Patricia McMahon was an ICS International team leader in Nepal
We’ve been talking about climate change for a while now and. However, it hasn’t always felt like the ‘powers that be’ are listening. Despite a keen focus on sustainability at an international level (with targets enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Millenium Development Goals before them), individual governments haven’t always been forthcoming with far-reaching, game-changing environmental policy. Small steps have been made, granted. But not giant leaps for planet-kind.
Maybe, just maybe, this is changing. Increasingly, national administrations are starting to bring forward more progressive agendas. This year, both the UK and India announced plans to ban all single use plastics by 2020 and 2022 respectively. Spain has pledged to achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050. In the US, President Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement was met by a resounding pledge from numerous cities, businesses and academic institutions to honour it as part of the ‘We Are Still In’ initiative. Gone are the days where environmental policy was seen as the territory of fringe parties or activists. Increasingly, it’s becoming a staple of modern politics.
It’s about time too. Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) released a special report, outlining what was arguably the most drastic and urgent call for action ever made. The key messages are definitely worth knowing: the measured rise in global temperatures to date is damaging people and the planet (with examples including more extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels).
To prevent even more perilous consequences, the global community must work together to ensure that this rise in temperatures does not exceed 1.5 °C. Current projections indicate that this will occur by 2030, only twelve years from now. Failure to prevent a global rise in temperatures above 1.5 °C will see increasingly drastic changes to our lives and significantly jeopardise our ability to deliver the SDGs. We need to act fast, but it won’t be easy: the IPCC says that ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ are required.
‘Change in climate means and extremes haveknock on effects for the societies and ecosystems living on the planet. Climate change is projected to be a poverty multiplier, which means that its impacts make the poor poorer and increase the total number of people living in poverty. The 0.5 °C rise in global temperatures that we have experienced in the past 50 years has contributed to shifts in the distribution of plant and animal species, decreasing crop yields and leading to more frequent wildfires. Similar changes can be expected for further rises in global temperature.’
IPCC SR1.5 °C FAQs
Organisations like Restless Development have been fighting to galvanise interest and action on environmental issues for years, working at the front line to change attitudes around the world. As an ICS Team Leader in Nepal, I had the privilege of supporting a fantastic, dedicated of team of volunteers in Sankhu, a rural hill-top community in the Lalitpur valley. Our time in Sankhu coincided with World Environment Day, providing the perfect opportunity to talk about environmental issues on a local level whilst being part of a global conversation.
Our international team worked around the clock to deliver a week-long programme of recycling workshops, awareness-raising activities, community clean-ups and village-wide rallies. But they didn’t stop there.
The ICS volunteers in Sankhu researched, negotiated and brokered a new arrangement between the municipal office and a recycling organisation in Kathmandu, persuading local leaders to allocate a proportion of the ward budget to the ongoing recycling of village refuse. Previously, this waste would have been burned or buried.
There’s still a huge amount to do if the worst of the IPCC predictions are to be avoided., and Iits individual actions like those taken by the team in Sankhu, alongside broad shifts at a policy level, that are needed. We all need to take notice. We all need to play our part.
Let decision makers know what you think. Tweet or write to your local councillors or MP about the leadership all levels of government must show in this area.
Can you put pressure on business? You can ask individual retailers to reduce plastic packaging, or approach groups like your Local Enterprise Partnership and speak with them about running a green business campaign or event.
Engage other young people in your community. Work with schools, colleges and universities to host awareness raising events, community clean-ups and workshops.