New Global Commission on Adaptation

On October 16th, 2018, a new Global Commission on Adaptation (the “Commission”)—led by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva—was launched in the Hague.

Tclimate_change_67he Commission’s main purpose is to enhance the visibility and political importance of climate change adaptation by focusing on solutions, catalyzing the global adaptation movement and accelerating actions in various areas—with special attention on ensuring that support reaches the most vulnerable—including:

  • Climate-resilient food and rural livelihood security;
  • Resilient cities;
  • Ecosystem-based solutions;
  • Adaptation finance;
  • Resilient global supply chains;
  • Climate-resilient infrastructure; and
  • Climate-resilient social protection.

It intends to demonstrate that climate change adaptation is not only essential, but can also improve human well-being and lead to better and more sustainable economic development. The Commission also seeks to emphasize that the costs of adapting to climate change are lower than those economies will face if they continue with a business-as-usual approach.

watch-livestream-adaptation-commisionCountries participating and supporting the Commission include Canada, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, China, India, South Africa, Indonesia and the UK. The Commission is supported by a Secretariat at the World Resources Institute (in Washington DC) and by the Global Centre for Adaptation (in the Hague) as well as by a group of scientific experts worldwide, who will prepare background documents on various aspects of climate change adaptation.

As reported in the media, members of the Commission will also visit different countries for consultations in order to produce a report to be presented to the current Secretary General of the UN António Guterres at the Global Climate Summit in New York in September 2019.


Global leaders respond to 400,000 climate wake up calls

After 400,000 people marched on Sunday, NYC was again the stage of another climate change event: the United Nations Climate Summit 2014. Aimed to move forward the climate change negotiations and achieve an agreement at COP 21 in Paris, the UN Climate Summit gathered over 100 Heads of State and 800 leaders from business, finance and civil society. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed in his opening statement that “we are not here to talk, we are here to make history.” He challenged global leaders to propose climate actions on five fronts: emission reductions, mobilizing money and markets, pricing carbon, strengthening resilience, and mobilizing new coalitions.

While many of the leaders reiterated previous commitments – e.g. the need to limit global warming to 2o Celsius from pre-industrial level –  some of them announced new commitments that showed a real effort to advance climate change negotiations. Several countries –  developed, developing, and least developed countries – pledged to increase their GHG emission reduction goals beyond 2020 and increase the use of clean energy: the European Union committed to reduce 40% of its emission from 1990 levels by 2030; Ethiopia and Sweden stated their goals to become zero net emissions by 2025 and 2050, respectively; Republic of Korea announced that it will launch  the first Asian Emission Trade Scheme in 2015; Nicaragua committed to generate 90% of its electricity through renewables by 2020; and Tuvalu announced its goals to use 100% clean energy by 2020, just to name a few.

China, the biggest GHG emitter (28% of global CO2 emissions in 2013), announced goals to reduce its GHG emissions for the first time: 40 to 45% from 2005 levels by 2020. China also offered to provide $6 million for the United Nations’ efforts to boost South-South cooperation to address global warming. These announcements come as an initial break through to the developed versus developing country debate, which has been the biggest challenge in climate change negotiations. The shift in the tone of the Chinese government, which recognized its international obligation to tackle climate change as responsible major country, could force key emitter countries, such as United States and India, to participate in post-Kyoto commitments.

Another announced effort was the New York Declaration on Forests. The Declaration, the first of its kind, sets a non-legally binding timeline to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020 and to end it completely by 2030, while restoring 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands. These efforts combined would result in a cut between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon pollution every year. 32 governments, including Indonesia and Colombia (but surprisingly not my own country of Brazil), signed the Declaration, as did 20 subnational governments, 30 of the world’s biggest companies (e.g. Asia Pulp and Paper, Nestle, and Unilever), and more than 50 civil and indigenous organizations.

And last, but not least, poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a Marshallese citizen, provided a moving speech that brought some world leaders to tears. She gave the face, the voice, and the perspective of those experiencing climate change impacts today – the ones that world leaders hope to address by the end of 2015 in the new mitigation and adaptation agreement.

  Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Civil Society Representative from the Marshall Islands, is greeted on stage by her husband and her baby after speaking during the Climate Summit at United Nations Headquarters in New York




Over 400,000 Come Together in NYC for People’s Climate March

Yesterday over 400 thousand people marched through the streets of New York City yelling, singing, drumming, and clamoring for climate change justice. The march made the front page of the New York Times as the largest single environmental gathering in history, but across the world yesterday cities came together: 30,000 in Melbourne, almost 5,000 in Paris, 40,000 in London, 15,000 in Berlin, and 5,000 in Rio de Janeiro, to name just a few of the other 2,500 events around the globe. In New York, six of our delegation joined the march, myself included.

For march5me, the trip started at 3 A.M. in Vermont when a group of us left the V.L.S. parking lot, car-pooling to a bus in Montpelier filled with climate marchers, headed straight to N.Y.C. As we boarded, I took a glimpse up at the stars remembering my awe of the natural wonders of this world and wondered whether future generations would have clear skies to view these celestial lights. In my excitement, I anticipated singing, speeches, and storytelling on the bus, but in the early A.M., mostly we all just slept. It wasn’t until we approached the city that people really started stirring, and to fulfill our expectation of civil demonstrations, we quietly sang one song. But as soon as the bus parked, the activity started. The first sound to hit us of the streets of New York was the strong rhythm of a band of African drummers, playing as they made their way down the sidewalk to the March. On the same block, posters were set out with markers, the top stated in bold: “I’m Marching For” with a blank underneath for each person to write their own reasons for marching. In the blanks some wrote, “the Humans,” My Unborn Children,” or “My Mom.” As we moved closer to Central Park, the crowds drew denser; I saw more signs with messages from organizations and individuals with declarations of hope, anger, representation, and action. In the running for cutest sign was one carried by a little boy around three or four. Next to a drawing of a tiger, it said, “I like tigers,” and on the back it said “Save the tigers.”

We stood without moving in the masses for nearly two hours, marchmarchoccupying ourselves by meeting strangers and hollering out chants, such as, “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!” and “Divest, divest, put fossil fuels to rest!” Eventually real marching commenced. The march stretched a mile through N.Y.C.’s busy streets, down Central Park West, through Times Square, and eventually culminating in a block party on 42nd. I realized at Columbus Circle exactly how incredible it was to to be standing in that street, the rush and isolation of the automobile, for that moment, completely displaced for individuals in collective procession. My reverie ended when another chant broke out: “What do we want? Climate Justice! When do we want it? Now!” Perhaps the most powerful moment during the march was the moment of silence, where thousands of people stood together completely silent honoring those already lost due to climate change. The moment ended in a grand alarm with ringing bells and shouts; we must have action now.

For those interested in celebrity sightings, there were plenty, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gorden Levitt, I was happy to spot Bill McKibben, the founder of, but also would have loved to see Ban Ki-Moon, who was marching with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Al Gore, and Jane Goodall. But Ban Ki-moon at Climate Marchmore impressive than any particular individual in attendance was the vast diversity of the populace represented. There were blocs for the youth, for energy, for different states (I started the march in Vermont’s bloc); there were Buddhists and vegans, Indigenous groups, Unitarians, people of all ages (the youngest not yet even born)–all marching in solidarity. At one point I saw a huge arc that exemplified the feeling. On it stood a man carrying a sign, which read: “An atheist on the arc? Unite for climate justice!”

The big question at the end of the day as we all stood around exhausted but still warm with excitement, was “what next?” How do we keep this energy up and move it onto the next project of building new systems and policies to bring our march chants into pragmatic codes? Of course, many are already deep in the process of building changes to battle climate change. The UN will be continuing its work tomorrow at the UN Climate Summit. Millions are already working within their communities, but there is still more to go, and I hope we can keep our voices up as we all head back to our respective homes and keep that global solidarity with us and we continue working for climate justice in our own communities and projects. I got home exhausted, sweaty, and hopeful.