The project will also be exploring some cross-cutting themes that have emerged in consultation with country teams. These themes include: considering what it means to lead a good life in respective societies; the role of mitigation and adaptation synergies, nature-based solutions; and the role of circular economies and the carbon cycle in addressing climate change.
GOOD LIFE AND HUMAN ACTION
There are many different social and economic arrangements that could be compatible with 2-1.5 °C futures. What does a good life mean in this context and how might each country vision and chart its own path towards this? Because the notion of a good life is culturally and contextually dependent, each country’s process and visions will differ, although all of them will involve addressing what is meant by sustainable prosperity and skills, understanding their relation to climate policy and including synergies in different geographical contexts. Simultaneously, the project will help to address how character and regime formation can encourage capacity from local actors to engage and pursue desirable and feasible ways towards a good life in different spaces and stages in life. Initial questions to address these issues may include:
- What cultural, religious, or social ideas and values exist in each society that could help articulate what a good life compatible with 2-1.5 C futures could look like?
- Why does high-emission development often result in the lack of well-being for communities and workers? How can well-being be improved in a context of low emissions?
- What role can emission pricing financial strategies, fiscal policies and carbon offsetting play in a transition towards a net-zero, low-poverty outcome? How can adaptation and mitigation be combined to address climate resilience and vulnerability as climate impacts mount and greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation advances?
- How can development pathways be shifted to take into account mutuality, reciprocity and solidarity, and become increasingly inclusive, equitable, climate-resilient and low emission? How can the political economy of the relevant sectors change? What does this mean for regional economic transition planning and its relation to central government, local communities and stakeholders?
- What role can the enhanced learning, capacity and skills contained in these visions and transitions play in a good life? How can they be further developed?
The project will consider how these questions can be addressed in the context of other creative elements explored throughout, including the synergies between mitigation/adaptation, designed multiple co-benefits and nature-based solutions; their relation to circular approaches and carbon emissions; and the concepts of sustainable recovery and climate proofing.
MITIGATION ADAPTATION SYNERGIES AND CO-BENEFITS
It is not widely recognised that even if we limit global warming to 2-1.5 °C, there will still be a further 1 °C (minimum) rise in global temperatures from today’s levels. This will require widespread adaptation. Failure to mitigate at this level will result in greater temperature rises and the need for even more adaptation. Adaptation in turn has its own dynamic agenda and frequently requires addressing highly local, context-specific needs for communities and societies. When successful, these efforts can help drive resilience, potentially enabling the natural world and societies to adapt more quickly and overcome barriers.
In this context, the project seeks to bring a much-needed look at adaptation and mitigation synergies. The idea of envisaging a 2050 low-emitting society undertaking adaptation is increasingly more crucial. It has been the subject of various recent multi-country research efforts on which the project seeks to build. The project will do this by addressing synergistic measures that link adaptation and mitigation objectives from their inception. Linkages could include adaptation efforts that may also help with mitigation, making systems less vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, helping also with adaptation, thus enhancing resilience to climate exposure. Co-benefits of these linkages are numerous. These efforts can be related to conserving water, reducing emissions, delivering better energy systems or increasing resilience and food security. They are also relevant to a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project also seeks to encourage cooperation between nations in developing countries, making good use of global and local experience and developing opportunities for cross-cutting learning and collaboration. The project intends to advance conversations on adaptation, to further experience-building through peer learning and to promote collaboration among participants on issues related to adaptation/mitigation linkages and nature-based solutions.
NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS (NBS)
There are currently no multilateral definitions of nature-based solutions. However, for the purpose of this project, they can be broadly defined as actions intended to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems in order to address societal challenges (such as climate change). Such solutions provide multiple benefits and can promote human well-being, tackle climate change and enhance biodiversity and ecosystem health, thus serving both environmental and societal needs. Nature-based solutions can be designed to address major societal challenges including biodiversity loss, climate change, disaster risk and social and economic development.
Likewise, ecosystem-based approaches (EbA) to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction can be understood as holistic approaches that use biodiversity and ecosystem functions to manage the risks of climate-related impacts and disasters. They differ slightly from nature-based solutions as they emphasise community and local solutions. Benefits of effectively restored and protected ecosystems range from storing carbon, controlling floods, stabilising shorelines to providing clean air and water, food and fuel.
Broadly speaking the project concentrates on four general and non-mutually exclusive categories of actions that may be considered within the NbS and EbA aspects of the project:
- creating new ecosystems
- improving management of working lands
- restoring degraded landscapes
- protecting ecosystems
There is growing evidence that wherever well-designed nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based approaches are carefully implemented, they can deliver multiple benefits for a community or society at a relatively low cost. Importantly, they also allow for the creation of synergies (as opposed to trade-offs) in achieving climate and environmental goals.
In this context, the project seeks to build upon the recognition that ecosystems—if sustainably maintained, protected and restored—can support mitigation and adaptation outcomes by reducing the negative impacts of anticipated climate effects. Ecosystems become crucial to enhancing the good life of people, communities and societies; they aid both adaptation and mitigation while supporting a virtuous interaction in the long term.
CIRCULAR APPROACH TO CARBON
Circular approaches to addressing climate goals builds upon natural cycles, moving away from a linear design towards a more holistic, circular approach. In circular approaches, products and materials are designed to be reused, remanufactured, recycled or recovered and are thus maintained in the economy for as long as possible (along with their constituent resources), while the generation of waste—especially hazardous waste—is avoided or minimised. A low-carbon approach to the circular economy complements and builds upon the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) model of managing GHG emissions, while adding a fourth, Remove. It not only recognises our problematic relationship with carbon, but emphasises the many opportunities associated with carbon and curricular approaches. Carbon is understood not as a pollutant, but instead as a resource that can be integrated and used to create new valuable products. Likewise, the circular approach to carbon considers nature as a defence mechanism against climate change impacts. It then becomes possible to close the loop on emissions, through two means: addressing the current design problem and using nature-based solutions.
Redesigning materials and products so that GHGs remain in the cycle for as long as possible
This narrative is made possible by redesigning buildings, systems and cities in such a way that materials can be reused, remanufactured, recycled or recovered, and crucially, maintained in the economy for as long as possible. In this way generating waste is avoided or minimised, leading to a healthier relationship with carbon.
Mimicking natural processes of the earth Nature-based solutions can be taken to be part of circular approaches, as they are able to remove carbon from the atmosphere and address biodiversity needs, while enhancing responses to climate impacts. Carbon plays a key role in human and ecological systems, especially as it applies to climate change. Recent research suggests that NbS could substantially help with the mitigation needed to move towards Paris goals, while also becoming central to addressing climate change and its impacts. Efforts to avoid ecosystem loss or degradation, or other adverse land- and sea-use changes, as well as conserving, restoring and sustainably managing the world’s ecosystems can ensure that nature continues to provide important benefits to society.
It is expected that the portfolios and visions created by the project may empower its participants to pursue all opportunities for minimising and reducing GHG emissions while addressing the impacts of climate change. By taking into account the carbon and remove aspects, the visions, portfolios and learning opportunities brought forward by the project can highlight opportunities to address climate change, and positively impact the carbon cycle’s interactions and effects within and across socio-economic and environmental systems and within local cultures and traditions.