Over the course of three days, participants heard from world-class scientists, communicators, organisers, strategists, innovators, and of course, the Climate Reality Chairman and Former US Vice President, Al Gore.
The program taught the 700 in the room how to share their story, to understand the science, and how to inspire hope for an alternative way of doing things. Held in the Philippines, it was wonderful to have so many local people in attendance. I learnt both from them and the guest speakers the climate challenges faced by this southeast Asian archipelago, and the defiance and strength they have showed in the face of such adversity.
The Climate Reality Leaders came together connected by a shared apprehension about the state of our planet. They left with the ability and drive to recruit others to wield the collective energy it takes to make systemic and transformative change. The new Climate Reality Leaders are now part of a much greater group, united by solidarity, hope and action.
The scale of the challenge
As a farmer I am interested in producing enough food for a burgeoning global population and navigating unprecedented obstacles while reducing our environmental footprint are some of the defining challenges of our time.
A visit to the Philippines is a powerful reminder that we are dangerously pushing planetary boundaries. Due to our actions, climate change poses an existential threat to human rights. For the world’s poorest, life is a high-wire act, with no safety nets. Some of the people who will feel the impacts most acutely are those who live and work closest to the land – farmers.
By 2030 there will be an extra 1 billion people on this planet to feed. That is around 28 harvests away. In that time we must refine and redefine our production system.
Change is eminent and the challenge is immense, but we must push forward. The question is – how? The good news is that many of the tools needed to reduce carbon emissions and poverty in poor rural communities are quite basic. Technology to advance needs to be made available and affordable, access to finance for both men and women, insurance, improved crop and livestock varieties, education, healthcare, renewable energy and greater markets.
These efforts and others – to ensure social equity and uphold human rights – are needed to transform people’s lives. Greater resilience, stability, prosperity and sustainability will give farmers the security and dignity they so desperately need.
Farmers in wealthier nations can also support their less well off counterparts across the seas. Sharing knowledge plays a key role in understanding the environment in which farmers live and work, and developing best management practices. Reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions has beneficial influence to the globe. Providing skill training and helping to create social support structures can have long lasting value.
Lessons for Australia
The Paris Agreement has been signed and it is now time for the Australian government to step up and put in place a long-term plan to achieve the pollution reductions, including policies to clean up and modernise our energy sector. It is also up to us as individuals – as farmers – to innovate and excel in order to enhance our production, our natural environment, and our communities.
Australia will ratify the Paris Agreement on April 22 in New York. The agreement will be reviewed and upgraded in response to science, referring to the legally binding requirement that all countries periodically review and revise their pledges.
Australia needs to reduce emissions in line with what the experts recommend. To meet responsible 2030 reduction targets, and beyond, in a cost-effective manner, we will need bipartisan support to put a price on carbon. A mandatory emissions trading scheme (similar to the EU, China, California) is likely to be effective. A polluter-pays principle approach will ensure that those doing the damage pay for it.
There is a need for complementary fundamental climate change research, adaptation and mitigation measures. It is imperative that research funding levels are not just sustained but increased. To make informed decisions we need access to the best information on the climate system and appropriate responses. Australia must continue to provide leadership in all aspects of climate change research.
Innovation and productivity have long underpinned Australia’s agricultural prosperity and competitiveness. Investment in research and development has enabled this. It has been the farmers’ commitment to continuous improvement based on that R&D that the Australian agricultural sector is a global leader. Farmers use the best knowledge available to make decisions on the land, to ensure our agricultural practices are sustainable.
Practical solutions are available right now. Farmers can help capture carbon through soil sequestration projects and afforestation, and reduce GHG emissions through appropriate use of fertilisers and managing better livestock feed and bloodlines. Clean, reliable and affordable renewable energy is ready to be harnessed. We are blessed with open skies and vast horizons – the potential for solar and wind energy are huge.
The Climate Reality Leadership Corps provided me with greater knowledge on how climate change is impacting different regions of the world, and reinforced the science behind this complex and intricate transformation. I will use this new knowledge to improve the conversations I have on this topic.
The networks formed were a central value of this workshop. It was wonderful to meet with so many proactive and inspiring people from all over the world working in climate change action roles. Forming partnerships between sectors and collaborating is an important step in tackling climate change in an effective and efficient manner.
At the conclusion of the workshop, participants graduated at Climate Reality Leaders. Armed with new knowledge and skills, they are ready to promote a better way and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
Photo: Jojo Mamangun
This Week in Climate Change (formally The Week That Was), a weekly review of climate change politics, policy, innovation and science from Climate Reality Leader Andrew Woodward. @climatecomm