The COP 26 just ended in Glasgow, UK, with a new Climate Pact. This conference is part of a cycle of events which have happened every year since 1995 to discuss the climate crisis on a global level. Since the Paris Agreement of 2015, most of the world’s countries have committed to try and limit global warming to well below 2°C, and to aim for 1.5°C. To do that, all countries must respect their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), starting with the historical biggest emitters of CO2. But difficult negotiations remain about how to support poorer countries on this road and to pay for the already existing damage caused by climate change.
Climate change, the biggest threat of our time
Scientists have warned us for years. Climate Change is the biggest threat contemporary society has ever faced. Today, our planet is about 1 degree Celsius hotter than it was 200 years ago, largely because of human petroleum-based activities. To prevent severe climate change, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in every sector, starting with energy, heat and transport which are the biggest contributors (73%), followed by agriculture (18%), the industry (5%) and the waste sector (3%). Several solutions exist to analyse and improve the life cycles of our products and activities, from the design phase to the end-user applications. In that regard, it’s important not to forget every aspect of a product’s life, including the digital – which is responsible for a 9% annual increase in energy consumption – but also the need for raw materials (copper, lithium, cobalt, etc.), mainly used in the production of our mobile phones.
Climate change mitigation versus climate change adaptation
While Climate change mitigation refers to reducing the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, climate change adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent the damage they can cause. This could imply supporting people living on coastal regions who are forced to move to adapt to rising sea levels, undertaking reforestation activities to prevent flood risks or even understanding how climate change is impacting agriculture and the types of crops that can be grown. But adapting to climate change also means to take into account its impact on global health. In 2017, 157 million vulnerable people were exposed to heat waves globally, with European countries particularly at risk because of a greater prevalence of eldery people living in urban areas. From an epidemiological point of view, infectious diseases are also more likely to rise because of multiple favorable conditions, including greater promiscuity with wild animals due to deforestation.
The role of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement
Because of its expertise in reducing disaster risk and vulnerability, Climate change adaptation is at the heart of the Red Cross Red Crescent mission. Nevertheless, mitigation is also a crucial item on the agenda of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement with what is called the ‘Green Response’. This initiative has the goal of mitigating the environmental impacts of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement emergency activities while learning from local actors in the implementation of nature-based solutions, as stated in the Climate and Environmental Charter. The International Committee of the Red Cross Red Crescent whose mission is to protect victims of conflicts also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, compared to 2018 levels, including all direct and indirect emissions.
To reduce the carbon footprint of humanitarian organisations, many solutions exist. In Japan for instance, the Kumamoto Hospital of the Japanese Red Cross and Toyota have launched the first zero emission hydrogen ambulance that they are currently testing in real medical care situations. This project is one of the various solutions developed by the Kumamoto Hospital which is functioning as an open innovation lab for humanitarian technologies by collaborating with various stakeholders such as academia, private sector and public institutions.
Decarbonising the social and humanitarian sector is a big challenge. All over the world, several social enterprises are offering solutions to support global NGOs on that road. In India for instance, the Barefoot College organisation has been propelling solar electrification since 1972 by empowering rural – often illiterate – women so that they can learn how to build, install, and maintain solar panels and batteries in their communities. Active in 93 countries, Barefoot College also teaches women key personal and livelihood skills through the Enriche program.
In the UK, the social enterprise Deciwatt has created an independent off-grid lamp to replace kerosene lighting in India and Africa. By pulling a cord for just one minute, the lamp creates up to two hours of light or 15 minutes of talk time on a mobile phone.
Some of these solutions have been further explored during ‘45 minutes’, an event dedicated to bridging the gap between the humanitarian sector and the social entrepreneurship ecosystem, organised by RED Social Innovation. In partnership with Stanford Social Innovation Review and the Climate Centre, this event happened on December 9th, see replay below!
RED Social Innovation and the Climate Centre