Our house is on fire


A firefighter tries to put out a blaze as volunteers hold the water hose during a forest fire in Agios Stefanos, northern Athens, Greece, August 6, 2021. – AP PHOTO

Many of the challenges we face today overlap. As global temperatures increase even by fractions of a degree – say, from today’s 1.1°C to 1.5°C by 2030, the risks will increase and important species and ecosystems are very likely to disappear already. Suppose we fail to accelerate mitigation and adaptation. In this case, we will stay on the current trajectory and the temperature will rise about 3°C ​​above pre-industrial levels. In such a case, the impacts should be several times – ten times – worse.

“Science tells us this will require the world to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. But under current commitments, global emissions are expected to increase by almost 14% over the course of the current decade. It’s a catastrophe. This will destroy any chance of keeping 1.5 alive.

This is taken from remarks by UN Secretary-General António Guterres during the press conference on the launch of the Working Group II report, on impacts. Adaptation and Vulnerability, as part of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on February 28.

Mr Guterres describes the recently released IPCC report as an “atlas of human suffering”. Why? Because according to the report, half of the world’s population already lives in hotspots of great vulnerability to climate change. The well-being of these people is already seriously affected. The report explains how this will increase under various temperature scenarios and regions around the world, including the Caribbean.

Mr. Guterres continues: “The facts are undeniable. This abdication of leadership is criminal. The world’s biggest polluters are guilty of arson of our only home.

Scientists from 67 countries, 270 authors (including five from UWI), reviewed more than 34,000 scientific papers, resolved 62,418 expert and government comments, and then collectively endorsed the findings published on Monday. In August 2021, the Scientific Committee published the first part of the series, which will constitute the sixth assessment report. This report focused on the latest climate science and projections of future warming, marked “code red” by Guterres.

A forest fire ravages a forest near Ituzaingo in the province of Corrientes in Argentina, February 19, 2022. – AP PHOTO

At first glance, the size of the report is as overwhelming as the conclusions! Across 3,675 pages, there’s a loud and clear message: climate change is already affecting human well-being and the health of the planet at a warming of 1.1°C – and it will greatly intensify until that we will reach 1.5°C, and then much more. when we reach 3C, which is our current trajectory. The window of time available to ensure a livable future is short and closing rapidly.

Small island states

The currently available evidence allows scientists to detect increases in temperature with very high levels of confidence, a greater proportion of intense tropical cyclones, storm surges, droughts, changes in rainfall patterns, a rise in the level of the sea, coral bleaching and an increase in invasive species.

Over the next 30 years, sea level is expected to rise by 15 to 40 cm. “Above 1.5C, including small islands globally, it is predicted that there will be an additional 70-90% loss of reef-building corals, with 99% of corals being lost below a warming of 2 C or more above pre-industrial temperature. end point.”

While the need for investment in capacity building and adaptation strategies is most urgent in small island developing states (SIDS), the obstacles and constraints encountered include governance arrangements, financial resources, human resource capacities and lack of baseline climate modeling data.

Climate resilience

We have reached the stage where it is no longer enough to focus on mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is still necessary but not sufficient. We need to spend at least as much on adaptation, especially in small island developing states. Effective adaptation contributes to economic and ecological values ​​and improves well-being.

The report offers a framework of solutions that allows us to make decisions in favor of a form of development that is resilient to climate change. Climate resilience is characterized by high resilience and low risk because it consists of:

• Adaptation to reduce climate risks

• Mitigation to reduce greenhouse gases

• Improvement of biodiversity

• Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

What should organizations do?

All actors – individuals, organizations, cities, municipalities, countries are all agents of change – for better or for worse. Climate resilience depends on equitable and sustainable growth and a new social pact with the planet.

Figure: The Risk Propeller – interconnection between climate change, human society and ecosystems including biodiversity (Source: IPCC WGII ​​Report 2022). –

To that end, here is a plan for governing bodies of organizations to consider:

• Now is the time to act – the window is limited. Boards must overcome their inertia and support those on whom they depend to overcome theirs.

• Climate, adaptation, ESG, sustainable development must be on the agenda of every board of directors. Topics should be discussed with the help of experts, just like advice did for covid19. Councils need to develop their skills and fill their information gap:

• How does life work on our planet?

• What are the laws of nature?

• How are the organisation, its services and products related to nature (from input to impact)?

• Boards should define and review the purpose and values ​​of the organization.

• Boards of directors must define how the organization generates value in an integrated and sustainable way, with the associated parameters that must be respected and the strategic results to be achieved within specific timeframes.

• Establish the current baseline for the organization, then how much the organization itself needs to change and when to achieve the required impacts in the timeframe required to contribute to sustainable development.

• Based on this assessment, the organization can develop strategic ESG approaches to leadership. The IPCC report provides an overview of relevant data, risks, options and other references regarding climate, vulnerabilities and adaptation options.

• Collaborate with management to develop strategies and steer the organization:

• What problems does the organization solve? Which SDGs does the organization set and which ambitious goals does the organization set itself?

• Develop partnerships with government, civil society, citizens, media, communities, universities, investors and other businesses.

• Develop the decision-making competence of the organization to:

• Contribute effectively to the conservation and restoration of ecosystems.

• Ensure that processes and outcomes are fair and just.

• Reconcile different interests, values ​​and worldviews.

• Increase competitiveness through better business models and better solutions.

• Focus on the most profitable areas – protect nature, transform the most vulnerable and exposed population groups and places.

• Oversee and report not only on finances, but on all dependencies and impacts of the organization.

The IPCC report leaves no doubt that immediate and urgent action is needed now. “From today, every action, every decision counts.” Are our decisions today bringing us closer or further from a world resilient to climate change?

Dr. Axel Kravatzky is Managing Partner of Syntegra-ESG Inc, Chair of TTBS/TC309 Mirror Committee, Vice Chair of ISO/TC309 Governance of Organizations, Co-Organizer and Editor of ISO 37000 Governance of Organizations – Guidance. He is currently project manager for ISO 37006 Indicators of Effective Governance.

Comments and reactions that move the regional dialogue forward are welcome at [email protected]

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