Small islands facing the threat of imminent extinction woke up this morning to a ray of hope following the launch of a “revolutionary” Commonwealth approach to climate change. It’s called “Regenerative Development” and it has the potential to reverse climate change through measures that take carbon out of the air and put it back in the soil. Yesterday, at a conference at Commonwealth Headquarters in London, activists and climate thinkers came together to chart the way ahead.
Paul Hawken, the founder of Project Drawdown and a speaker at the event, has identified 100 existing solutions to climate change. His recently-published book on the subject is the first of its kind to top the New York Times best seller list. “The goal is not mitigation it’s not reduction, it’s not stabilisation, those goals are on the way perhaps, but in order for us to continue to be a civilisation that makes sense and progresses we need to name the goals that we want, and the only goal that makes sense is actually to go back the other way. Otherwise we are just going off the cliff more slowly. And what we are trying to do is basically look at the 100 most substantive solutions to climate change and global warming, all of which exist, all of which are happening,” he told the participants.
With solid backing from climate action advocates such as Prince Charles, former president of Kiribati Anote Tong and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, the Commonwealth proposed a paradigm-shifting Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change initiative at the event.
Speaking to high commissioners representing Commonwealth countries, scientists and environmentalists at the conference, Mr Tong, who had felt forced to plan for a possible evacuation of people from his island as a result of severe sea level rises, described the regenerative development model as a “light at the end of the tunnel”.
He said, “What is being proposed here, even the title of the conference, regenerative development, reversal of climate change, is a bold statement, very ambitious. But what alternatives do we have? If we don’t do that, we are acknowledging that we are heading to doom with nothing beyond.”
In his address, Prince Charles stressed the need for global cooperation on climate change. “I would just like to take this opportunity to thank the Secretary-General for all her hard work and leadership on this particular issue,” he said. “Some in the north,” he added, “may be ambivalent, quite unbelievably, about the difference between a limit of 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees of global warming. For some countries, particularly the small island developing states of the Commonwealth, the difference could scarcely be more critical as it may literally mean the survival of their countries or their extinction… We face an existential crisis in every sense of the word.”
He urged the Commonwealth to be a “pivotal voice” on the issue. He added, “It is a huge encouragement to learn of the preparations that might lead to a constructive partnership on this agenda, both at the next international climate negotiation in Bonn in November and at the Commonwealth summit in London here next year.”
In her speech, Ms Robinson also focused on the “urgency for collaborative action”. “Regenerative development”, she stated, “can play a significant role in ensuring we stay below 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.”
Delegates praised Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland for her leadership on the initiative, which is being done in partnership with the Cloudburst Foundation.
“It was really important for us to have the support of committed environmentalists such as Prince Charles, Anote Tong and Mary Robinson at our conference yesterday, because this is really about turning the global conversation on climate change on its head,” the Secretary-General said.
“Firstly, it is saying that it is possible to reverse the human impact of climate change by 2050 and secondly it is framing climate change as one of our greatest opportunities for innovation and advancement.”
She continued, “These ideas in the context of the current debate on climate change may seem radical, but they are supported by strong empirical evidence and by some of the world’s leading thinkers in the climate change arena. At our conference yesterday we explored existing, working examples of the regenerative development approach to climate change.
“We already have the technology to construct buildings that mimic the way trees capture and store carbon; we have remarkable examples of how it is possible to restore lands affected by densification; and we know it is possible to tap in to the power of volcanic hot springs for our electricity because there is already a functioning geothermal power plant in Iceland.
“Ultimately my aim is to work with every Commonwealth Country to create a tailored package of climate action,” said the Secretary-General. “This will be coupled with support from our Climate Finance Access Hub experts who are currently being mobilised to countries to help make their applications for funding a success. If we want our children and our children’s children to have a world to occupy, we have to do this and we have to do it now.”