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Environment and emergencies forum

(UTC+01:00) Brussels, Copenhagen, Madrid, Paris
12:00 - 13:00

Networking Lunch and Registration

  • Welcoming Note by Edem Wosornu, Chief of the Response Support Branch, OCHA, and Cécilia Aipira, Chief of the Disaster & Conflict Branch, UNEP.
  • Welcome and Introduction of Agenda by Julia Stewart-David, Acting Director for Disaster Preparedness and Prevention, as SAGEE Chair

The high-level panel discussion aims to provide a taster of the issues to be addressed throughout the two days of the Environment and Emergencies Forum. One of the key cross-cutting issues is the growing human impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, which are rapidly changing the risk landscape and nature of emergency preparedness and response. The panel will also address how climate change can compound risks of other disasters and crises – from conflict to industrial disasters. It will also highlight how knowledge of addressing those secondary risks will be more important in the face of climate change, but also how that knowledge and expertise will have to be adapted to the new reality.   

The panelists will also delve into the need for integration of environmental considerations in humanitarian planning and implementation, and explore best practices and innovative solutions that can help bridge the gap between climate action and humanitarian action

The objective of this discussion is to bring together experts and leaders in the field of climate change and humanitarian action to shed light on the challenges and opportunities associated with this critical issue.

Ultimately, the objective of the panel discussion is to raise awareness of the critical role that environmental sustainability and resilience play in the response to climate change and humanitarian crises, and to encourage collaboration and cooperation between the climate and humanitarian communities in order to achieve a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of NRC, will bear witness to the humanitarian impacts of climate change and the importance of making humanitarian responses more environmentally sustainable.

Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Director, Sunway Centre for Planetary Health , would look at the health impacts of climate change.

Environmental emergencies caused by natural and/or manmade hazards cause significant environmental damage generating impacts on human health, biodiversity, ecosystems and on people's livelihoods, reflected in massive economic losses each year. The environmental impacts of disasters and emergencies further undermine affected people’s coping strategies, increasing their humanitarian needs and weakening their resilience. Those impacts leave behind environmental legacies and set back sustainable development and good environmental management. Rapid identification and mitigation of environmental risks are key elements of an effective emergency response. Equally important, is the creation and strengthening of partnerships and networks that aim to improve emergency preparedness and response. For example, the UN-chaired Regional Environment and Emergencies Preparedness Network for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) aims to raise awareness within environment ministries and other arms of government of the relationship between environment and emergencies in LAC, while continuously conducting capacity building activities. Likewise, at a global level, the Joint Environment Unit (JEU) coordinates international response to the environmental dimensions of emergencies upon the request of the affected countries, for which the JEU relies strongly on its partners. Further, the JEU regularly organizes the Environment and Emergency Training (EET), which allows to keep a common understanding of knowledge required for environmental experts that are expected to be deployed. With increase in occurrence and intensity of natural hazards, as result of climate change, population growth, conflict, and economic development, it becomes more crucial than ever to strengthen and expand partnership and collaboration for better addressing environmental emergencies and be better prepared to face them.

The Beirut explosion highlighted the need for assessing and identifying the potential impacts of industrial hazards, and the war in Ukraine has increased the importance of this due to the hazardous industries that could increase the devastation in the country. Industrial hazards in high-risk countries pose to make the situations of those countries worse. In case of accidents, there could be severe consequences on human health and the environment, including in other affected countries. Prevention, anticipation, preparedness and response require multi-disciplinary approaches and cooperation while navigating industrial hazards and their potential impacts. Providing capable resources to mitigate the risks would ease the pressure of the emergency responders and lessen the effects of an industrial accident.


The challenge faced by many humanitarian aid agencies is that real-world security simulations are costly to put in place and frequently high-risk. However, online learning methodologies fail to give participants the immersive feeling needed to train staff on more complex tasks. In this context, creating realistic scenarios is crucial for training participants to respond effectively in real-life situations. Therefore, there is a need to explore how mobile devices and mixed-reality games can have a role in the creation of more immersive and participatory simulations and role-plays.


15:45 - 16:15

Coffee Break

Environmental degradation as a result from large-scale natural disasters or protracted crises is a common phenomenon and especially severe in fragile ecosystems having a low resilience. The restoration of the affected ecosystems is indispensable to avoid long lasting impact on the affected ecosystems and the livelihoods of local and displaced. The affected communities are leading the restoration following a conflict-sensitive approach.

The session will present the SDC/UNHCR pilot restoration project from Eastern Chad where the degraded ecosystems in the surroundings of old Sudanese refugee camps have been restored using Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR). The growth of the natural regeneration of protected Acacia trees (A. senegal, producing the highly valuable gum Arabic) was very spectacular after only two years.

The Chad case will be further discussed from the perspective of environmental restoration (UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration), agroforestry/regreening and nature-based solutions.

Furthermore, this case study illustrates practically the challenges and opportunities of working in the humanitarian-development-peace nexus.



  • Urs Bloesch, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
  • Patrick Worms, Senior Science Policy Advisor (CIFOR-ICRAF)
  • Thierry Lucas, Biodiversity coordinator – Europe, UNEP
  • Verónica Ruiz, Project Manager, Climate and Disaster Resilience, IUCN
  • James Mwangi, Environment Officer, UNHCR


  • Cécilia Aipira, Chief, Disaster and Conflict Branch UNEP


Depending on their nature and severity, disasters can create large volumes of debris and waste. The waste can overwhelm existing solid waste management facilities and impact on other emergency response and recovery activities. If poorly managed, the waste can have significant environmental and public health impacts and can affect the overall recovery process.

On 4 August 2020, the largest non-nuclear blast in modern history took place in Beirut, Lebanon, after an estimated 2750 tons of unsafely stored ammonium nitrate exploded. The blast killed at least 220 people and injuring over 6,000. Over 40,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed. At the request of the United Nations Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and OCHA Country Office in Lebanon, a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team was deployed to Beirut from 5 to 27 August. The UNDAC team embedded a staff member from the UNEP/OCHA Joint Environment Unit (JEU). An Emergency Operations Cell was established to coordinate international response, in support of national efforts. As part of the international coordination structure, an Environment Cell, led by the JEU staff member, was created to ensure environmental coordination. As a result of the

mission, the hazardous materials found at the port during the immediate response phase have been mapped and advice on rapid mitigation of related acute environmental risks was provided in real-time and actioned, to prevent cascading negative humanitarian and environmental impacts. Training on dealing with asbestos and other hazardous waste during ongoing clean-up operations was provided to environmental NGOs to raise awareness. The incident further highlighted the necessity to enhance readiness for any similar events in the future as well as the importance of a comprehensive disaster waste management strategy.


17:30 - 19:30

Networking Cocktail venue: Sofitel


Environmental screening of the humanitarian response projects and activities is being appropriated more widely by humanitarian actors. The importance of a tool accessible and adapted to the humanitarian community for conducting environmental screening has been driving the design and implementation of NEAT+. The session will look at the use of NEAT+ in the specific context of emergency preparedness and recovery, taking stock of field initiatives/good practices and barriers in the use of the tool, looking ahead how the technology can still continue to serve humanitarian action in improving the quality and effectiveness of prevention, response, and solutions to humanitarian crises in a context of growing climate risks and vulnerabilities, and increasing needs.


Introduction on the Joint Initiative: what does the project aim to do, and how ? Focus on the project’s holistic approach to the issue of packaging (upstream/downstream using circular economy approaches) and its role as a platform for knowledge-sharing and coordination.

State of the art: the Joint Initiative has undertaken the first ever baseline study of packaging data within the humanitarian sector. Key figures and trends will be shared along with challenges and recommendations. Actors can use the packaging measurement methodology and tool developed by the JI to start measuring their packaging.


2 Participants

The Climate crisis is a humanitarian crisis. It is not a distant problem for 2030 or 2050. It is unfolding on the humanitarian frontlines worldwide and is a top driver of humanitarian needs and human suffering.  The impacts threaten to deepen already wide inequalities, resulting in consequences such as instability, violence, and displacement.

The growing urgency of the climate crisis calls for a new level of integrated action in order to address growing and soaring humanitarian needs while helping communities prepare for, adapt to, respond to and being resilient to the cascading impacts of climate extremes.  There is a growing recognition that adaptation and resilience-building must be scaled up and mainstreamed across all humanitarian actions. Yet, many humanitarian organisations have not worked out how best to address the climate crisis. They are struggling to keep up and they must change how they work to keep pace with the escalation of climate-related disasters.

Organized as an inter-active session, the discussions at this panel will consider how the humanitarian system, its partners - including development and environment actors and donors -can be more effective in adapting and responding to the wide-range of impacts of the climate crisis.  The Panel will also identify concrete measures that enable humanitarian actors taking climate change and its variability into consideration in their policy, operations and institutional arrangement.


2 Participants

10:15 - 10:45

Coffee Break

In combination with the growing impacts of the climate crisis on the environment and the cascading effects of conflicts, the humanitarian community can work towards a common approach that brings in the different environmental lenses that foster tailor made analysis, share experiences on effective responses, methods and join forces in strengthening the environmental, peace and security approach.


10:45 - 12:15

Parallel donor-only discussion on how to support the JEU

12:15 - 12:45

Outcomes of the sessions and next steps



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