During the summer, while many have been racking up the air miles, a quiet, slow-burn climate reversal policy path has been trodden by Commonwealth and other leaders.
Following President Donald Trump’s June announcement of America’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Accord, many other countries have found new momentum on tackling climate change without Washington.
The process had been stepped up even before President Trump walked into the White House.
In November 2016, Patricia Scotland and her Commonwealth resources organised a workshop with the Cloudburst Foundation on Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change (RDRCC) in London. The Foundation describes itself on its website as ‘promoting the innovations, insights and initiatives that will enable a fulfilling and sustainable future for everyone on this planet, the Cloudburst Foundation works to facilitate the collaboration and actions that can make this dream a reality’.
By early July, the Commonwealth had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cloudburst Foundation for a new partnership. The agreement formalised collaboration on Cloudburst’s bankable projects to reverse the human impact of climate change.
While the phrasing ‘Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change (RDRCC) approach’ might leave many outsiders baffled, the project contains some non-press-release pragmatic solutions to helping people tackle climate change on basic levels.
Project Drawdown, as it is called, explains the objectives:
‘What was uncovered is a path forward that can roll back global warming within thirty years. It shows that humanity has the means at hand. Nothing new needs to be invented. The solutions are in place and in action. Our work is to accelerate the knowledge and growth of what is possible. We chose the name Drawdown because if we do not name the goal, we are unlikely to achieve it.’
Project Drawdown’s website outlines the goals in more detail.
While they include the obvious economies of scale of rooftop solar manufacturing for poorer countries with sunshine on tap, the project also includes the less obvious goal of educating girls.
The objective of the latter goal is that, by educating girls: ‘Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth’.
Other goals include Afforestation – creating forests where there had not been any before – and Telepresence – bringing people together through technology and services and cutting back on those conference and meeting air miles.
‘Bringing them together’
In an article for the New Statesman in June, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland wrote about the MOU, the project and the advantages of biomimicry – technology mimicking nature.
She gave examples of biomimickry, including the Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe which is modelled on termite mounds and land regeneration work in Rwanda.
Baroness Scotland wrote:
‘What I am saying is that the genius of man, which created technologies that have huge benefits for human beings but detrimental effects on our environment, is the same genius we will employ to help us through mitigation and adaption, and ultimately to reverse climate change and stop global warming. But there is a fundamental problem. We have ecologists, scientists, environmentalists and academics coming up with these solutions working in silos.
So what the Commonwealth began to do last October, when we had our first climate change reversal workshop, is to bring them together.’
She added: ‘My goal is to be able to offer every Commonwealth country a package of multidisciplinary, multisectoral solutions to this multidimensional problem. Collaboration and political will are key, because we will need to weave the ideas into our curriculum, insert them in our building codes and business regulations and integrate them into our gender, agricultural and environmental policies.’
Policing good intentions
As with all grand, well-meaning schemes, Cloudburst and the Commonwealth’s good intentions will need policing.
In July, the government of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia had been forced to defend its state “return and earn” scheme.
The state government gave the nod to Coca-Cola Amatil and other beverage companies to oversee the scheme which encourages people to earn 10 cents for every can or bottle returned to designated sites.
The state’s Greens said in a statement that: ‘The beverage industry furiously lobbied against the scheme for decades and now they will run it.’
Describing the management structure as a ‘scandal waiting to happen’, the NSW Greens said that it amounted to ‘putting the fox in charge of the henhouse’.
Environmental newsletter, Edie.net, marked Earth Overshoot Day on 2 August. The day marks the point where the planet can no longer regenerate resources to meet mankind’s demands.
The magazine said that the announcement of the day ‘was accompanied by advice on how people can reduce their own environmental impacts, with an emphasis on research from coalition Project Drawdown – which has devised the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming’.
Edie.net added that: ‘While Overshoot Day highlights the warnings that there is only a 5% chance of reaching the Paris Agreement, Project Drawdown captures the imagination of innovation’.
Not going to be easy
In a July interview to publicise his book Drawdown The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, Project Drawdown founder Paul Hawken was asked whether his message was better than the ‘everything’s-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket’ approach to climate change.
His answer to Yale Environment360 had been that: “It’s not a question of either/or. But I will say that a constant focus on the problem doesn’t solve the problem”.
He added: “Once you have a problem statement, what you don’t want to do is basically just push people’s face into it all the time. What you want to do is say, “Let’s go solve the problem.”
“What Drawdown is basically saying to the world is we’re focusing too much on the problem instead of the solution. We’ve never mapped, measured, and modelled the top solutions to global warming after 40 years of this being in the public sphere. We have in hand now, in a practical way, the solutions that are needed in order to reverse global warming. If they continue to scale in a rigorous but reasonable way, can we in fact achieve that tipping point where greenhouse gases peak and then go down on a year-to-year basis? The answer is yes.
“Somebody can come back at us and say, “That’s very difficult.” Yeah, OK. But, better know that we can do it and it’s difficult than to not know it at all. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It doesn’t mean the odds aren’t long. But at least it means that we actually know that there is a pathway through that we have at hand”.
Commonwealth Secretariat – New Commonwealth agreement to revolutionise climate action
New Statesman – In the fight against climate change, humanity has a choice of two futures
Yale Environment 360 – Paul Hawken on One Hundred Solutions to the Climate Crisis
The Australian – NSW defends cash for cans scheme
Edie.com – Earth Overshoot Day: Humanity has exhausted all of 2017’s natural resources.