Afghanistan · 21 November 2022 · 4 min
For the first time, AKDN attended COP27 as an officially accredited Observer, participating in over half a dozen events – a much scaled up level of engagement compared to previous years. Why did we go, and what did we achieve?
The highlights of COP27 were the negotiations on whether the 1.5 degrees goal is still achievable, and whether rich countries and the largest emitters would commit funds to support climate adaptation in developing countries and to cover loss and damages from climate disasters. With these two goals in mind, AKDN came to COP27 with two clear messages:
As a former runner, the way I think about it is that if we can show that we can outrun the pace of climate change by finding better ways for communities to adapt, even in the toughest places, and share this knowledge with anyone who wants it, we will make an important contribution to the global race for survival that humanity faces. But adaptation alone won’t be enough. Our opponent, climate change, is running faster and faster. We must also slow it down to win the race.
Though no one organisation alone can slow down climate change, AKDN can show that aggressive mitigation is possible, even in the most remote areas in the world. We can even show that getting to Net Zero does not mean that we cannot provide quality health care, education, mobile phone services, energy, or the many other things we want to do. On the contrary, we can show that achieving Net Zero will actually improve services, as we will partner with countries to diversify their sources of energy and find new and better ways to do business.
During the conference we focused on showcasing and raising awareness for some practical issues. Our health team showed how they are doing amazing work to reduce the emissions of all our health facilities, while continuing to provide great health services. This is a major achievement, as the health sector causes heavy emissions that are difficult to avoid because there is no room to compromise on quality. Similarly, our education team made the case for mainstreaming climate into education systems to create a new generation equipped with the knowledge and skills to cope with the climate crisis. And my own Aga Khan Agency for Habitat team raised awareness for the plight of mountain communities at the frontline of climate change and showed how these communities can build resilience despite rapidly advancing climate change.
As the conference has ended, I am reflecting on the impact of our participation. Did we change minds? Was it worth it? I think it was, but it is not yet enough. In some of the sessions, such as on our transformative avalanche mitigation work in the high mountains of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, I almost felt that some of the audience found it hard to believe how effective combining community mobilisation and cutting-edge science can be for climate action. “You can maybe do this, but it would be too hard for us,” seemed to be what they were thinking.
So, I believe we should come back next year and continue to make our case. We cannot achieve our goals alone. Now that a fund for climate loss and damage has been agreed, governments and other partners will look for concrete programmes and projects to finance. This means that our ideas on climate action need to travel far and wide, just like AKDN’s community-driven development model once travelled the globe. The biggest threat to climate action is that people might think that even if action is necessary, it is too hard or even impossible to succeed. If too many people think that then humanity will fail and my daughter, and many others in her generation, will not have a future.
That’s why we must keep working to run faster and show that the opponent can be made to slow down. We will be happy to work with anyone who wants to do the same. It is late, but not too late to win the race!