Adapting to change
26th January 2022
Steve Martineau is a member of the UN-mandated Climate Champions’ team for COP. In this blog he looks ahead to COP27 and describes how adaptation and resilience are moving up the agenda from the global to the personal perspective.
COP27 is taking place in Egypt in November. The 1 billion people who live in Africa are already living with the impacts of climate change on food systems, water, livelihoods and so on. Therefore we can expect that COP27 will feature resilience and adaptation prominently. Mitigation is still more urgent than ever but it’s also obvious that this is a long project. Much as we’d like to, we can’t just press a switch and fix the climate crisis in an instant; it is going to take time. The way we live and work day by day is putting more and more strain on the planet but also on us as individuals as we try to maintain momentum on climate and nature action and adapt to a warmer world.
Global adaptation and resilience to climate change
The role of the Climate Champions team is to mobilise non-state actors such as business, finance, and civil society in addressing climate change. My work involves understanding what the different sectors within the global economy need to do in the next 5-10 years for us to keep to a net zero vision and 1.5C warming limit. As well as knowing what the goals are for mitigation, we have to understand what different sectors need to do to adapt and build resilience in the warmer climate that we are already in.
Clarity on mitigation has increased considerably with the Race to Zero and Science Based Targets providing a framework for measuring and monitoring, but we have a lot of work to do to have the same clarity around achieving the resilience and adaptation goals we have set ourselves. The Race to Resilience launched in 2021 aims to make 4 billion people more resilient to the effects of climate change.
Every sector of society and of the economy has a role to play but it’s a different challenge from mitigation. While we will still be making every effort to deliver net zero as soon as possible, we will be looking more than ever at adaptation and resilience on the way to COP27.
To survive a change, be part of the change
There is no question that resilience and adaptation are realities for us already. Climate change is no longer something in the future, it is something in the present and the past.
Many people have made the point that if you want to survive a change, you need to be part of the change. Businesses need to be leading the change, not waiting for it to happen. Those who are thriving are of course focusing on decarbonisation, but they are also thinking differently about how they run their businesses in order to continue operating as the planet warms, and to better serve and support their customers and communities.
If you look globally and take the construction industry as an example, it becomes impossible to carry out construction in temperatures of 40C plus. That industry is having to change the way it carries out its work, as well as thinking about how to make buildings suitable for communities as temperatures continue to rise and we face more extreme weather events.
In the tech and telecoms sector, as well as building resilience to extreme weather in their infrastructure, they are looking at how they can serve their customers better, for example with early warning systems for storms.
There are also opportunities for SMEs in thinking ahead on how to adapt to changes and provide for communities. We’ve seen many businesses do this throughout the pandemic, for example with a move to more remote services. All organisations can look for how to lead the change, whether that’s exploring if moving more to digital would decrease emissions and increase business flexibility, rethinking urban centres for more social connection, switching to local suppliers, or playing a part in the shift to a circular business model to provide more repair, reuse and recycle solutions.
Making sustainability work sustainable
Building personal resilience and increasing our own ability to adapt to change is an essential part of the sustainability journey. We can all feel the weight of the world on our shoulders and that we could be doing more, but living a sustainable life truly means taking care of ourselves so we have the energy to be highly effective in our work. That means being healthy in mind, body, spirit, and soul.
Put equal priority on taking care of your physical, mental, spiritual, and social health and don’t only focus on the work in your Job Description. Setting yourself personal goals might help you to prioritise your mental and spiritual health and recharge your batteries. What personal goals have you set yourself that will support your personal resilience?
Steve Martineau is the COP High Level Champions’ co-lead for systems transformation. He provides support to the UNFCCC High Level Climate Champions to deliver on the mandate from Parties to the UNFCCC: to drive climate action and enhance ambition by non-state actors. This requires a systems approach and systems change tools, considering demand and supply side actors, finance, employee and civil society groups, among others.
He has spent most of his career in the telecommunications sector. While Chief of Staff at the global mobile industry association, GSMA, he was the senior sponsor for the industry’s climate action programme.