By Claudia Brauer
Throughout our lives, we sometimes come to a point where we say “what can I do” to remedy this or that situation. Unfortunately, most of the time we actually end up doing nothing. Inertia, lack of time, the absence of resources, deficient policies, scarce guidelines, inconsistent programs. We can always find a reason not to get involved. Tackling climate change is one of such subjects. Often, we acknowledge the existence of a problem, but feel hopeless or don’t know what to do about it or how to be part of the solution. I would like to open the window to many possibilities that are out there, which you can support or even replicate. Initiatives that give us ideas on what to do next, how to do it, where, and with whom.
Moreover, there is a proposal called the Copenhagen Theory of Change, that states “that we should be asking people to volunteer to save our climate by taking many small, individual actions”. Let’s then open our hearts and our minds to try and find at least one idea (here or elsewhere) that we can commit to, and then, let's invest time and effort in making it part of our lives. If each one of us contributes a little, the lot itself will be immense.
Recent innovations to deal with climate change
Most of us understand that profound changes are needed if we want to successfully tackle the climate change dilemma in the coming decade and leave a decent world for future generations. At a macro level, we need “green” solutions to the massive problems we are facing in power generation, transportation, food production, manufacturing and buildings (lighting, power, heating and cooling systems). For example, almost 25% “of global energy-related CO2 emissions” in the world are related to transportation. This industry continues to rely heavily on fossil fuels. Similarly, another 25% of CO2 emissions result from feeding the world’s population, including the consumption of meat, which processes have a negative impact on climate change.
Some governments are already planning or implementing new environmental policies that should be effective across industries in areas such as energy efficiency improvement, a step crucial to drive eco-innovation in our “transition toward a low-carbon economy”. As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Partnerships Platform, the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign has enlisted the participation of some 700 local governments that are now integrating climate change mitigation into their decision-making processes. Success stories have been recorded in many regions, from Asia to Africa, North and South America. For example, the mobility projects in Mexico City have helped “diminish air pollution generated by vehicles, while also providing more transportation options for people in peripheral locations or vulnerable situations”.
A recent article by Joe McCarthy, published in the Global Citizen’s website, describes in detail several innovations that aim at rehabilitating, protecting, and rejuvenating the Earth, including the amazing accidental development of plastic-eating enzymes! These enzymes can break down plastic in days, instead of the hundreds of years that normally takes plastic to decompose.
Another interesting article in the innovation webpage of Ben & Jerry (yes, the ice cream business) talks about harnessing earth’s natural heat and even the energy captured in the movement of ocean waves; or transforming the millions of miles of asphalt that make up the highways of our planet to capture and transfigure them into sources of clean and renewable energy. There are even plans underway to transform power plant pollutants into baking soda and to use pellets as an alternative to coal!
Community-based initiatives to wrestle with climate change
At a grassroots level, there are thousands of efforts around the world trying to contribute a drop of water to possible solutions. Each one of us individually and all of us collectively are stakeholders in these issues. Why? Because we can participate in our communities and help underwrite and replicate those local initiatives that have been successful elsewhere. For example:
a) A community-based logging project promoted by local organizations in Noh-Bec (Mexico) pursues a sustainable logging industry that can protect the habitat while reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Noh-Bec’s forest management practices provide good habitat and a sustainable wood harvest while also ensuring that trees will continue helping sequestration of forest carbon, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
b) The city of Copenhagen in Denmark has motivated half of its habitants to commute to work by bicycle every day. This trend started after the oil crisis of the 1970s, when the residents made a personal commitment to ride bicycles rather than drive, out of moral principle, even if that was inconvenient for them.
c) A pilot project that is part of the United Nations Development Programme, “is designed to implement community-based projects that seek to enhance the resiliency of communities, and/or the ecosystems on which they rely, to climate change impacts. It will essentially create small-scale/policy laboratories and generate knowledge about how to achieve adaptation at the local level.” Some of these community-based projects include:
o In Bangladesh, community-based wetlands and diversifying agro-based activities
o In Bolivia, water source protection and soil conservation through reforestation; sustainable management of the cherimoya crop for climate change adaptation; and recovery of tarwi seeds for adaptation
d) Finally, let me mention that there is a Global Initiative on Community Based Adaptation (GICBA) that is a virtual network, an open platform, for organizations and individuals to share and learn project experiences, tools and methods on community-based adaptations to climate change. This should be a go-to resource for those who wish to foster grassroots movements and need some networking and support.
To end on the note I started, if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. There is no “in between” in terms of climate change. Either we are helping or we are harming the environment (even if just by being passive observers of the damage caused by others).
Conclusion: To be wrong, we don’t have to do something wrong, we may simply stand still while wrong is being done. Let’s make it right. Actions speak louder than words.
About UN CC:Learn
UN CC:Learn is a partnership of more than 30 multilateral organizations supporting countries to design and implement systematic, recurrent and results-oriented climate change learning. Through its engagement at the national and global levels, UN CC:Learn contributes to the implementation of climate change training, education and public awareness-raising.