Climate action by all, for all2023-03-22
The IPCC sixth assessment synthesis report summary for policymakers was approved yesterday and officially released today. For the very first time, IPCC explicitly recognized and emphasized the role of diverse non-state and subnational actors, and transdisciplinary climate action.
Starting at the very first page of the synthesis report, the importance of distributed and diverse climate action projects and multilevel and polycentric climate governance for sustaining the reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was highlighted throughout the report and particularly in section 14.5.
Several recent research including mine have identified the limitations of the sole reliance on national pledges and centralized climate projects. Distribution of climate action projects at subnational levels including cities, businesses, indigenous groups and local communities is not only an effective mitigation strategy but can also strengthen climate adaptation efforts. For example, distributed energy production and storage with community owned solar farm, wind park and geothermal can ensure a faster transition to clean energy and could have avoided the current electricity crisis in Sweden and across the world. In fact, in a study published in 2020, me and colleagues identified communities comprising 10,000 people as the climate action sweet spot, where climate action benefit can be maximized with minimum intervention. Such communities can expand over several forms of non-state actors ranging from municipalities and business communities to local neighborhoods and schools.
A great example of such community-led climate mitigation project is the Sustainability Agenda Network initiated jointly by Forshaga and Munkfors municipalities in the Värmland county of Sweden. Forshaga and Munkfors jointly have about 15,000 inhabitants and are hubs for some important industries of Sweden like Stora Enso. The network brought the small, medium and large industry actors together in strategizing rapid GHG emissions reduction aligning with the Paris Agreement and Sweden’s target of achieving net-zero emission by 2045. Karlstad University has recently started a dialog with the Arvika municipality about how their emissions reduction can be driven through the collaboration between the latest sustainability research insights and the practical and field level experience from the diverse actors.
Such diverse and multilevel actors can foster exponential climate action – projects for halving of global GHG emissions no later than 2030 – which also remains as the top priority in this report. The COVID-19 pandemic opened up a tremendous opportunity window, which is closing vary rapidly and demanding urgent actions from actors at all levels. Practical solutions and tools for achieving this target exist today, which these actors can utilize to lead the way for rapid sustainability transformation.
Several community level bottom-up projects are also underway. For example, I with an international team of scientists and practitioners launched a new project “The Climate Long Game” (https://www.longgame.net) at the Climate Action Hub pavilion of COP27 (https://unfccc-events.azureedge.net/COP27_87803/agenda). The project will utilise educational games and apps at schools to promote climate education and thereby convert the schools into living labs demonstrating successful climate action projects. The aim is to create collective efficacy at communities through schools to create the momentum of climate action and societal transformation at a scale and pace needed. Karlstad University has also initiated a project with the county board (länstyrelsen) about creating “Climate Escape Room” (https://www.thegreatescape.info/en/adapt-or-btrapped/) to generate climate knowledge and active community involvement.