IFRC Victor Lacken. A man carries a pile of wood in Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. The camp houses people who have fled violence in neighbouring Rakhine State, Myanmar.

‘The majority of the camp population uses firewood to cook with. A recent study indicates that between three and five football fields are being cleared every day for collection of firewood from surrounding woodland. Firewood has become an expensive commodity, causing conflict with the local population and is seen as a protection issue particularly to women and girls.’

Environmental Assessment Report

IFRC Bangladesh Population Movement Operation

What is Green Response?

During disasters, the immediate imperative for the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is to save lives, reduce suffering, damage and losses, and to protect, comfort and support affected people. Whilst life-saving interventions must always remain the priority aim of any emergency response operation, the Movement recognizes that it must take action to minimize its adverse impacts on the surrounding environment and eco-systems.

Emergency response can have many different impacts on the environment and ecosystems. The impact is dependent on the types of intervention undertaken and the approaches used, as well as the scale and broader context of the response, including the fragility/ strength of the environment and ecosystems. Green Response focuses on improving practices before a disaster strikes, whilst also advising and improving practices during response operations.

Green Response is a way in which we, as a Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, approach our work that emphasizes stronger accountability towards affected populations by actively promoting alternative, more environmentally beneficial solutions in addressing needs. In short it is about extending the fundamental humanitarian principle of ‘do no harm’ to the environment and ecosystems which the people we seek to assist are reliant on, recognizing that sustainability is generated through environmentally sound actions.

Mainstreaming Green Response in operational contexts can facilitate a swifter recovery and builds on established mechanisms in the communities – with a further opportunity of enabling more innovative, environmentally sustainable solutions to be promoted and established. Green Response is thus not about saving the environment, but improving the environmental outcomes of life-saving operations, promoting positive possibilities whilst maintaining operational targets.

Want to learn more about Green Response? See the Green Response snapshot

The long-term outcomes that Green Response aims for are three-fold

The first one is to incorporate environmental considerations into each step of the humanitarian response cycle, including response preparedness, and to ensure that all interventions carry a green minimum standard or commitment target.
Examples from this work can be found here:

  • Case study: Greening IFRC Supply chains
  • Information on ongoing project to develop “Environmental Country Profiles” to inform Shelter and Settlement programing
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    The second one is to identify, consider and mitigate the environmental impacts that result from emergency response.
    Examples from this work can be found here:

  • Case study: Environmental Field Advisor in the IFRC Bangladesh Population Movement Operation
  • Environmental Assessment Report, IFRC Bangladesh Population Movement Operation
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    And the third and final one is to equip the Movement to advance environmental considerations through its policy, networks, partnerships and practices and to influence others to mitigate the adverse effects on the environment that result from emergency response operations.

    Examples of this work is the ongoing process of developing an environmental policy for the IFRC Secretariat. Another example is the contribution to the recent review of The Sphere Handbook to mainstream environmental concerns and climate change adaptation in the different technical chapters.

    Why adopt a Green Response approach?

    Because a degraded environment will ultimately hinder the survival and recovery prospects for the people affected by disasters, and can increase the risk for future disasters.

    Because as humanitarians, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is accountable, first and foremost towards beneficiaries and implementing partners, but also towards donors.

    Because it is Value for Money; increasing local capacity and reducing vulnerability and potential economic impact of disasters, together with preparedness and risk reduction measures will enable an efficient and effective response with long-term durable solutions. Equitable emergency response operations can be carried out into quicker self-recovery and development phases. It does not necessarily cost more to be Green, in fact as a rule, it is much more cost-effective in the long-term.

    Because flying 120 metric ton of relief materials over 2,000 km equates to 325 metric ton of CO2 equivalent, approximately what 50 hectares of tropical forest
    captures per year.

    Because national legal frameworks increasingly incorporate elements linked to the environment which could hinder response if not addressed beforehand.

    Because plastic waste, including from water-bottles, plastic packaging etc. will outweigh
    fish in the world’s oceans by the year 2050.