Europe got the memo this summer about climate adaptation
The summer of 2022 marks the first time that Europe faced the harsh reality of climate impacts and adaptation that much of humanity has been grappling with for some years: fires, drought, four consecutive heatwaves, failed harvests, food and water shortages. Nothing could be more emblematic of this shift than the arrival of locally transmitted dengue in southern France.
The IPCC’s 2022 report on climate adaptation notes:
Climate-sensitive food-borne, water-borne, and vector-borne disease risks are projected to increase under all levels of warming without additional adaptation (high confidence). In particular, dengue risk will increase with longer seasons and a wider geographic distribution in Asia, Europe, Central and South America
and sub-Saharan Africa, potentially putting additional billions of people at risk by the end of the century (high confidence).
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ICYMI this summer
Wave of historic legal rulings and declarations; an inspired appointment at UNFCCC ahead of COP27; Food industry emissions
A historic first at the UN General Assembly. In late July 161 countries (8 abstentions) voted for a resolution that establishes the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right. Although not legally binding it can shape policy and law worldwide. It opens the door to questions such as “Is climate inaction a human rights violation?”
Brazil’s supreme court recognised the Paris Agreement as a human rights treaty thereby giving it legal status above national law.
In a landmark ruling in Spain last month, the Mar Menor lagoon in the Costa Blanca has been recognised as a legal entity with rights that require the ecosystem be protected by local authorities. Once the legislative process is complete the Mar Menor will be the first eco-system in Europe to be granted rights as a legal entity.
Back in April, an Indian court ruled that nature has legal status on par with humans, and that humans are required to protect it.
The past generations have handed over the ‘Mother Earth’ to us in its pristine glory and we are morally bound to hand over the same Mother Earth to the next generation. - Justice S. Srimathy of the Madras High Court.
👉 Comment: These decisions on the new frontiers of human rights and nature rights are among the most promising and hopeful tools for change we possess at present.
A new study shows the food industry’s carbon footprint is way higher than we thought. Transporting ingredients and food products accounts for nearly one-fifth of all carbon emissions in the food system — a much bigger slice of the emissions pie than previously thought, according to the first comprehensive estimate of the industry’s global carbon footprint.
Europe’s record-breaking wildfire season: Nearly 660,000 hectares of land has gone up in flames - an area more than twice the size of Luxembourg since the start of 2022. Worst-hit countries are Spain, Romania, Portugal and France.
And an inspired appointment: In a strong signal of the importance of keeping global warming below 1.5C and the political importance of highly vulnerable small island states in climate negotiations, the new head of the UNFCCC is Grenada’s Environment Minister, Simon Stiell.
Highlights from the sustainability agenda
Get ready for a meat tax. A new study calculates how much more we should be paying to eat meat to compensate for the negative environmental consequences of raising livestock.
the average retail price for meat in high-income countries would need to increase by 35%-56% for beef, 25% for poultry, and 19% for lamb and pork to reflect the environmental costs of their production.
And if all that is feeling rather heavy… allow me a moment to share a favourite book of the summer: “Nutmeg’s Curse” by Amitav Ghosh.
Who would have thought that one of my favourite fiction writers could pack such a punch as a climate writer? Ghosh digs behind the links across climate change, capitalism, colonialism and vitalist politics in a narrative that is sharp, insightful and, ultimately hopeful.
Perhaps the most hopeful sign (…) is that many middle-class Asians, who have for the last three decades been totally absorbed in the headlong pursuit of consumerism, are increasingly susceptible to the appeal of Earth-oriented movements that draw their strength from “pan-Asian ideas of sacred forests, lands and waters”.
From and beyond the podcast
Amid the summer from hell of heat, fire and water scarcity, it was immensely encouraging to interview Nigel Crawhall for the podcast about why we need indigenous expertise for the water crisis. Our conversation was timed to coincide with the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9.
We talked about why there has been a recent surge in interest in indigenous knowledge for water management in particular, but more generally from scientific assessments, politicians and international organizations. Nigel explains that for too long we’ve been focused on western models and urban living and missed out on the majority of human understanding and knowledge about the world.
From the Arctic to the Kalahari to the Mekong, traditional knowledge holders bring a wealth of insight on water governance. This was probably the most uplifting and inspiring interview I have recorded for a long time. You can catch up here.
If you’re wondering if this episode is for you, I’ve rounded up some of the big moments:
Part of what has shifted is the idea that diversity is part of what makes us resilient this idea that you cannot have one size fits all that you cannot impose one model of development.
There’s a whole bunch of environmentalists and policy specialists saying, listen, if you cannot put a number on it, the minister of finance isn’t going to understand what we’re talking about. (…) What is the value of nature?
There’s a lot of other people saying it’s not about the money. If you’re only talking in terms of valuation, it means that your intention is to extract it and to convert it into some kind of cash value, or financial value.
I think it’s important to talk about decolonization conceptually in policy, how we examine neo-liberal economics and in, in whose interest these things are.
I think what you’re seeing in the UN from fairly early on, but it’s built momentum, is that the developing world sees itself as having collective interest that is about global justice and equity.
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