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The setbacks during the COVID-19 caused a reduction in the ongoing environmental damage, only in the short run. Climate change and ecological threats are still posing a great risk to the timely achievement of the SDGs. The targets of the Paris Agreement are still off track. According to the progress report of SDG 13: taking urgent action to combat climate change, “in order to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels as called for in the Paris Agreement, global efforts would need to reach net-zero CO2 emissions globally around 2050”.

The moderator of this session was Takahisa Taniguchi an Environmental Activist from Japan. Mr. Taniguchi initiated a movement called, “Chikyu wo ma-moro (Save the Planet)” and started generating knowledge about the consequences of climate change and mobilized civil society organizations to take concrete actions. In his opening remarks, he presented a brief overview of the recent highlights of increasing climate change and ecological threats.


The first panelist of this session was Lauren Herzer Risi, the Project Director of Environmental Change and Security at Wilson Center. Ms. Risi focused on the impact of increasing ecological threats on future levels of conflict, migration and talked about the US perspective. She highlighted that “Climate change acts as a risk multiplier, not just for migration, but for conflict and human security as well.” Climate change compounds the risks that people are already facing in their day-to-day lives including instability, food insecurity, access to safe and clean water, and they are indeed magnified in being new threats. Ms. Risi put an important emphasis on the fact that “the challenge of climate change is the unpredictability of its specific impacts” and how these factors interact with existing vulnerabilities.

As a next panelist, Prof. Will Steffen, the Councillor of Climate Council of Australia and Climate Change Expert at Australian National University discussed climate crisis calling for a global response. Prof. Steffen started his remarks by underlining that climate change is happening more rapidly than we anticipated and it is becoming more dangerous. He continued his analysis by presenting several recent natural disasters that are escalated due to the effects of climate change in Australia, Canada and Germany. Prof. Steffen indicated that 2020 was 1.2 Celsius above the 1850 – 1900 average (pre-industrial period) and it was one of the three hottest years on record. This spike of the dramatic increase in climate change is the result of human influence due to burning fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas. Prof. Steffen concluded his remarks by reminding the audience that we need to act now as the climate evidence is absolutely clear and moving at an unprecedented rate.

Following Prof. Steffen, Jonathan Sury, the Project Director for Communications and Field Operations at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP), The Earth Institute discussed climate change, community resilience and gender equality. Mr. Sury started his remarks by a briefing on the recently evolving disaster landscape such as extreme weather events, emerging infectious diseases, man-made disasters and information overload. He indicated that “post-disaster vulnerability is increased due to shortage of basic services including education, health, and employment, less capacity for local organizing and unsustainable over-production to ensure short term income. Mr. Sury also talked about the important framework of gender, vulnerability, and intersectionality in disaster preparedness. He underlined that women are affected by the climate crisis disproportionately as they are less likely to control the production of income, have less education and training as well as holding fewer positions on decision-making bodies. 

Aleandra Scafati, the Founder and President of Ecomujeres Foundation from Argentina presented an overview on the role of women in combating climate crisis and shared several best practices. Ms. Scafati indicated that humanity`s survival depends on a rapid migration into a circular and low-carbon economy. These changes require modifying consumption and production patterns, thinking in circular holistic business models, having empathic, supportive, and cooperative leadership. Women are the natural candidates to lead that transition. Ms. Scafati said, “Women have characteristics that define the ideal type of leadership needed to exercise the transition into a neutral carbon economy.”

Anne Eta is a high school senior at the Childville, Ogudu GRA school in Nigeria and she attended the Cage Free Voices Ambassador Program. Her intervention was on youth leadership in establishing community resilience and combating climate change. Ms. Eta said that “As youth, we play a major role in the development of our countries. The sooner we realize that the power to aid a country’s development and growth is in our hands and take charge of promoting social transformation to our countries, the more secure our future is. Anne Eta also underlined that “Promoting youth leadership by encouraging our adolescents in our community to exercise authority the right way over themselves and others pushes us closer to our main goal: Combating Climate Change.”