By Pat Armstrong, Chair, and Yasar Atacik, Chair-elect, Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG)
Pakistan’s catastrophic 2022 floods, Europe’s deadly wildfires, and the titanic cyclones slamming Africa are just three examples of the rising toll of disasters justifying the urgency of the Synthesis of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) issued by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which made worldwide headlines in March.
As we mark Earth Day 2023, we want to share how The Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group (ESRAG) can help your club meet this crisis with life-saving action. We’ve been holding virtual international meetings since 2020 and building a fast-growing array of online resources you can consult to find field-tested projects to fit your community’s context and club’s capacity.
If you’re attending the Rotary International Convention in Melbourne, come a day early for ESRAG’s Environment Action Summit on 25 May. Gain hope as you learn about projects on rivers, mangroves, solar power for community development, and more. Register here.
“Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming,” say the scientific panels of the IPCC. “The 10% of households with the highest per capita emissions contribute 34–45% of global consumption-based household greenhouse gas emissions, while the bottom 50% contribute 13–15%.”
But wealthy nations have failed year after year to fulfill their pledges for US$100 billion in annual public climate finance, even as needs have ballooned far beyond that figure. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that over 70% of the public climate funding that has been sent is in loans, saddling hard-hit countries with debt.
How you can take action
Rotary’s Four-Way Test of fairness and benefit to all concerned calls on us to respond to the IPCC’s two urgent calls to action.
The first is to reduce our carbon emissions. Effective ways to reduce emissions are becoming more available and affordable. Those of us who live in high-emission economies have the corresponding power to slow climate change by making ethical, practical changes.
Many climate actions bring co-benefits. For example, energy efficiency reduces utility bills. ESRAG’s Plant-rich Diet Task Force offers a 15-Day Challenge to discover one of the highest-impact climate actions. They will provide you a daily email with recipes and tips on how eating less meat reduces not only atmospheric CO2, but your own risk of chronic disease.
The second essential action is to increase funding to make vulnerable communities resilient to climate harms like drought, floods, and crop failure. Rotary is ideally structured to deliver cost-effective grants to those communities most impacted by climate change, combining overseas donations with the cultural understanding of local clubs who can work in respectful partnership with the communities to create sustainable good.
A powerful example is the Smart Villages project, an initiative organized by Pakistani Rotary clubs with communities devastated by the 2022 floods. Rotary members are engaging villagers’ traditional skills and building materials, and providing new technology (like drip irrigation and solar power) to catalyze vibrant, equitable economic development. Visit ESRAG’s blog to find out how your club can help Pakistan’s communities resurrect their country.
As you work on engaging fellow Rotarians and Rotaractors in climate action, please advocate with businesses, foundations, and governments you influence to get them to fund the climate solutions that must happen now, at scale. Worldwide trends such as the expansion of renewable energy have helped, but our pace is far too slow. “There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all,” says the IPCC AR6. “The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.”
Please browse our website to explore free resources your club can use. Join our webinars or meetings that intrigue you. ESRAG Task Forces provide free technical assistance and can meet with your club by Zoom. ESRAG Initiatives site provides toolkits for successful projects, including solar solutions for houses and businesses, Lunch out of Landfills, and several more. This site also connects you to valuable tools like the iRotree impact app, the En-ROADS climate solutions simulator, and Every Club Climate Friendly.
Our Rotary International theme for 2023-24 is Create Hope in the World. The IPCC report holds out hope: “Deep, rapid and sustained mitigation and accelerated implementation of adaptation actions in this decade would reduce projected losses and damages for humans and ecosystems … and deliver many co-benefits, especially for air quality and health.”
Let’s get to work and put our global Rotary community on the leading edge of protecting human life on Planet Earth.
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