Greening the orange

How NRC is greening its humanitarian aid

Climate change is likely to affect people living in poor and conflict-affected regions more than anyone else. To address this, Grieg Foundation has partnered with leading aid organisation, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), to action a green shift in humanitarian aid.

One year ago, at the Global Refugee Forum, the Secretary General of NRC, Jan Egeland, committed his organisation to going carbon neutral.

It is a commitment that countless corporate leaders have made in recent years. But the motivation at NRC came not only from the top management level, but from the employees too. NRC staff all over the world initiated projects and set up internal forums to discuss ways they could be more environmentally friendly in their work.

But one important question remained. How does a global humanitarian organisation, with limited resources, fulfil this commitment?

“By working together, we can really do it”

Earlier this year, Grieg Foundation and NRC teamed up to kick-start a project that will help NRC and the wider humanitarian sector reach these green ambitions. The one-year project will see NRC set out a strategy for ensuring the organisation becomes carbon-neutral and increases environmental sustainability.

“Through this project, we believe that NRC can lead the way and provide tools that can equip the entire humanitarian industry for change,” says Grieg Chairperson Elna-Kathrine Grieg. “The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges of our time. We have to work together to find and share sustainable solutions.”

Jan Egeland is excited about the partnership. “We have discussed how we can make our organisation ‘greener’ for some time, but the initial investment has been holding us back,” he says. “By working together with Grieg Foundation, I’m optimistic that we can really do it.”

NRC’s regional office in Mankien, South Sudan, is now fully solar-powered. Replacing the old generators means cutting CO2-emissions, reducing noise pollution, saving on fuel costs and supplying energy 24/7.

Clean energy for all refugees

NRC has already taken some steps towards sustainability, from swapping diesel generators for solar panels in some offices in South Sudan, to protecting the rainforest in Colombia. NRC’s global provider of expertise, NORCAP, now has around 40 clean energy and climate experts working across the humanitarian, development and peace sectors. The partnership with Grieg Foundation will enable NRC to mainstream these types of initiatives right across the organisation.

It will also enable NRC to support the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in providing all refugee settlements and host communities with access to clean energy by 2030.

Grieg believe the benefits of the partnership will be far-reaching. “Grieg Foundation looks for innovative projects that can have a lasting impact and where our support makes a difference,” she explains. “NRC is one of the world’s leading displacement agencies engaging with the UN system, donors, NGOs and local partners. This project will have an impact across the globe.”

An existential threat

“I think it’s clear to us why we have to become greener,” says Egeland. “It would be totally immoral for us to witness more and more people displaced by climate change, and not respond. We want to not only mitigate the consequences of climate change, but also do our bit to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases that leads to climate change in the first place.”

Egeland is in no doubt about the urgency of the issue.

“Climate change is, and will remain, the biggest existential threat to humanity for this generation and the next,” he says. “The pandemic is bad and it’s paralysing us now. But threat of climate change will continue to build as a threat to all of us. So we must do all we can to fight it, and help people live through it.”