Here’s how your NFP can get climate-change ready
12 August 2021 at 8:26 am
The impacts of climate change are already being felt globally. Longer droughts, catastrophic bushfires, and severe flooding put all parts of society at risk, including the charity sector. We take a look at what these risks are and how your organisation can deal with them.
On Monday, the IPCC released its most comprehensive report to date. Nearly 4,000 pages long and compiled by 234 authors, its big message was that if urgent action isn’t taken to combat climate change, the temperature of the planet could rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This would mean more serious and frequent fires, droughts, floods and cyclones.
Vulnerable communities that charities exist to serve, such as people experiencing homelessness, people with disabilities, and people living with poverty, are most impacted by these events, as they are unable to afford the resources to deal with a disaster, or have no way of escaping to safety.
These events also pose risks for health and community service sector organisations, their assets, people, clients and communities, which is why the South Australian Council for Social Services (SACOSS) and Red Cross Australia have teamed up to run a series of free workshops helping NFPs get a better understanding of what the risks are and how they can deal with them.
But because the workshops are only running in-person in SA, we asked the CEO of SACOSS, Ross Womersley, for some tips.
The need to look ahead
When disaster hits, charities are nearly always on the front line, offering their services to the people, animals and habitat, and communities affected.
But with these disasters becoming more frequent and harder to manage (you only need to look at the unprecedented 2019/20 summer bushfires), Womersley said it was critical that charities were taking into consideration how these events changed service delivery and the way organisations interact with communities.
“We need to be prepared to step up, recognise and identify the risks for our organisations and, very importantly, the people our organisations support,” Womersley told Pro Bono News.
“This will mean we are doing the best we can to ensure our sector is prepared, our organisations are prepared, and we can do the right thing at the right time to protect people and deliver vital services. And really, to play our part in rising to the challenges ahead of us.”
Being prepared is key
He said that when faced with everything from heat waves to flooding, it was critical that charities worked together.
“Existing networks and groups are so important to build on, [as is] nurturing collaboration between organisations,” Womersley said.
“By linking up we can do so much more to support each other and the communities we serve.”
While organisations dealing in the disaster relief space will have these plans in place, the impact of climate change means all organisations, no matter what sector or area they work in, will need to start preparing.
Womersley said that bringing the whole organisation on board to plan for disasters and emergencies was important so that everyone was on the same page.
“Emergency planning and preparedness is a big part of it – getting people involved in that critical planning so that if something happens you can be well prepared, well informed, and have those great systems and understanding of how everyone can swing into action and play their part,” he said.
Conveniently, there are a bunch of practical steps that your organisation can put in place now, to avoid a scramble when disaster does hit:
- Ensure you locate services outside of areas that would be at risk from increased flooding or tidal surge.
- Ensure there is adequate shade and planting around buildings you own – either offices or housing.
- Use renewable energy, and have insulation etc. to ensure buildings provide affordable thermal comfort and efficiency.
- Have policies and procedures in place to manage staff in times of extreme heat, storms, and power outages.
- Build the capacity of clients so they have contingencies in place to manage during extreme weather if staff are unable to provide services.
The impending climate crisis is a grim topic, but being prepared and adapting to the changing times will mean that your organisation is best placed to still be able to deliver services to the people that need it most.
And if you are a SA based charity or NFP and interested in learning more about climate resilience, there are multiple workshop sessions available in metro areas targeting different parts of the sector, and different sized organisations.
The first workshop for small organisations (under 50 staff) will be held on 18 August. Find out more here.