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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change » Hit the Ground Running

Hit the Ground Running

With one more full, formal day left in the negotiations, I myself have summed up some of the frustrations in the air and lost some faith in the higher powers here at the conference. From speaking with a variety of people in the last few days, I have come to see that the real action that will take place in mitigating climate change is not going to come from the delegates now sitting in the long plenary sessions here at the COP. Rather, the real action will be “from-the-ground-up.” If the complexities of making concrete market mechanisms or funds available (i.e. Adaptation Fund, Clean Development Fund, Green Climate Fund, or Carbon Market) are pushed aside for a moment, one can see the CONCRETE work that has been accomplished on the ground from a variety of local and/or private and/or regional sectors. This can be seen most clearly in some of the sustainability initiatives (and some of them quite large and impresive!!) seen occurring from the regional level all around the world; but those specifically showcased in South Africa.

My new favorite location at the COP is the Climate Change Response Expo section of the conference complex—aptly named because it showcases all the work that has been accomplished and also proposed for South Africa in responding to climate change, especially in cities. The alien-apceship structure prominently situated in the center of this outside expo area is built out of reused milkcrates and milk bottles filled with plants and concealing several solar PV panel structures. This building when entered also features low energy lighting fixtures, and several comfy seats where one can listen to short presentations on climate change adaptation in Cape Town, called “Climate Smart Cape Town.”

At the conclusion of a brief presentation on infrastructure projects in the cape, Maggie and I had the pleasure of speaking with the day’s presenter, Helen Davies, who is the director of these programs around Cape Town. We spoke with Ms. Davies on the financing behind these water, energy, and waste projects she was involved in. the take-away message I got from speaking with her was that the financing is not/rarely readily and abundantly available for these projects, yet pushing local governments to look past this paucity of funding from national sources and towards their own long-term benefit in sustainability projects, can drive these projects forward—and indeed this has already occured.

Looking more broadly at this ground-up approach towards sustainable development, this approach has indeed been the mechanism mostly responsible in other sectors of sustainability initiatives: sustainable agriculture, organic food sales, the prominence of cycling transport recently, and eco-fashion. Addressing some small niches’ desire for more sustainable production in those sectors occurred because a few concerned and dedicated individuals or groups wished a process to shift towards greater sustainability. In the case of sustainable agriculture, the health of the environment was a driver of this shift in agriculture, and now the number of small, local, and organic farmers is increasing as people spread the word about the merits of it. At the COP, this ground-up approach can be seen in at various booths promoting knowledge and activism around several unique and local issues (rainforest deforestation, women’s rights, environmental justice, and food supply among several examples) that an isolated local population brought to the attention of the rest of the world.

Therefore, will this post emphasizes the merits of regional initiatives at the COP, the greater and faster response WE as a world need can be aided others can argue with increased national¬† participation through funds such as the CDM or GCF. Yet, the number and scope of regional initiatives without the global-scale funding and action the COP ultimately seeks to gain, is impressive. To leave you with this closing thought, think about what you as an individual can take away from such a low-level action towards greater sustainability in the face of climate change and |hit the ground running’ with that idea—-follow those who have not waited for the high-level action of a successful COP.

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