Bonn, Germany (10 November 2021) – “We have a very, very long way to go – you can see the gap in terms of what it’s going to cost to make the transition to renewables, or deal with growing extreme weather events,” said USAID administrator Samantha Power at GLF Climate: Forests, Food, Finance – Frontiers of Change, a three-day event held alongside COP26 at the University of Glasgow and livestreamed around the world from 5–7 November 2021.
Concrete measures are needed now to halt deforestation and restore forests; transform food systems to address climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss; drastically increase funding for climate adaptation; and safeguard the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities in the process, said experts at the event.
“People say that we need to be less bad, but less bad isn’t good anymore when you are overshooting the planetary boundaries,” said ex-Unilever CEO Paul Polman. “If I was murdering 10 people, and now I am murdering five, am I a better murderer?”
They were joined by Norway’s Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim; Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape; UN Council to Combat Desertification executive secretary Ibrahim Thiaw; scholar and activist Vandana Shiva; Impossible Foods founder and director Patrick Brown; and Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan, among more than 400 speakers who issued a rallying call for tangible action against the climate crisis.
GLF Climate brought together almost 5,000 participants from 144 countries – including scientists, activists, Indigenous leaders, scientists, and the highest levels of government – and reached over 30 million people through social media. Many participants and speakers were directly involved in the COP 26 negotiations and discussions, and carried messages between the two events. The conference platform will remain open until 22 November 2021.
Featuring 67 sessions, the release of 14 white papers, and launches of several major initiatives, the conference provided critical insights on how the core topics of the COP26 negotiations should be addressed and implemented to make the rapid changes needed to limit global warming and improve social equity around the world.
Among the initiatives launched was Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD), a project by Crop Trust and the Government of Norway to strengthen global food security by developing climate-resilient crop varieties. “It’s critical to adapt our agriculture to face these new threats: extreme heat, drought, pests and diseases,” said Stefan Schmitz, Crop Trust’s Executive Director.
“These are terrible challenges to livelihoods and wellbeing. But by harnessing crop diversity conserved in gene banks, we can work together with farmers, scientists and leaders to develop more resilient varieties.” Tvinnereim added that “[s]eeds may not look like much, but seeds have changed the course of history before. Within them lies the foundation of the future of food and of feeding the hungry.”
The Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program was another major initiative launched at the event. Led by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), it aims to transform global food and land use systems through landscape restoration and sustainable land management practices.
“FOLUR is enabling countries to pursue system-wide approaches to transform food and land use,” said GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez. “This solution to reverse deforestation and land degradation, and restore critical ecosystems, is needed now more than ever for climate adaptation and mitigation.”
The Global EverGreening Alliance, for its part, launched a new initiative called Restore Africa, which aims to restore degraded lands and livelihoods across East and Southern Africa by connecting community-led solutions to the carbon market.
Meanwhile, Transparent Monitoring in Practice was launched by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partners to improve forest and land management using complementary datasets, tools, and portals that support countries’, subnational governments’, grassroots and Indigenous peoples’ organizations’ needs in the land use sector.
Critical insights from the event included: regulating and safeguarding carbon markets; reducing emissions through energy transitions; vastly transforming the agricultural sector; grounding food system transformation in nature-based solutions; halting deforestation; developing knowledge and data sharing platforms; massively increasing climate finance; creating nature-positive supply chains that actively support healthy ecosystems; and giving Indigenous and local communities decision-making powers.
The diversity within the event highlighted that there are no ‘silver bullets’ to our climatic challenges. “How do you actually affect change in these systems?” asked Kelly Levin, Chief of Science, Data, and Systems Change at the Bezos Earth Fund. “There are puzzle pieces with the right policies, the right incentives, and behavioural change – and it is going to take all of these puzzle pieces to align.”
As such, any climate solutions must be contextualized locally and in tailored policies, which encompass the fair and just inclusion of local and Indigenous communities, their health and prosperity, and their rights: as Teddy Kamoto, Deputy Director of Forestry in Malawi, summarized: “We need to start listening to the people.”
Recognition of the shared global responsibility for our collective fate was an overarching theme. “Because we are part of the community, we thrive with the community,” said His Majesty Ngwenyama Inkosi Ya Makhosi Gomani V, King of the Maseko Nguni/Ngoni. “We rise and fall together as a community.”
And there is a role for each of us in bringing about the shifts that are required. “We cannot wait any longer – we cannot say ‘oh, by 2050, we’re going to reduce emissions,” said Rodrigo Medellín, senior professor of ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). “This has to happen now. But the good thing is that it’s not only world leaders who can enact change. You and I can be the masters of change.”