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The Climate Crisis

From 2024 onwards, our ambition is to scale up our climate resilience programmes, to support greater numbers of people.
Water coming out of a borehole

Why are we acting on the climate crisis? 

As a Jewish and a humanitarian organisation, we are compelled to do everything we can to prevent the immense human suffering that is being driven by the climate crisis. We have therefore signed up to IFRC’s Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations, which requires us to reduce our own contribution to the problem by measuring, offsetting and reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions, scale-up our response efforts to support communities at the frontlines of the crisis facing intensifying climate-related disasters, and to proactively support these communities to build their resilience, so that they can cope themselves when disasters strike.

How are we reducing our own contribution to the climate crisis?

Compared to many humanitarian organisations, our carbon footprint is relatively low. We work through a network of local partner organisations and always buy goods locally, so our carbon emissions from procurement, distribution and travel are low. But we recognise that this is not enough; we follow minimal environmental standards in our humanitarian programmes.

We also know that some of our carbon emissions are unavoidable. So we work with company called Greenr to calculate and offset the emissions from our UK head office. As of 2021, this office has been carbon neutral. Our focus now is on measuring the emissions from our programmes, so we are collaborating with partners to create a simple carbon measuring system that can be rolled out across that we do.

How do we support communities to build climate resilience?

Climate resilience is a new term – essentially it means ensuring that communities can continue to improve their socio-economic development, despite the intensifying disasters such as floods, droughts, cyclones, and environmental changes such as shifting agricultural seasons and sea-level rise, that they are experiencing. We view a community as ‘climate resilient’ if it has the following capacities:

  • Awareness of how the environment is changing
  • Adapted livelihoods that are profitable even as the seasons shift
  • Assets that are protected from flooding, cyclones, sea level rise , e.g. toilets, homes, farmland
  • Disaster preparedness, i.e. early warning systems, shelters, a safe evacuation route
  • Disaster response, i.e. search and rescue teams, first aid kits and so on

This means that climate resilience is complex, and there is a lot that communities may need support with! We have therefore been implementing a diverse set of climate resilience programmes, since 2022. So far, we have supported communities across Myanmar, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, and Morocco, with new livelihoods that aren’t sensitive to climate conditions, adapted agricultural livelihoods, cyclone preparedness, early warning systems, and even flood-resistant toilets. Furthermore, we are ensuring that all of our humanitarian responses, whether to climate-related disasters or to earthquakes and conflict, have as little environmental impact as possible.

Climate resilience is also notoriously difficult to measure, so we collaborate with our partners to design resilience indexes which capture the success of each programme.

Where does our technical expertise on climate resilience come from?

Climate resilience is a complex, cross-cutting issue, so it requires a variety of expertise. We derive this from several sources, including our network of local partners organisations who know how to engage and inspire the participating communities, our own experience in responding to disasters and improving livelihoods, and newly hired staff with technical knowledge on climate resilience.

We also make sure to follow international best practices in our climate resilience programmes, such as IIED’s Locally Led Adaptation principles , CARE’s Adaptation Good Practices, and WMO’s Early Warning System checklist. From these, we have developed the following core principles that guide all of our climate resilience work. While many of these are used within our broader too, they are especially relevant to our climate work.:

  • Transformative: We target marginalised groups such as indigenous, landless, low caste, religious minority communities. This means addressing the underlying causes of inequality that prevent these groups from building resilience, such as access to land ownership, or gender inequality.
  • Participatory: We work with communities to ascertain what are their priorities and ambitions for climate resilience – with participatory CVCA (community vulnerability and capacity assessments), and focus group discussions
  • Localisation: Climate resilience programming is difficult to access for smaller, locally embedded NGOs. We intentionally partner with such organisations, and provide extensive training along with funding, so that they can build their own internal capacities on climate resilience and continue even after our programmes have finished.
  • Multi-year programming: We strive to provide long term funding, as resilience takes time to build, and our partner organisations need certainty to invest in building their capacity
  • Sustainable impact: We engage stakeholders such as local government departments and village forums in the design, implementation and review of our programmes, so that we can benefit from their knowledge, and they have ownership of the programmes aims and activities even after the funding ends.
  • Transform gender inequality: We seek partners with a deep commitment to reducing gender inequality, and provide extensive training ourselves and through hiring local gender advisors. We aim to include women in the design of all programmes, tailor activities to maximise women’s participation, collect gender disaggregated data on activity participation and outcomes, ensure that gender based violence risks are mitigated throughout the programme delivery, and work continuously with partners on safeguarding.

How are we continuing to learn?

Climate resilience is a fast-evolving field, so we make sure to keep up-to date with innovative solutions, and best practices. We attend regular trainings, provide resources and trainings to our local partners, and hire additional local staff such as gender advisors, M&E consultants and so on.

We also share as we learn; we have published articles about the lessons from our first year of climate resilience programmes, advised OLAM on the development of their Aspire Ethical Climate Practices, spoken at conferences such as OLAM Focal Point, Limmud. We have also supported our local partners to present their learnings from our programmes at the World Conference on Humanitarian Studies, and CARE Climate and Resilience Academy Alumni.

What are our goals for the future?

After a successful round of pilot programmes in 2022, we now know what works, and what doesn’t. From 2024 onwards, our ambition is to scale up our climate resilience programmes, to support greater numbers of people.

So far, we are privileged to be supported by Pears Foundation, Jusaca Charitable Trust, and James Zimmerman. We welcome any other donors / potential partners.