Climate Academy
© Paul Desanker

The Climate Academy -
People’s pathways to climate action

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    The Climate Academy programme

    Climate change impacts are being increasingly felt around the globe, often even more intense than projected. There is a growing consensus that the next few years are the last window to steer the world in a better and safer direction and avoid the worst consequences of climate change. The scale and ambition of the climate challenge require new ways of thinking and working – across sectors and thematic silos. Achieving sustainable development in all countries within the context of climate change, will furthermore require innovative forms of social engagement, along with new and improved technologies and mechanisms. Though the efforts from the scientific community to inform the climate change policy process are continuously increasing, people’s perspective, inspiration and pathways to climate action are scantily understood. Science-based participatory approaches are much needed to provide hope and direction. The Climate Academy addresses these challenges in a series of dedicated events on people’s pathways to climate action.

    News from the project

    About the academy

    Both mitigation and adaptation to changing and emerging conditions are of fundamental importance to sustainability which necessitates transdisciplinary knowledge. The scientific community, policy makers, private sector and civil society bring different yet complementary perspectives to climate change mitigation and adaptation practices. The climate change policy process is global by design but various implementation mechanisms are inherently local and connecting the local and the global is the need of the hour. At the global level, this decade is the decade of action for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Further, the first ‘global stocktake’ to review whether we are collectively on track to meet the commitment of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement is due in 2023. While multilateral policy making mechanisms are facing challenges to garner commitments, people are increasingly voicing their dissatisfaction with world leaders failing to deliver compelling climate action.
    Himanshu Shekhar
    © UNU-EHS
    This is the decade of action and we don’t need incremental but transformative climate actions that build upon the collaboration of all actors.
    Himanshu Shekhar
    Programme Head "The Climate Academy"
    Concurrently, the role of non-state actors such as the civil society, NGOs and young activists is gaining prominence as evident from growing citizen movements such as ‘Fridays for Future’ and the inspirational work done by young activists including Greta Thunberg. Amidst all this, the wave of integration of technology in every sphere of human lives and society, often described as ‘digitalization’, is accelerating. Yet, leading climate policies and processes have barely implored how digitalization can help humanity in addressing sustainable development and climate change issues. The possibilities and challenges that digitalization presents, need to be urgently incorporated into the UN policy making and implementation processes including the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement. The opportunities presented by digitalization to climate progress will therefore be incorporated in the Climate Academy as a cross cutting enabler.

    Objectives of the academy

    The Academy’s overarching goal is to advance the scientific understanding of people-centered climate action and inform policy making through its solution oriented approach. Against this background, the three key objectives of the proposed Climate Academy Programme are:
    First, it aims to advance the scientific understanding of people’s perception and concerns towards climate change induced risks. It will do so by convening leading researchers and other key stakeholders to collect, discuss and jointly advance the latest approaches in this field across scales and world regions. The Academy will also address and debate existing participation mechanisms in the global climate change policy making and implementation and it will explore possible leverages that digitalization presents.
    Second, it aims at applying this understanding to advance participation pathways to enhance the effectiveness of the existing and proposed solutions that reduce people’s exposure and vulnerability to climate change. The focus will in particular be on understanding the feedback and expectations regarding future exposure and vulnerability within the three core themes listed below.
    Third, the Academy aims at fostering the science-policy-action interface by feeding knowledge and solution oriented pathways directly into policy processes (crucially, in partnership with UNFCCC) and communities of practice (such as UNDRR, ICLEI or others). At the same time, the agenda of the Academy is itself driven by transdisciplinary co-creation to facilitate the formulations of comprehensive solutions and their implementations. It specifically aims to contribute to the UNFCCC Global Stocktake process of the Paris Climate Agreement by providing the assessment of critical intangible dimensions prudent to meet its targets.
    Ghana, Slum
    © Munich Re Foundation
    Environmental pollution, poverty and climate change risks often go hand in hand. In order to solve these challenges, we need more ambitious, holistic and participatory approaches.

    Academy themes

    Urban Vulnerability and Nature-Based Solutions: In the purview of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the fragility and underlying vulnerability of urban systems to sudden cascading events is becoming evident. The IPCC has identified urbanization as one of the four megatrends that must change fundamentally to effectively address climate change (IPCC, 2018). It also highlighted the vital importance of nature-based solutions for climate progress (IPCC, 2019). This theme aims to ask how nature-base solutions can assist in addressing newly emerging urban vulnerabilities, considering sudden jolts and cascading effects. Nature-based solutions are known to be most effective if they respond to the local conditions, particularly to the needs of local ecosystems. There is an urgent need to understand the perceptions and concerns of communities in using nature-based solutions for reducing urban vulnerabilities. The Academy aims to explore community focused nature-based approaches that can reduce urban vulnerability and reinforce monitoring.
    Digitalization and Energy Transition: The so-called ‘fourth industrialization revolution’ has brought digital technologies to every aspect of our life across the globe. This has opened a strategic window to catalyse much needed radical change in our collective response. Digitalization can be an enabler to sustainable development by reducing vulnerability and limiting exposure. While enhanced technical efficiency is attracting attention from scientists and policy makers alike and has provided entry points in the climate change mitigation and adaptation debates, understanding how people perceive and use ‘digitalization’ to mitigate and manage likely risks from climate change is scantily explored. In particular, this theme will explore how digitalization interacts with energy consumption which is by far the biggest emitter of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, at more than 73% (World Resources Institute, 2020). The IPCC has identified energy consumption as one of the four megatrends that must change fundamentally to effectively address climate change (IPCC, 2018). This debate is often addressed from either source (renewable versus fossil) or technical standpoints (efficiency, automation etc.), the traits of digitalization that enable people to address their energy consumption need urgent attention. People are not mere passive consumers, they can be active partners in an effective energy transition for meeting the net carbon zero targets. Assessing how energy transition is impacting people’s exposure and vulnerability to climate change and understanding how digitalization can assist them to respond better to this transition is therefore of great urgency for effective energy transition and climate action.
    Climate Change induced Human Mobility: One of the key challenges of the next decades, when climate change will render more and more places uninhabitable or incapable of sustaining livelihoods, will be for people to move out of harm’s way in a dignified manner. Since the mid-2000s, a body of research has evolved on the question whether and how climate change drives human mobility patterns. While empirical evidence has been mixed and context-specific, it is now clear that in climate change hotspots, relocation will be eventually inevitable. This is a major humanitarian challenge because historical evidence of the well-being outcomes of resettlement (e.g. in the context of infrastructure projects, such as dams) has been abysmal. The Academy can make a crucial contribution to leading policy processes such as the UNFCCC Warsaw International Mechanism’s (WIM) taskforce on migration and displacement and the Global Compact for Migration, by focusing on people-centered research that looks at the conditions under which people at the frontlines of climate change will be forced to leave their homes, and how these conditions can be improved to minimize losses and damages. (tbc)
    Smart Phone
    © Munich Re Foundation
    Digital technologies, apps and networks can boost our joint ambitions to tackle climate change and risk reduction.

    Format and outcomes of the academy

    The central element is a set of three sessions of ‘The Climate Academy - People’s Pathways to Climate Progress’, to be held in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Each Academy will have a different theme (as explained above), contributing towards the central goal of the program. Each Academy is envisaged to have a subject ‘expert group’ and is designed to convene 20-30 participants. These shall include researchers (a mixture of PhD students, post-docs, mid-career researchers), early career practitioners (e.g. from national, sub-national and international risk management agencies or the insurance sector), selected policy-makers and the representatives of the civil society. In addition, each Academy will feature 2-3 invited high-level keynote speakers who will be established scientific thought-leaders in their respective fields along with high-level experts from the realms of policy-advice and practice. 
    Each Academy is foreseen to lead to the coordinated production of a number of outputs. First, prior to each Academy, the state-of-art of the theme will be prepared as a scientific article and white paper to provide a common and solution oriented understanding of the theme. The scientific approaches and results of each year will be compiled as publications within leading internationally peer-reviewed scientific journals. This publication track is important for establishing and underscoring the scientific credibility of the generated approaches and findings. Second, advice for policy-makers and practitioners will be specifically prepared in policy briefs, one following each Academy. These briefs will be presented and discussed at leading policy making platforms such as UNFCCC COPs and NAP Expo and will be widely distributed through the communication channels of our networks. They will also be directly used to prepare and communicate policy advice in a more direct manner, e.g. through submissions and motions put forward within different UNFCCC work streams such as the Nairobi Work Programme or the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM).

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