Discussion
18 Dec 2020 - 17 Jan 2021

Climate and the Environment

SparkBlue • 12 December 2020

Welcome to the joint discussion on climate and the environment.

Please answer any of the below questions (including the question numbers in your response). Feel free to introduce yourself if you wish. We look forward to hearing from you.
 

 

  1. What key lessons have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic in reaching global development goals through interagency collaboration and joint work, specifically from the perspective of the climate and environment?
     
  2. How do you see the role of UN agencies evolving in order to address emerging climate and environmental challenges?
     
  3. What would enable UN agencies to contribute more effectively to transformational change and better leverage key partners to catalyze change and achieve the global development goals?
     
    1. Please specify which stakeholders and partners in your opinion should be prioritized and the various ways they could be better engaged: multilateral organizations, governments, civil society, private sector, foundations, young people, etc.
       
    2. Please specify how UN agencies can address external constraints and challenges that could potentially hinder progress in the next 10 years.
       

 

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Comments (16)

Priyanka Teeluck Moderator

Thank you very much to all for your insightful comments and suggestions. Below is a brief summary of the issues and recommendations raised thus far. Please feel free to add on where you see relevant points missing.

Comments have highlighted the global nature of the climate crisis, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed weaknesses in our ability to support and build a collective response. National borders have not slowed down the spread of COVID-19 and will be even more ineffectual in containing the impacts of climate change. The UN system is in a position to break down these silos by facilitating an integrated approach for strengthening a global response to climate mitigation and adaptation. This includes enabling governments to work together to craft cohesive strategies and solutions, not only through measures such as the implementation of a carbon tax, but including through evidence-based support for legislations and regulations that develop enabling environments for an inclusive green recovery: shifting of capital from polluting industries to green investments; investing in sustainable public infrastructure; strengthening social safety nets, including in particular to address the drastic increases in gender-based violence and unpaid care and domestic work burdens that have led to massive job losses disproportionately impacting women and girls. 

At the level of UN agencies, a commitment to “walking the talk” could be integrated into strategic plans by committing to reducing carbon footprints both internally within agencies as well as through its development work. A method of conducting environmental impact analyses, both in development planning and in related product/service procurement, could potentially be streamlined across agencies to reduce inefficiencies and duplications while enhancing a synergistic approach to implementing and monitoring environmental safeguards.

At the local level of UN development work, an immediate concern is ensuring a human-rights based approach to climate work, both through project/programme planning and in strengthening the environmental aspect of existing human rights frameworks. Participatory environmental monitoring processes need to fully and meaningfully include grassroots level organizations and communities, and advocacy for strengthening land rights and tenure security can be employed as a tool for both halting environmental degradation and for empowering women and girls by ensuring access to natural and productive resources that are vital for decent livelihoods.

Tim Scott Moderator

Dear colleagues and partners,

Welcome to this joint discussion on environment and climate change!

My name is Tim Scott, Senior Policy Advisor with the Nature, Climate, Energy Team of UNDP's Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, Global Policy Network. I will be your moderator for this first week of our consultation.

My co-moderators and I very much look forward to your insights and innovations in response to the three questions outlined above. 

To help us get started, we'd like to contextualize this conversation.

As we know too well, COVID-19 has unleashed an unprecedented human development crisis. Global human development is on course to decline this year for the first time in a generation as the pandemic exposes vulnerabilities in social, economic and political systems and deepens existing inequalities, including gender inequalities. Up to 115 million women, men, girls and boys, may be pushed into extreme poverty this year alone, amid drastic increases in gender-based violence and unpaid care and domestic work burdens.

Within this context, the UN and partners are helping countries and communities to respond to COVID-19 by addressing both the immediate symptoms and root causes of the pandemic, as well as the closely linked Nature-Climate crisis.

Nature and natural capital underpin social and economic development, but our natural resources are being degraded and unsustainably managed. The dual threat of accelerating biodiversity loss and climate change is driving disasters, including droughts, floods, and ecosystem collapse, and is an increasing factor in people’s decision to migrate. These, in turn, are exacerbating problems involving disease, famine, conflict, gender inequalities and other marginalization. This has a serious impact on all people, including the 3.4 billion women, men, and children who struggle to meet their basic needs and 3 billion people who depend on agriculture, forests and fisheries for food and livelihoods. 

To address these urgent issues, to mitigate the risk of future pandemics, and to achieve the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, Nature and Climate must be placed at the heart of development and the Decade for Action. COVID-19 recovery and stimulus packages need to be ‘green’ to ensure that resources borrowed from future generations are used to address the long-term threats they face from climate change and environmental degradation.

The UN-system is already helping governments and stakeholders to respond to many of these needs and opportunities including through the promotion of an inclusive Green Recovery. Lessons from this work and from our partners is key to informing the Strategic Plans for UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, and UN WOMEN.

We welcome your thoughts and ideas!

Ashwini Sathnur

The tuning of the integration of the subject areas of inclusive development and green biodiversity is captured in the business analytics during the building of the product solutions based on accessibility. The various effects that the natural disasters impose on the health of the human individuals is studied in these product solutions.

One example product solution based on the subject areas of Accessibility and inclusive development is provided in the below mentioned website URL and link:-

https://cognitivedevelopmentandsolarflares.webnode.in/

 

The second example product solution titled "Solar flares and the food crops" documentation material is attached here along with this message!

 

Lina Hosking

It is clear that the environmental crisis is not a local one, it is a global one. I think the pandemic has shown us that we are not ready to work together to solve a global problem, which is in itself a huge problem. We must establish some kind of trust and cooperation for (a large part of) the planet to be able to effectively combat this issue. 

Furthermore, governments who acknowledge the climate problem and want to take action should work together to find a strategy, and stick to this strategy. This will provide a lot of clarity for companies, making investments less risky. Governments must establish regulations for companies, and they should do this together to prevent companies from simply going elsewhere. In addition, consumers should be incentivised to choose more sustainable options. This should not (only) be done with a carbon tax, as this will set back the poorer and barely impact the rich. A reward system will probably work better.

Gautam Narasimhan Moderator

Great comments Lina

Ann Cathrin Pedersen

Hello colleagues. I wanted to reflect a bit on the human rights dimension of the nature-climate work in the COVID-19 context and from an extractives sector perspective, in the hope that it can inform the strategic planning process.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed long-standing health inequalities in many societies. But the issue is not just lack of access to medical health care. Environmental degradation is also a risk factor as it contributes to human health problems. Preliminary studies have shown that long term exposure to air pollution (fine, inhalable particles like PM2.5 and PM10) is positively associated with higher COVID-19 mortality rates.

One source of outdoor pollution comes from oil, coal and gas combustion to produce energy, and from factories and plants, including from mining operations. These sources of pollution are often located near low-income and rural communities, highlighting some of the poverty and inequality dimensions of environmental degradation. In addition, communities impacted by air, water and soil degradation can also be more vulnerable to climate impacts, including water shortage, biodiversity loss, landslides and flood.

Better alignment with human rights in development planning can be an effective tool to protect both people and the planet. The Secretary General's Call to Action on Human Rights acknowledges that nature loss and climate change is one of the areas where more needs to be done to protect the rights of both current and future generations.

There are many tools and resources to strengthen more integrated development planning in this space. For example, the human rights mechanisms (UPR, special rapporteurs and treaty bodies) offer targeted recommendations and authoritative and credible data. The UNDP Social and Environmental Standards is another practical tool to reduce social and environmental risk across all programming areas. In addition, there are many types of thematic guidance and toolkits, including UNDP and Swedish EPA global guide for integrating human rights and environment into mining governance.

To protect the environment and Human Rights, it is not enough that duty bearers know and are held accountable for their obligations. Rights holders must also be empowered to claim their rights. Procedural Rights – the right to participation, access to information and justice, is a key strategy to protect the environment and human rights. For example, Participatory Environmental Monitoring is an innovative tool that addresses the two way linkages between human rights and the environment, as illustrated by this video from the joint Swedish EPA-UNDP Environmental Governance Programme in Mozambique.

Are there any other examples, including from our REDD work, on strengthening the human rights dimensions of our nature, climate and energy work?

Priyanka Teeluck Moderator

Thanks very much, Ann Cathrin, for bringing in the crucial perspective of human rights in climate work, especially in the post-COVID context. Thanks also for the very useful tools and guidance shared for ensuring this approach in development planning.

Advocacy and support for community land rights and other property rights, in particular for women and girls, can also function to increase food and income security in adapting to climate impacts. Landesa for example has compiled an impressive amount of research demonstrating success in mainstreaming gender dimensions into efforts to halt land degradation including through policies and programmes. 

In terms of enabling rights holders to claim their rights, are there pathways or approaches for expanding the human rights focus beyond development planning towards enabling environmental frontline defenders to access human rights redress mechanisms? The Escazu Agreement, which seeks to ensure access to information, citizen participation and access to justice in environmental matters, could be a good place to start in informing practical approaches in the strategic plans.  

Frances Guy

according to many climate activists we have 2 years to change the direction of consumption and we have to do so at a rate of reducing global carbon footprint by more than 8% every year.  Covid has demonstrated that even with widespread lockdowns we have not been able to reduce carbon consumption by that amount - the sense of urgency and responsibility seems lacking.  As we are discussing the strategic plans of 4 UN agencies can we perhaps start by a commitment from all four agencies to be carbon neutral (or better) by the end of the strategic planning period?  in theory this commitment was introduced by the UNSG in 2007 but it is surprisingly difficult to find any clear public evidence from each agency on the size of its current footprint, actions taken to reduce it etc.   Measurements should be introduced  for every action and every material used, from buildings to nappies, to travel and to the data storage used by each agency.  This commitment can then be carried through for all programmes and projects as well. We need to go beyond carbon offsetting projects and an upfront commitment in the strategic plan of all agencies with a means to be held accountable could be a step towards that. 

Michael Stewart-Evans Moderator

Many thanks for your reflections Frances. In terms of measurable impact, how do you see a commitment to becoming carbon neutral reflected in the Strategic Plans? Do you think that the current COVID-19 crisis presents opportunities for UN agencies to adjust the way they work? 

Frances Guy

dear Michael, apologies for not replying earlier.  in terms of explicit commitment in strategic plans,  could each agency agree for example that every project will measure its carbon footprint and contain specific measures to reduce/mitigate the size of the impact?  In addition, agencies should have their own internal commitment by the end of the strategic planning period to have reduced carbon footprints by 50% at a minimum.  it was disappointing to see that the new UNDP social and environment guidelines did not contain any specific commitments on carbon footprint reduction as far as I could see.  on Covid-19 indeed the opportunity exists to build forward greener but we will need to make active commitments to make it happen.  thanks.  

chanchal chhabra

Hello Group,

I am from India. This is my first post in group and my very first thoughts are here.
I will keep posting as and when I have my ideas/thoughts documented for you all.


Our Earth is going through many climatic changes and is getting into DeEP problems. Definition of DeEP according to me here is:

Deforestation
Emissions
Plastic

All these climatic changes are mostly because of these three factors and yes we all want to get rid of these problems.
Human Being were intended to be the conservator of NATURE but eventually they have become consumer of it.
It is high time to be conservator again and each of us do our part.

We should focus on following areas and work together to bring innovation on them.

1) Reduce Deforestation And Plant More Trees.:

We do plantation every year and spend billions of dollar on it and human effort.    Much of that effort goes in waste because tree dies without proper care post plantation. So going forward our mission must not only plan trees but also take care of them until they grow out well and even after that.

2) Reduce emissions:

Shift towards renewable source of energy and reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and any other carbon emitting sources. Cycling, electric cars, car pooling, use of public transport are few common options any one would suggest.


But I think pandemic has brought up a very good option in 2020 which is "Work from Home". WFH option might help in reducing emissions from vehicles significantly. Whoever has an option to work from home must opt in. If not permanently one must at least 3 days a week must do work from home.
   

Secondly UN must globally mandate school/universities students to use bicycles/public transport. Schools/Universities must not allow them enter premises with vehicles. These will again help in reducing emissions from vehicles significantly and also the students will be physically active.

Thirdly initiate some global campaign. example: Once bi-weekly no vehicle day throughout globe.   

3) Reduce,Reuse and Recycle plastic:

Nothing to say more on this The name speaks for itself. As much as possible reuse and recycle the plastic. UN must invest in plastic reuse and recycling projects/ideas.

 

 

Thank you!

Chanchal

Carla Kraft Moderator

Thanks so much for your thoughts and ideas, Chanchal. These are most welcome and we look forward to hearing more from you. You present some interesting, concrete recommendations. It would be great to hear some ideas on how the UN could incorporate more work on deforestation into the Strategic Plans. Also, from you and others, we would like to know a bit more about thoughts on the linkages with gender equality and how women could both contribute to and benefit from some of your recommendations. Perhaps that will spark some ideas from others here as well!

Dan Perell

Thank you for the opportunity to contribute a few thoughts on these important questions. Such questions require significant unpacking, so the ideas below are merely initial ideas.

COVID-19 has demonstrated that purely operating in silos is untenable while, concurrently, it has also demonstrated the clear need for specialization. How to square this circle will remain a key question for the variety of agencies who have unique and important expertise, but who must be integrated with others - and this is no truer than in the field of climate and the environment (1). This very dialogue is a great example of a new way of working and that should be commended. One further suggestion is for the various agencies and divisions of the UN to collectively articulate questions related to climate/environment that can be publicly answered before any project/program can be implemented. For example, the question could be asked: "Please articulate the potential climate and environmental impacts of this endeavor. Where the impact is carbon positive, how will this be offset? What strategies are in place to ensure that the endeavor is revisited and improved along the climate/environment dimension?" Such a question, if collectively articulated and universally applied, would assist the agencies to have a collective vision and collective analysis regarding the climate/environment impacts of their work. Over time, learning can take place about the effectiveness of certain projects and approaches.

This will also assist UN agencies to increasingly see their work as collective, rather than independent (2). Just as the cross-cutting dimensions of gender, finance and health are becoming clear, the same can be said regarding climate and the environment. This means that competition should be ceded in favor of collective approaches, for example. The Human Development Report, to take but one example, takes clear strides towards a holistic understanding of development and advancement. This is helpful inasmuch as it allows the agencies to see how their specific expertise can fit into the grand vision of development. The same can and should be done for climate and the environment. 

The UN often speaks of transformational change (3) - but this rarely happens solely through policy - it is an iterative process of social and policy change. Transformation requires scientific evidence which gives rise to the need for new approaches that can then begin the momentum towards policy change. The last stage then also serves to bolster further social momentum. Therefore, the degree to which this transformational change can come about is tied to how these important issues are treated in the public sphere. We have focused, rightly so, on understanding the science behind both the threats and opportunities extant in our relationship with the natural world. Now that we have the hard science, we need a collective shift from all societal levels that can move the needle on the discourse which will then (together) inform policy. Those actors who are dependent upon the status quo for their success will not be the source of this change, but it is through scientific and narrative changes that even they will be encouraged to adapt and change their models in order to preserve the environment. Importantly, this is a process that requires all stakeholders and all partners (3a) to be engaged in this - a sea change does not happen because of one or another actor in society, it is a collective approach. Moreover, different communities have different leaders who can be instrumental in encouraging transformation.

Finally, in a world of increasing shocks and threats (3b), it seems that resilience becomes the most important theme to consider. We have learned that strong community ties, a sense of belonging, solidarity, and a vision for the future are key elements to building this resilience. While this may seem "soft", in times of constraint it is often these qualities that allow work to continue apace. The UN cannot be turned to as the sole "doer" of development, or the sole "implementer" of climate/environmental adaptation - it must be the catalyzer and the leaven that allows ever more communities and nations to own such efforts. In this sense, a greater focus on the social dimensions of these important efforts may serve to enhance the effectiveness of the UN agencies regardless of the constraints and challenges it faces.

 

da qun xiang

Covid-19 slows the progress of sustainable development goals ,Solving the harm of covid-19 to human life and other aspects is the main task of all countries in the world 。

Solving the harm of covid-19 is the main topic of all countries in the world from 2021 to 2025。

All countries in the world should maintain open and transparent way to carry out cooperation and exchange on health information resources to avoid nationalization of health information resources 。

The United Nations supervises the comprehensive evaluation of the communication and cooperation in the field of health among countries all over the world。

The World Health Organization (who) carries out the specific business of guiding the health of all countries in the world。

In accordance with the framework of the sustainable development goals established by the United Nations, countries around the world strengthen the establishment of a global open and transparent public health and safety reporting and evaluation system, so as to avoid national protectionism bypassing the UN's unauthorized evaluation 。

At the beginning, some countries did not pay attention to covid-19. In addition, some countries did not accept the operational guidance and arrangements of the World Health Organization and arbitrarily made irresponsible remarks contrary to science, leading to today's covid-19 pandemic 。

The only way to solve the harm of covid-19 is to obey the united leadership of the United Nations, unite and cooperate, and rebuild the global public health prevention system 。

 

 

Janice Cox

Janice Cox from the World Federation for Animals on Question 1. 

The lesson we learned was that development work and development policy cannot be carried out with an anthropocentric mindset without far-reaching impacts across all dimensions of development. Holistic policy-making and systemic analysis are vital; and animal and environmental issues must be interwoven. The Human Development Report 2020 made this clear as well - "the future of the planet and its sentient beings is one of the largest ethical issues facing humanity going forward". Indeed, not only ethical issues, but also practical issues of impact to the future of humanity. Unless humanity’s relationship with the environment and animals is radically improved, then we will have more pandemics in the future, of increasing virulence, as viruses continue to mutate towards greater effectiveness. This will be exacerbated by climate change, unless transformative action is taken, and quickly.

Here is our Manifesto on Animal Issues connected to COVID-19, which need to be addressed to stop future pandemics:    bit.ly/AnimalsManifesto 

Clearly, inter-agency cooperation is vital - not only in terms of technical response, but also in policy analysis and planning to prevent future pandemics. And recent reports have shown that real transformative change is needed to bend the curve and move away from future devastation. And this will have to include massive policy changes to our economic systems (moving away from endless growth to new ways of working, like Doughnut Economics), and consumption and production systems - including food and agriculture. 

Marianne Kjellen

Hi! Working with UNDP on water issues, I'd like to contribute some thought on two issues:

  1. Human rights & the environment. As suggested by Ann-Cathrin (and others): ‘Better alignment with human rights in development planning can be an effective tool to protect both people and the planet.’

And even if they don’t always align (i.e. there may also be conflicting goals/priorities), UNDP could have an important role in development planning by MAKING them come together. Maybe in the next SP, we could develop the ‘art’ of bridging potential and real development–environment conflicts into development–environment synergies. It is clear that UNDP has many tools and insights in this area, and should be able to make this more effective on our future programming and SP. 😊

  1. Organize around scale. A brief comment above on ‘scale’ got me thinking on Question #3 on how UN agencies are to contribute more effectively to transformational change.

In environment work, we are largely organized around ‘sectors.’ Could we be more effective (and less siloed) by organizing – or at least coordinating better! – around spatial scale: local, regional and global environmental issues.

First, some thought on the differences between local (fast moving) environmental issues that directly hit back on human health in the same area vs. the global environment, with slower/delayed processes and indirect effects typically not hitting back at those whose consumption/affluence has caused the problem in the first place.

Generalizing; local environmental problems are the worst in low-income areas, where housing and infrastructure is insufficient to protect people against the elements and pollution arising from production/consumption and poor waste management: Poor sanitation, indoor and community air pollution, garbage, pests, etc.

At the same time, global environmental problems, generated by years of over-production and over-consumption by the wealthy typically do not hit back at those same people (many of us) enjoying safe housing, reliable services, and most often clean, healthy or at least improving air quality. The consequences – essentially through climate – hit worst on those who live in vulnerable areas.

This spatial ‘discordance’ harbors the well-known environmental injustice.

As development agencies, we must work differently with different types of environmental matters. Adaptation aligns mostly with local issues – of immediate importance to low-income and vulnerable populations who often need to increase their level of consumption – using more ecosystem services. It is important that local authorities and communities get holistic [not sectorally siloed] support in improving living conditions.

Simultaneously, the comfortable and wealthy need to consume less and be less of a burden to the globe. While all action is local, the context, policy directions and priorities need to be determined in a global context. I’d think that cross-sectoral integration be even more important at this level.

And, I trust we can improve our coordination/organization to attain this – already in the new SP?

 

(Some further thought on scale– relating to ‘environmental transition theory’ – is included in my intro article in Water Alternatives (Volume 11 | Issue 2) on Wastewater governance and the local, regional and global environments

 

Best,

Marianne


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