so we must make an extra effort to listen to them and to hear them.
Gender inequality and other forms of inequality and exclusion, such as those relating to poverty, race, ethnicity, disability and age, also drive vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and undermine resilience.
We must recognise this and build these dimensions into where and how we act so that our efforts support those who are the most vulnerable. We must ensure we meet our targets on adaptation, resilience and anticipatory action. Equally, it is vital that as we do so, we allocate resources and design our approaches effectively to support those who are most vulnerable and in greatest need.
In September last year, the UK launched a Call to Action to prevent famines and appointed the UK’s first Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs to drive this work. In South Sudan, Yemen and North East Nigeria, we see striking examples of the links between acute food insecurity, conflict, and climate vulnerability.
A greater shift in the way we work is needed. We must push for expanding the humanitarian-development-peacebuilding nexus to include climate actors and climate priorities more actively, and build a shared approach in those fragile and conflict-affected contexts where humanitarian need is greatest.