International humanitarian agency launches environmental stewardship initiative in response to global climate change agenda
(SILVER SPRING, MD) November 18, 2021 – Representatives from over 180 countries, gathered in person and virtually in Glasgow, Scotland, for two weeks in November to celebrate the United Nation’s twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties (COP26) and more importantly to strengthen actions addressing the predicted climate crisis.
Alarm has spread worldwide over rising greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures continuing to rise, fueling unprecedented disasters across the globe. The COP26 has been the center of attention, especially as hopes for progress can be made on issues surrounding climate finance, coal use and methane emissions.
Experts warn that if nations don’t take drastic action to reduce emissions immediately, much of the world will suffer climate catastrophes, longer and more intense heat waves, and widespread species loss, among other consequences.
Going By the Numbers
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Germany collaborated with partnering agencies OroVerde Tropical Forest Foundation and Welthungerhilfe (World Hunger Help) on a joint 90-minute session at the global conference.
The panel covered climate resilient livelihoods and holistic approaches to strengthen community resilience such as preparing communities to face extreme disasters (i.e., drought, floods), addressing and identifying long-term risks, and discussing how to restore eco-systems for sustainability.
Brendon Irvine, director for programs and planning for ADRA’s Asia Regional Office, joined the panel virtually and spoke on the current state of the globe and how nature and nature-based solutions offer hope and real alternatives to draw down excess carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.
“Global CO2 emissions currently are about 42 to 43 gigatons per year excess emissions. About 35 to 36 percent gigatons from that is from fossil fuels and from industrial emissions, and about five or six gigatons are from land use changes, such as loss of biomass by deforestation, desertification, and loss of topsoil and soil organic matter,” Irvine says.
He provided findings and historical evidence that suggest cropping land and grazing land in natural grasslands and rangeland, along with the use of soil organic matter, can offer the largest potential to minimize CO2 emissions, especially if managed well.
“In order for us to progress to net zero by 2050, we must be able to draw down this excess CO2 and draw down future emissions … Collectively, the drawdown is well over 1,200 gigatons. That would be sufficient to take us back to pre-1990 atmospheric levels of CO2 and mop up the future emissions for over the next 10 to 15 years as we progress to net zero CO2 emissions,” Irvine says.
Successfully Reducing CO2
Adding to the climate resilience COP26 panel discussion was Anna Krikun, program coordinator of ADRA Deutschland, who shared a project ADRA implemented in Fiji. The country was impacted by climate change in 2016 when a major cyclone hit the country’s islands followed by drought.
“Since the natural disasters occurred, there was extensive and incorrect use of chemicals such as pesticides,” Krikun says. “This led to food insecurity; people were eating mainly starch vegetables and monocropping affected the land, biodiversity, and people’s health. Reportedly, 40 percent of pregnant women had anemia and 6.2 percent of children aged five and younger had stunted growth.”
ADRA administered irrigation systems, replaced chemical weedicides and pesticides with organic alternatives, made communities aware of the impact chemical solutions have on their land and health, provided agricultural kits and seed preservation techniques, and planted kitchen gardens to increase “resilient crops.”
After three years, ADRA found that the community increased seed preservation, farmers became knowledgeable about taking care of their soil and adapted ways of growing crops during a drought. In addition, there was less reliance on mono cropping, less reliance on fast foods, pregnant women received proper nutrition and anemia rates decreased, and there was a high interest in biodiversity planting, especially among youth.
“Our takeaway lessons from this project were that nature-based solutions and sustainable land use is an important factor of CO2 draw down, impact goes far beyond that: water and food quality, biodiversity, community resilience; and community incentives and awareness are crucial,” she says.
Addressing Climate for the Future
ADRA in the United Kingdom and ADRA’s Africa Regional Office joined forces with the Scottish Adventist Mission to initiate a year-long environmental stewardship initiative pilot known as ASAP to tackle the effects of climate change strategically and practically, while raising awareness of its effects and of its responsibility among individuals.
“ASAP is a platform for international and cross-cultural collaboration where global actors, local communities, and young people can contribute to a faith-based response to the climate change agenda,” says Catherine Boldeau, ADRA’s development education officer and urban lead in the United Kingdom.
The partnership, according to Boldeau, aims to reduce the carbon footprint of a national faith-based organization, connect communities in the global north with communities in the global south to promote environmental stewardship, and create awareness and engagement around the topic of faith-based responsibility for the environment.
“Climate change concerns all of us, not just the most vulnerable people on this planet. It is one of the biggest threats humanity faces in modern times … It is important to mitigate the negative effects, adapt to changes quickly and assertively, so we can guarantee the wellbeing of humanity within the planetary boundaries,” says Carina Rolly, advocacy and policy advisor for ADRA in Germany.
She adds that in Germany, the country has felt the effects of climate change, most recently with floods in the western regions.
“ADRA has been one of the main players in the NGO field to support social initiatives and households in close cooperation with our partners,” Rolly says. “Catastrophes will continue to take place. We need to have a stronger and in-depth understanding of what this means for us as a community and how we want to support each other as church members and societies.”
During a program launch of the ASAP initiative, held on November 9, Michael Kruger, ADRA’s president, shared a pre-recorded message.
“The world needs urgent action, innovative solutions, and faithful stewards. The ASAP project taps into our strengths as Adventists in nature-based solutions to climate change. By improving local ecosystems, we can address challenges such as disaster risk, biodiversity loss, food security, water security and human health,” says Kruger. “These solutions are being recognized as effective and cost-efficient, helping people adapt to climate-change and building community resilience.”
Kruger notes that the project is the first of its kind and not the last and has the power to transform lives and communities around the world.
“The project is also an invitation to us as individuals … to act and consider the ways our lifestyles can contribute to a more sustainable and equal world,” he says.
View ADRA Germany’s presentation, under the title “Climate Resilient Livelihoods—a Holistic Approach to Strengthen Local Capacities and Restore Ecosystems,” HERE.
Journalists who wish to secure an interview for this story, may email: press@ADRA.org.
Banner image courtesy of German Climate Pavillion.