Organic logo design for HumiVerde
By Alice Hutchins

From the 3-14 December 2018, over 5000 climate leaders participated in the Global Climate Action Summit, a world-wide collaboration that aims to prevent the continuing adverse effects our carbon footprint and high consumer demand are having upon the environment and its ecosystems. Below, DERN discusses the environmental aspects of the summit, including resilience to natural disasters, the effects of deforestation, and ways to protect our coasts and oceans. To address the humanitarian aspects of the summit and human impact into cities, transportation and CO2 emissions, please click here.

Resilience- ‘Global warming is happening today, faster and stronger than expected. Already intensified storms and wildfires, more persistent droughts and creeping sea level rise are changing the shape of daily life.’  From the Summit Outcomes

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, so in the context of the disaster of climate change, it refers to our ability to withstand the impact of natural phenomena such as earthquakes. The Summit came together to address the issue of resilience, and begin implementing procedures that allow communities to be more equipped to handle the negative effects of climate change. A range of organisations within the conference have pledged to increase resources that enable communities affected by these disasters to with-stand the force of these catastrophes, and also become more equipped in dealing with the resulting aftermath. It has also been suggested that key targets need to be met within the next five years, regarding jurisdictions and infrastructure finances that may improve the durability of the buildings that must weather these increasing storms. Resilience indexes and policies allow governments to protect communities by being prepared for these calamities, and the long-term impacts of our changing climates.

Forests, Agriculture and Land-use-  ‘Establishing a bi-national protected region – off-limits to industrial scale resource extraction, and governed in accordance with traditional indigenous principles of cooperation and harmony that foster a mutually enhancing human-Earth relationship.’ From the Summit Outcomes

Deforestation and loss of natural vegetation sources also account for the endangerment and extinction of 50{ec5f16bc0d3188d22af0c52b0a003021539d5e8f81ad0cf83bf30b7820bde39f} of the world’s known species. Rainforests span for roughly 2{ec5f16bc0d3188d22af0c52b0a003021539d5e8f81ad0cf83bf30b7820bde39f} of the earth’s surface area, yet they host a myriad of flora and fauna species that are dependent on a healthy eco system. This is a vital reason why they must be protected, and the Climate Change Summit has suggested several ways in which we can reduce our harmful influence in coming years. Starting in areas like Ecuador, Brazil and Malaysia, governments and organisations within the conference are proposing the restoration of around 4,000 hectares of endangered forest areas, as well as significant reductions in unsustainable sources of palm oil, cocoa and coffee. There are also schemas developing, regarding the fertility of soil, and increasing the efficiency of the agriculture and land we use, so that the soil is able to produce more food in smaller spaces, and able to support the re-growing ecosystems of reforestation and protected habitats. It is clear that there is a need for changes, and several organisations are committing to take the necessary steps, including collaborating with indigenous peoples to understand more about our ancient forests and how they can be protected.

However, these changes also need to be happening on an individual level. There are small steps that every person can take to consciously reduce their effect on the planet. Possible ways that people can help prevent deforestation include using sustainably sourced products, recycling paper and cardboard, and making meal choices that can benefit health and the environment. It is suggested that if every family ate just one meat-free meal a week, this would reduce the amount of forest space needed to grow livestock, reduce the amount of meat consumed by the overall population, and subsequently consume less of the struggling planet to support it.

Coasts and Oceans- ‘Corals will be transplanted into reefs with optimal conditions for restoration (e.g. in marine protected areas), where they will monitor for various impact metrics, such as coral growth rates and survivorship, changes in marine life diversity and abundance’. From the Summit Outcomes.

There has been a heightened awareness in the media, in zoo’s around the world, and in recreational areas about the negative effects of plastics and how many of them are making their way into the seas, since the release of BBC’s Blue Planet. With all life on earth being linked to and dependent on the seas and the planets water sources, it is imperative that we reverse the effects of climate change to stop sea-levels rising, polar ice melting and plastic pollutants making their way into the vulnerable food-chain of the sea. The rise in the earth’s temperature is beginning to affect the sea’s water systems and bleaching the corals as a result which destabilises the fragile balance that exists within these underwater cities.

In order to tackle this issue, the summit proposes to begin growing new corals on land, at an accelerated rate of 50 times faster than they naturally occur in our seas. Once the corals have been grown, they will be safely transported to locations around the world where they will be placed in healthy ecological environment, ready to become part of new reefs. Here they will be monitored for life, to ensure that they and their dependent species are growing healthily, that the coral count increases, and that the food-chain supported by coral reefs is functioning, which will in turn increase the over-all health of species in our waters.

‘Oceans are the origin of all life, without our oceans there would be no life on earth. Yet we take our oceans for granted, we over-fish them, we pollute them with oils and plastics and kill many of the fragile species that call our oceans home. We are damaging our planet, and nowhere is that truer than in the vast seas. Humans are capable of great destruction, climate change is proving that, but we are also capable of great change. A few small choices, such as buying sustainably sourced fish and using environmentally friendly products will help protect our planet so that we can start to reverse the harm we are causing. The time to act is now’ – Molly Hutchins, Marine Biologist and Conservationist. 

Hopes are high that the summit will achieve its aims, organisations and businesses will uphold their commitments, and individuals on a global scale will begin to adapt our behaviours to prevent future disasters. The resounding message from the conference:

‘We are the last generation that can stop climate change’ – Global Climate Action Summit.

Global Climate Action Summit 

Alice is a Creative Writing Graduate from the University of East Anglia and has recently joined the ImpacTeam, Department of Government at the University of Essex.  This is Alice’s travel blog.