To heal the Earth, put people at the heart of climate solutions

What happened on Day 2 of GLF Nairobi 2023

All live-streamed sessions from GLF Nairobi 2023: A New Vision for Earth are now available to watch on demand. Stream the event here.

As temperatures rise, biodiversity plummets and crises multiply around us, we’re entering uncharted territory for planet Earth. The issues we face can seem insurmountable, and as tipping points are passed and boundaries broken, it can be hard to envision a better future.

“We normally talk about the dual planetary crisis or the triple-planet crisis: biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution,” said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, CEO and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility on Day 2 of GLF Nairobi 2023: A New Vision for Earth.

“We have so many things on top that I don’t think we have a triple planetary crisis – what we have is an ecological collapse.”

Staving off that collapse was the central theme of the day, which brought together thousands of attendees and speakers to share their ideas, dreams and solutions for a better planet: their new vision for Earth.

GLF Nairobi 2023 Day 2
A session on Day 2 of GLF Nairobi 2023. GLF

Finding balance for a planet out of whack

Gus Justianto, director general of sustainable forest management at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, was clear in his new vision for Earth: one that balances the “economic, social and ecological” needs of communities, especially those that are “still struggling with poverty alleviation.”

This search for balance carried through sessions for the day, exemplified most clearly by a discussion on wild food, which often pits conservation, food security and cultural practices against each other in the face of a growing, more urbanized population.

“One in five people on Earth depend on wild resources – plants, animals, algae, mushrooms – for food,” said Robert Nasi, chief operating officer of CIFOR-ICRAF.

“At the same time, we are facing a very important conservation crisis. The unsustainable use of wild resources will translate into a lose-lose scenario. We are going to lose the resources and we are not going to see anybody being better, well off, or richer for that.”

But it’s not just wild food where conflicts arise. Agriculture, too, faces a tricky battle to ensure an equitable transition to a greener future. “Smallholder farmers in the Global South make a significant contribution to the preservation of ecosystems and the provision of multi-functional services, yet in the current systems, they are not rewarded for it,” said Jan Brix, a senior policy officer at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

“We need to find adequate compensation mechanisms for farmers to keep up and further incentivize sustainable practices that contribute to maintaining ecosystem services,” Brix added. “We need mechanisms in place that allow farmers to generate an income not only from agricultural production but also from payments for achieving positive external utilities.”

Participants on Day 2 of GLF Nairobi 2023. GLF

With these new mechanisms comes the challenge of ensuring that income ends up in the right hands. Poorly protected land rights and insecure tenure, which often affect women and Indigenous Peoples, can result in sustainable finance mechanisms failing to support the intended recipients.

For example, Violet Shivutse, founder and coordinator of Shibuye Community Health Workers, outlined how farmers can lack clear information on the use of carbon markets, which can lead women who work the land to sign up for them – even if landowners are the ones reaping the rewards.

Women are often disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, even though they hold much of the knowledge needed to implement many of the nature-based solutions that these new economic models are aiming to finance, said Mary Perpetua Kwakuyi, executive director of Goshen Global Vision.

“Women, as a group, are most affected by climate change and have better Indigenous knowledge and understanding of what needs to be done to adapt to these changing environmental conditions, to protect the environment and come up with practical solutions to problems introduced by climate change,” she explained.

Podcast corner
The podcast corner at GLF Nairobi 2023. GLF

An overhaul of systems and narratives

With new systems, practices, and mechanisms presented throughout the day, the conversation also spotlighted the need to rethink our current economic systems.

We face a fork in the road between two scenarios, said Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, co-president of the Club of Rome: a “too little, too late – business as usual scenario” and a “giant leap scenario” that would see a drastic shift to new systems that that address both socioeconomic and gender inequities.

“The lack of wealth distribution has created huge social tensions across the globe,” she said. “The capitalistic model that is anchored in extractive economies has proven categorically not to enable people to thrive and is creating a part of the population that needs to survive.”

Instead, humanity needs a systemic shift that must start with a change in narrative, said scholar, activist and author Vandana Shiva: “The Earth is living, and we need to get out of the illusion that she’s just dead matter for extraction and exploitation.”

“The ideals that can help us save life and the planet are those that enable us to use natural resources wisely, to nurture, while also preserving these resources, safeguarding the necessary sufficiency of ecosystem services,” concurred Marina Silva, Brazil’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

To change those narratives, we must first change where they come from – particularly by including more community voices. Magnus Kossmann, program director for Colombia, Ecuador and Peru at DW Akademie, outlined the importance of community media in communicating the needs of local populations, providing impartial and quality information in local languages, and dispelling misinformation.

“Community media really play a vital role in creating this link to the outside world in communicating the needs and the demands and amplifying the voices of the local population,” said Kossmann.

“They’re also vital in providing impartial and quality information in local languages to these local populations, who need to be able to analyze the interests and promises of actors, whether they be state actors or private actors in these areas.”

Closing plenary illustration
An artist’s interpretation of the closing plenary. Anna Denardin/GLF

Integrated approaches for a livable planet

Throughout the day, a rich variety of ideas and aspirations were put forward for a new vision of Earth. But there was one consistent thread: if we’re going to achieve it, we’ll need an integrated approach that puts people and communities at its heart. Activities must be co-created, collaborative and backed up by clear data and science.

“The sooner we can implement solutions to climate change, the sooner we can avoid irreversible losses and trigger critical climate tipping points,” said Éliane Ubalijoro, CEO of CIFOR-ICRAF. “We need to adopt a justice lens and think about how to decolonize our landscapes and heal our relationship with our land.”




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