You may have seen or heard this figure: between 3.3 and 3.6 billion people live in areas at risk from climate change. These climate risks are numerous: more intense, frequent and long-lasting weather events (extreme heat events, fires, droughts, floods, etc.), food and water insecurity, damage to human physical and mental health, etc. They affect all continents. To face these risks and limit the damage, the IPCC presents factors identified in the scientific literature that could help us make the transition to a resilient model: "Climate Resilient Development" (CRD).
What is our climate resilience? This is our social, economic and ecosystem capacity to cope with climate events, trends and disturbances. We will zoom in on this point of the report in this article, and understand why it is crucial to consider this type of development to transform our systems in a sustainable way.
Reminder: What is the IPCC report?
The IPCC assessment report is a synthesis of scientific and technical information on global warming. It is currently the most complete work on the origin and impacts of global warming on the planet. We spoke to you about the first part of this report in this article.
On 28 February 2022, the second part of the report was published. It highlights the major, and potentially serious, impacts that climate change could have. But it also proposes "solutions" to enable us to limit the damage and adopt a resilient lifestyle in the long term.
The urgent need to act as soon as possible
The urgency of immediate action is regularly reiterated in the report: because of actions taken and not taken in the past, we are now restricted to a smaller window of climate action, which is shrinking over time. We still have plenty of time to stay below 1.5°C: the long-term outcomes and impacts of climate change depend heavily on short-term climate action choices.
The figure below shows us the opportunities for a trajectory to stay below 1.5°C and the results of such a trajectory: The trajectory depends on economic, social and environmental criteria.
How to act? Focus on Climate Resilient Development -CRD
The 18th chapter of this section summarises the existing literature on the subject of Climate Resilient Development or CRD. But what is CRD?
This involves the deployment of three actions in parallel:
- Climate change mitigation.
- Adaptation of natural and human systems to climate change.
- Sustainable development (according to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals).
The combination of these actions aims to build CRD trajectories towards a maximum +1.5°C target: it should be remembered that a CRD trajectory is not a straightforward path but a continuous process of decision-making and actions that enhance sustainable development, poverty and inequality reduction, and equitable and cross-sectoral adaptation.
According to this part of the report, it is no longer viable to prepare for the potential futures ahead without one of these three actions. Greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction and sustainable development are interdependent, and adaptation to climate change cannot be achieved without these first two levers of action. Indeed, many systems have already reached their strict and/or flexible adaptation limits and the adaptation scenarios proposed in the literature would no longer be effective or even feasible if the rise in average temperature exceeded 1.5°C. It is therefore important to rely on trajectories that jointly combine these 3 actions.
Who should act for resilience, when and where?
To maximise the impact, it is clearly necessary to act as soon as possible. Firstly, the current strong upward trajectories are taking us further away from the sustainable development goals.
Secondly, global warming events create social and economic difficulties that negatively impact our ability to undertake and invest in decarbonisation. If 500 million people are forced to leave their country, which has become uninhabitable, will the neighbours' primary concern really be to invest in decarbonisation?
In addition, there is a dangerous vicious circle linked to the increase in emissions: tipping points.
These tipping points correspond to a certain level of warming beyond which a geological equilibrium is definitively broken, and thus generates new GHG emissions. For example: We may soon reach the tipping point beyond which the melting of the Permaforst in the Arctic will become irreversible, potentially releasing tons of GHGs previously stored in the frozen ground.
Who and where?
In the context of climate resilient development, the report distinguishes two main types of regions:
- The so-called "developed, mature and highly resilient economies", which could focus on the aspect of energy transition and gas emission reduction,
- Economies affected by poverty and greater inequality, which could prioritise the reduction of these criteria through economic development in the short term, and benefit in the long term from greater climate action capacity.
So, at our level in France, our biggest challenge today is the first point.
Who are the actors? They are a multitude of actors in decision-making (governments, industries, media, civil society, science) who are part of different governance systems for the implementation of these actions (local, urban, territorial, European, global). We are all concerned!
Examples of concrete climate adaptation measures
We zoom in on some of the points mentioned in the report on the types of measures that are conducive to climate resilience.
1. Co-benefits between the Sustainable Development Goals and climate resilience
Many sustainable development priorities are geared towards climate change mitigation and climate resilience. For example, policies to reduce air pollution improve environmental quality (health factors and ecosystem preservation). Another example is that democratising access to clean water helps reduce poverty (sustainable development) and increases the resilience of vulnerable populations to climate impacts. This is an aspect widely highlighted in the report: the social benefits of sustainable development contribute to climate resilience and sometimes to the reduction of climate change impacts.
2. Inclusion of all social categories in the process
In many respects, the report supports the importance of inclusive measures of all social categories for climate resilient development goals. As mentioned above, this transition to a sustainable model involves a multitude of actors, which must be taken into account as a whole: all social and cultural categories can benefit from resilient development. For example, the report notes that indigenous peoples' knowledge and local know-how can provide major solutions in the fight against global warming, food security, biodiversity conservation and other issues.
Another example, on the integration of different social categories in this development: the progress of the climate movements is today mainly driven by young people. Some of them are fighting against climate inaction by calling for disruptive actions, and militating for collective awareness on the subject. As a result, these movements have led to strong political decisions at local and national levels.
Also from an adaptation point of view, it is imperative to include all social categories, for example in the development of adaptation strategies. The report indicates that it is necessary to take into account the most vulnerable populations, especially those who are more subject to social inequalities (women, children, minorities, etc.) in the adaptation scenarios, as these inequalities expose populations to climate risks in different ways.
3. "Nature-based solutions".
A central issue in climate resilient development is the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of ecosystems.
For this, so-called nature and ecosystem-based solutions are ways to reduce climate risks by mitigating climate change, ensuring food security. For example, among the adaptation opportunities mentioned, the development of agriculture adapted to climate change or the development of large green spaces to ensure urban resilience.
Just as there are synergies between social inclusion and resilient sustainable development, there are real co-benefits in maintaining ecosystems, biodiversity and resilient sustainable development together.
4. Multi-sectoral cluster efforts
Finally, to end on a point (among many others that we have not mentioned), the report points out the importance of developing multi-sectoral solutions. It cites as examples 5 key transitions: a transition to a system of clean energy production, sustainable food production, appropriate urban planning and transport, universal health coverage and social protection that aim at common benefits in terms of health and well-being. It is possible that all five transitions need to be carried out simultaneously to achieve climate resilient development. We need to move all sectors forward on the climate issue, yes all of them.
💡 It' s our turn!
What we need to remember from this chapter and this report is that we still have a window of opportunity to move towards a sustainable society and that we should aim for it today! In addition to the previous reports, this one particularly supports the importance of social justice in the implementation of climate resilient development and of a real synergy between the different sectors, ecosystems and actors (inclusive character of development).
Among the many trajectories discussed and possible, actions and solutions interact greatly in synergies but also have trade-offs that need to be weighed up when establishing a sustainable and climate-resilient model. Some trade-offs will have to be made, as stakeholders will perceive some actions as undesirable or unethical. Therefore, improving equity is an integral consideration in achieving such development. These transitions can generate benefits in different sectors and regions, provided they are facilitated by appropriate enabling conditions. This includes effective governance, policy implementation, innovation and climate and development finance, which are currently insufficient. Every level, every sector has a role to play in this transition.
There is no miracle solution, no clear user guide. It is possible to readjust the decisions taken as we go along and, above all, it is urgent that we sketch out this trajectory with ambitious means to stay below the 1.5°C mark that will allow us to live in a sustainable world.
Conclusion: we still have a lot to do, it's up to each of us to do our part, and all together!