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COP26 High Level Climate Action Champions announce ‘Race to Resilience’ campaign

The COP26 High Level Climate Action Champions, Gonzalo Muñoz and Nigel Topping, are hard at work galvanising non-state actors in the lead up to COP26, with a mission to put resilience on equal footing with climate mitigation and the UNFCCC’s Race to Zero campaign.

In an online event on 17 November, ‘Building a Climate Resilient and Just Future for All: Delivering Action and Ambition’, the High Level Climate Action Champions Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz discussed their vision and plans for a Race for Resilience as a sister campaign to Race to Zero.

The Atlantic Council convened the event, bringing together the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP),  the Global Center on Adaptation, members of the Marrakech Partnership Climate Resilience Network and others, to discuss how to advance the action of non-state actors and initiatives to deliver outcomes at COP26 and beyond.

High Level Champions signal a decade of action on resilience

The Champions described resilience as a ‘whole world’ issue but noted it is critical to listen to and empower the most marginalised in order to understand how best to deliver locally-appropriate solutions at scale, a theme that ran throughout the event.

Opening the event, Mr Muñoz noted that resilience had been a recurring theme throughout the Regional Resilience Dialogues and Race to Zero resilience-focused dialogues, held throughout November. Summarising these, he pulled out three key messages:

We need to act with urgency, and with a focus on resilience.

Mr Muñoz acknowledged that historically, most climate change efforts have focused on emissions reduction, but climate change will impact on the livelihoods of billions without sufficient attention to adaptation.

“The dialogues have demonstrated that we cannot treat adaptation and mitigation as separate; they must be combined if we are to tackle climate change,” he said.

He pointed to the need to increase resilience in both urban settings, including slums, and in rural communities, including smallholder farms.

“Cities, new infrastructure and implementing nature-based solutions are all opportunities for rebuilding after COVID-19. It means breaking down siloes and putting nature at the centre of food and water systems.”

We need to put people and communities at the centre of action against climate change. Increased attention and agency needs to be given to local voices, including those of women, youth, indigenous groups, and people with disabilities.

Mr Muñoz commented: “These groups have both the agency and legitimacy to provide solutions. They are often the ones to suffer most from the consequences of climate change, but will also be the ones to mobilise solutions.

“Educating girls is key to dealing with the climate emergency. This is what we heard loud and clear from the regional dialogues. When communities are empowered, they deliver.

“This is something I have seen in my own experience in Latin America – women are often among those suffering the most, but they have the capacity to mobilise faster and more effectively.”

Increased investment in climate resilience is needed from both the public and private sectors, with a focus on flexible funding mechanisms that prioritise adaptation and resilience.

Citing the example of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has laid bare the need to build more resilient societies, Mr Muñoz called the current climate a “once in a lifetime opportunity to create the social and economic systems we need for a safe and prosperous future.”

He stressed that flexible funding mechanisms that can adapt to local priorities are critical, and noted the need to invite innovation from businesses and civil society:

“We need transformative climate finance mechanisms with people at the centre. Innovations are led by non-state actors from non-government stakeholders. Governments are crucial as enablers, but [they are] not natural innovators. We need to create public/private partnerships to create the conditions to innovate.”

Creating a ‘guiding star’ for resilience

Opening the event sessions, moderator Wanjira Mathai, Vice President and Regional Director for Africa at the World Resources Institute, commented: “Climate change has exposed the vulnerabilities, inequalities and injustices of our time. It is easy to feel dire and desperate.

“We need to seize this moment and find ways to move forward, help our societies to become healthier and more resilient to the shocks they face and fuel this race with the finance that it deserves.”

Johan Rockstrom, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Professor in Earth System Science, University of Potsdam, and Chair of the GRP Advisory Council, discussed identifying a goal or metric to reach for in a climate resilient world.

He said: “I think it’s a big ask to get a single metric, that we have the net zero equivalent in the resilience world. However, if we really embed the rights of all humans to navigate the uncertainties of the world today, then I think zero loss of nature [should apply]. As a source for food, energy and life support, it could also be a valid guiding star for resilience.

“There is a third a final zero here, which is on poverty. So to have a zero poverty target, a zero loss of nature target and a zero carbon target is not fully comprehensive, but gives us a good sense of the fundamentals.”

Empowering future generations to become resilience champions

Saleemul Huq, Director, International Centre for Climate Change & Development and Chair of Resilience Track for UN Food Systems Summit 2021, discussed the importance of investing in girls’ and boys’ education to help bring about resilience for LDCs.

“Young people as bright and capable, and champions of resilience to climate change. Vulnerable communities plan to become champions of climate change. We are no longer focusing on vulnerability as we did last decade; the new decade is a race to resilience by 2030 and the greatest asset we have is our young people.”

Mr Huq pointed to the “transformational change” happening in LDCs because of young people. Commenting on his home country of Bangladesh, he said: “We won’t recognise ourselves in 10 years because of young people. We will transform to a resilient country by 2030 – I believe that.”

International cooperation will be essential for delivering the adaption ambition

Julio Cordano, Head of the Department of Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chile and COP25 Chilean Presidency Representative, said: “From the point of view of the UNFCCC, adaptation is a late comer. One of the greatest challenges we have right now is to have a high-level system in the UNFCCC that mimics the way mitigation is treated but recognises adaptation is different.

“It’s important that when we go forward, we have one space for international cooperation.”

UK International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the newly-appointed UK International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for COP26, outlined her ambitions for the role and how the COP26 presidency plans to advance action on adaptation. She described the key focus areas for the presidency’s adaptation and resilience campaign as:

  • Driving action on the ground to improve adaptation and in doing so, to minimise or avert major climate shock impacts
  • Increasing the amount of and access to adaptation finance
  • Improving protection from climate related disasters to make sure finance is prearranged.

She commented: “My role is about building ambition. Climate change is here now, so in building toward successful action, I’ll be listening to governments and vulnerable communities themselves to understand how policy and action can be tailored to different circumstances, and engaging with donor countries to increase their resources and knowledge-sharing.

“Successful action and high ambition is reliant on collaborative action across sectors.”

– Reporting by Josie Emanuel, CASA

– Image: Zambia, courtesy CIF, Flickr

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