10+1 ways we’re acting on the climate crisis
The climate crisis is real and happening now. The people we support are often at the frontline of the climate emergency. The effects of climate change impact on their access to education and increases conflict over disappearing natural resources. Here are 10+1 ways we’re acting on the climate crisis by taking responsibility to mitigate, adapt and transform.
1. Measure our impact.
The first step is to take a long hard look at ourselves. What is our own environmental impact, for example in terms of emissions caused by travel? What stress are we causing to land, communities and nature in general by developing new projects? What about the resources we use – are our procurement chains sustainable?
We are committing to a thorough analysis of our operations, identifying ways we can make better and more sustainable use of our resources. At the same time, we are mainstreaming environmental impact into our project development, as well as finding ways to adapt to the climate crisis.
2. Reduce land use change.
Building a new school is something everyone can get onboard with, right? But we need to be careful when we’re erecting new structures to be sure we’re not building in an area of natural importance. Similarly, when developing agricultural projects, we need to be aware of the land’s biodiversity and its function in the ecosystem before changing that equation.
That’s why we try to rehabilitate schools before building new ones. And when we do build new, we make a detailed assessment of the impact on the environment, and identifying ways to reduce pollution in air, soil and water.
We’re actively designing projects that break the cycle of consumption and waste, helping to address the root causes of the climate crisis. One way is to develop circular economy projects, which aim to decouple economic growth from the use of finite resources by designing waste out of the system.
Developed with our sister organisation, Women’s Bank, our innovative BUZZ project in Nepal trains women farmers to cultivate larvae from the black soldier fly as animal feed, biofuel and compost. The larvae themselves feed on waste, both from animals and humans making it a self-sustainable, no-waste product.
4. Integrate climate with other rights work.
Climate action should not stand apart from other development interventions. In fact, it should be considered a central part of all rights-based work. As part of our Right to Livelihood work, we’ve partnered with Taka Taka Solutions, a waste management company in Kenya. Funded by Women’s Bank, the project aims at improving the livelihoods of women by creating jobs with the company, while also providing them a package of employment benefits, medical cover and childcare. So far 261 women have been supported through the scheme.
Taka Taka Solutions estimates that its work saves about 100 tons of greenhouse emissions per month by reducing landfill waste. Landfills are currently the largest source of methane, which is 23 times more potent than CO2. The company are also looking to switch to solar power in the longterm.
5. Consider all environmental pressures, not just the hot topics.
The climate emergency has a high profile, and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean we should deprioritise other environmental pressures, like pollution, biodiversity loss or nitrogen loading.
In fact, while we can arguably adapt to climate change within a certain limit, environmental damage like ocean acidification or extinction events are irreversible and with the potential to cause catastrophic consequences. That’s why we consider all environmental pressures when we look at our development projects.
Sustainability means different things not just to different people, but in different places. We listen to the local community and invite local expertise when we develop projects. Our country staff are 90 per cent local, so they can properly understand and engage.
Too often, western research into environmental impact is prioritised and western solutions proposed. While, we have a responsibility to share technology and resources, we also have a lot to learn from local ways of living and doing.
7. Listen and learn from those at the frontline.
The climate crisis is happening now and many of the world’s most vulnerable people are seeing the effects in real time, although they are the least responsible for the problem. We must make space for those at the frontlines to be heard. They are the people who are best placed to guide our climate policies and inform our actions.
In Kenya and Somalia, the worst drought in decades is destroying people’s lives and livelihoods. The cause is manmade climate change, made worse by manmade conflicts. We are acting on the everyday experiences of our staff and beneficiaries in these areas, changing our strategies to make sure we can adapt to the new reality on the ground.
8. Be realistic.
We must not lose sight of our main aim: to help people. In an emergency, of course, we must settle for the option that delivers the most positives for people in the short term. For example, if we receive a donation of plastic water bottles in a humanitarian crisis, we can recognise that both the water and the bottles will be used and not reject them.
But at the same time, we can identify how we can improve over time, changing our emergency responses and policies to benefit both people and the environment. Part of acting on the climate crisis is learning as organisation and as a sector to improve our practices.
9. Build resilience, adapt and transform.
Every time a disaster happens, we can learn from it and be better prepared for next time. In the jargon, it’s called resilience. We believe we can do better than that – we can adapt and transform, so that we are not just ready to brace for the next disaster, we can actively prevent it or develop new ways of living so that it hardly impacts at all.
That’s why we are constantly assessing how we can diversify people’s livelihoods and develop flexible ways to access education or the employment market.
10. Look into the future.
We know what’s coming. Over the next few years, we will see more extreme weather events, more water scarcity and more conflict over natural resources. That will lead to more forced migration, inflation and food shortages.
Our climate strategy is constantly evolving with the realities on the ground. We’re acting on the climate crisis today while looking at the future to better prepare for tomorrow.
+1 Our secret weapon: education
Education is not only our greatest passion, but also a great tool to mitigate climate change and create more sustainable societies. We can offer resources, support and technology, but ultimately, it’s people in their communities that can make changes. Providing them access to quality education will give the springboard to make those changes.
Text: Aly Cabrera and Ruth Owen
Photo: Hugh Rutherford