25th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum

Submitted by admin on 14. November 2021 - 0:27
2021 November 1-5
Glasgow, Scotland, and online

Action on Climate Change: Multiple Paths to a Better Future

In association with the UN Climate Change Conference COP26

IEF 25th Annual Conference Poster

International Environment Forum 25th Annual Conference


In association with COP26
United Nations Climate Change Conference
Glasgow, Scotland, and online
1-5 November 2021

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The 25th Annual Conference of the International Environment Forum was held in association with the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 on 1-5 November 2021 and in partnership with the Adora Foundation. It was co-sponsored by the Bahá'í International Community (BIC), ebbf - Ethical Business Building the Future, the Stimson Center, the Global Governance Forum (GGF), the Coalition for the UN We Need (C4-UN), Global Peace and Prosperity Forum, Interfaith Scotland and the Glasgow Baha'is.


It included one hybrid event both online and in Glasgow, Scotland, and five events entirely online, reaching both participants at COP26 and those around the world interested in climate change, its impacts and possible responses.

The video recordings of the events are available on our COP26 playlist:
Links to individual panel videos are also given below in the reports of each panel.


Health Equity and Climate Change
Monday 1 November 2021
The relationship between climate change, health and equity is tightly linked and one cannot talk about climate change without mentioning the other two. This panel discussed how many of the factors that lead to climate change are often the same that impact health inequities.
Moderator: Anisha Prabhu
- Mojgan Sami: a planetary perspective of health and climate change in the 21st century
- Farhang Tahzib: Prescription for a healthy climate
- Gill Turner: Impact of the climate emergency on children and young people's mental health

Strengthening Global Climate Governance
Tuesday 2 November 2021, a hybrid event, both online and in Glasgow
While the 2015 Paris Agreement set important targets for climate change mitigation and adaptation, commitments are voluntary and implementation has fallen far short. Strengthened mechanisms of global climate governance are necessary to avoid or at least mitigate a climate catastrophe.
Moderator: Joachim Monkelbaan
- Maja Groff: interim report of the Climate Governance Commission, "Governing our Climate Future"
- Augusto Lopez-Claros: Financing Instruments for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
- Arthur Dahl: Bringing environmental governance to the global level
- Halldor Thorgeirsson: Bringing the global home
- Avah Donnelly-Darling: A Change in Thinking: A Youth Perspective on the Future of Global Governance
- Wendi Momen: SDGs 5 + 13: Women and Girls + Climate Action

Biodiversity: Imagining a Positive Future for Nature and Culture
Thursday 4 November 2021
Climate change and the biodiversity crisis are intimately linked, and both must be addressed together. In protecting fragile environments from the poles to the tropics, we can learn much from both indigenous peoples who have long lived in harmony with their environment, and from nature itself and its requirements for resilience.
Moderator: Martina Muller
- Ilona Kater: Impact of unpredictable weather conditions on humans and reindeer
- Arthur Dahl: The existential threat to coral reefs
- Laurent Mesbah: The Importance of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Humanity

Engineering and Climate Change: Remaking the Future
Thursday 4 November 2021
Technology is inseparable from climate change: it either accelerates it, or is indispensable to mitigating it. The difference lies in great measure in the choices engineers make. How do we ensure we make the right ones?
Moderator: Ana-Sofia Velasco
- Helen Morley: Creating collective engineering climate standards - for the good of all
- Rafael Shayani: Social innovation in engineering education: addressing climate change
- Ismael Velasco: Software developers and climate action: the social mobilisation challenge
- Phil Sturgeon: Climate action in tech: what can a technologist do about climate change?

Strategies for Climate Resilient Communities
Friday 5 November 2021
Communities worldwide will need to transform in a wide variety of ways in order to meet the demands of climate change. This panel explored strategies concerning disaster preparedness and transportation systems.
Moderator: Ana-Sofia Velasco
- Janot Mendler de Suarez: Unity in diversity - can the first principle of biodiversity unleash the transformational power of communities?
- Laurence Farshid Bonner: Transport justice - planning the 20 minute neighborhood
- Willy Missack: Local ownership and commitment

In addition, there was an interfaith vigil for the success of COP26 on Sunday 31 October followed by Talanoa dialogue workshops including one with IEF member Halldor Thorgeirsson.

Saturday 6 November was the Global Day of Action for COP26 with tree planting activities.

The International Environment Forum Annual General Assembly was held separately on Saturday 30 October 2021, with participation by IEF members and a report of the election of the Governing Board.


The United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, began with two events on Sunday 31 October. The opening day of the intergovernmental meeting started with a plenary addressed by the past and future Presidents of the COP and the leaders of the UNFCCC and IPCC, along with an inspiring statement by a young Maori woman representing indigenous peoples, invited specially by the President of COP26 to address its opening.

Interfaith Scotland Events on Sunday 31st October

In the afternoon of 31 October, Interfaith Scotland invited people of all faiths to gather in George Square, Glasgow, reaching the limit of 500, as well as online, for a COP26 Interfaith Prayer and Meditation Vigil for the success of the climate conference, at the opening of Scottish Interfaith Week. Maureen Sier, chair of Interfaith Scotland, after remembering the spiritual values of indigenous peoples, emphasised the need to act with one soul, one voice, and one message that we have only one planet. Pilgrims from afar were welcomed, and a young Ginko tree, of a very ancient species and a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, had been carried by pilgrims for planting in a Glasgow park. The Glasgow Multifaith Declaration for COP26 was read, and then prayers from nine religions were shared.

The video can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvkkXqdLYRRsF_fh6NkCw1Q

This was followed by the Talanoa Dialogue Towards COP26 which was hosted by the International Interfaith Liaison Committee to the UNFCCC and was supported by Interfaith Scotland, held in a beautiful 19th century synagogue and online. Fiji as president of the UNFCCC introduced their traditional concept of a Talanoa dialogue where participants sit in circle telling positive stories to build trust and cooperation in addressing community issues. IEF members Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and Arthur Dahl participated in these Talanoa Dialogues with diplomats when they were first held at the UNFCCC. In Glasgow, the event started with presentations by different faith community leaders emphasising our moral responsibility for all those suffering from climate change and the necessary concern for future generations. A representative of the UN Office for Human Rights described the recent Human Rights Council decisions to adopt a human right to a clean and healthy environment, and to create a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change. A representative of the Pacific Conference of Churches from Fiji explained the cultural significance of a Talanoa dialogue, the deep spiritual relationship of Pacific peoples with the land and sea, and the suffering now faced in the Pacific Islands as storms strengthen and sea level rises. A member of the Sami indigenous peoples of the Arctic also described how nature in their wilderness is sacred and their home, which they have always managed with wisdom which they offered to share.

In the second part of the Talanoa dialogue, small groups were formed both in Glasgow and online to discuss issues like climate change and advocacy, finance, young people, the wisdom of indigenous peoples, loss and damage, and human rights, one of which was led by IEF member Halldor Thorgeirsson. These then reported back to the main group, before a closing segment of an Interfaith Worship Service.



Health Equity and Climate Change

Monday 1 November 2021 Video

The first IEF panel explored the relationship between climate change, health and equity. These are tightly linked and one cannot talk about climate change without mentioning the other two. The panel discussed how many factors that lead to climate change are often the same that impact health inequities.

The panel was moderated by Anisha Prabhu and featured Dr. Mojgan Sami speaking on a planetary perspective of health and climate change in the 21st century, Dr. Farhang Tahzib addressing a prescription for a healthy climate, and Dr. Gill Turner who described the impact of the climate emergency on children and young people's mental health.

Dr. Mojgan Sami described how climate change has exacerbated historic injustices and inequalities, brought deadly heat waves and extreme weather, with the poor most impacted. The root causes of disease and injury are in the structures of society. The aim of public health is prevention. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the foundation for health equity. The journal The Lancet and the WHO have called climate change a red alert and the greatest threat to human health, increasingly displacing large populations. Climate change and air pollution have aggravated impacts from the pandemic. Behind all this is outdated governance structures. We need more than the science of health and vaccines, but also solidarity.

She said we are on the edge of moving to a new system of global governance for one human species on one planet shared with many other species. Just as the Black Plague ended the medieval period and ushered in nation states, so we need the imagination to create new institutions in a planetary perspective beyond national boundaries. We cannot postpone action, but need a moral and ethical framework for our planetary reality, ready to harness our diversity to save our planet and ourselves.

Dr. Farhang Tahzib opened by referring to the Healthy Climate Prescription open letter from health professionals to COP26 https://healthyclimateletter.net/ which describes the climate crisis as the single biggest health threat facing humanity. The letter was signed by 300 organizations representing 45 million global heath care workers, and was carried by children to Glasgow. We have an ethical obligation to the poor at greatest risk from climate change caused by the rich and powerful. Climate change shows that the world has become a single neighbourhood, and our interdependence needs more than science and technology alone, but service to the common good, volition and action. We face fundamental moral questions and need substantially new ways of thinking. He said we are on the brink of catastrophic moral failures resulting from the conscious choices of our leaders failing to address the underlying issues. Nothing will fundamentally change unless we learn the lessons from the defects in our collective moral attitudes. We must question the assumptions underlying the present system, favouring self-interest, competition, growth and consumerism. If we do not end procrastination and delay, the consequences will be catastrophic.

Dr. Tahzib called for new values of solidarity and global justice, seeing the Earth as one common homeland shared with nature. We see this in the environmental justice movement, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, calling for equity, leaving no one behind. International organisations need to be strengthened. Will we choose to wait for catastrophe, or decide now at COP26 to act for the Eath as one country?

Dr. Gill Turner explored the impact of the climate emergency on children’s and young peoples’ mental health, explaining why climate change matters to paediatricians and discussing barriers to change. Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are causing a children’s health crisis, with impacts even before birth. All are not equally affected, with poverty, lack of clean water and healthy food, extreme weather, disease vectors, migration and air pollution all increasing health impacts. By 2030, climate change will reverse all the recent gains in public health. Mental health is affected by extreme weather, displacement and violence, even prenatally, with 50% suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Climate anxiety leads to fear, powerlessness, grief for the future, and hopelessness, as the top concern of UK children with 70-94% of children affected. She emphasised the importance of children’s rights, especially to listen to them. Young activists channel their fear into effective action, which can help. They are scared, persistent, united and know what should change.

On another issue, Dr. Turner noted that health care is the 5th largest producer of greenhouse gases, amounting to 4% of the total emissions. There is a need to reduce its environmental impact and be more effective, but doctors, who have the most power, show a lack of concern, as not being their business. There is widespread despair and powerlessness among health professionals, who are overwhelmed.

With all the inequalities and power dynamics within the system, there is a need for major system change as a global commonwealth. The current toxic system is bad for all of us, tolerating inequality, seeing competition as normal, encouraging separation and isolation, including disconnection from living systems, which enable exploitative behaviour. She concluded that we must challenge all exploitation and oppression, changing everything to favour connection, hope and action.

In the following rich discussion, many points were raised. Collective action is healing, so it is important to connect with neighbours, colleagues and friends. Indigenous communities have higher rates of vaccination because you have to take care of each other. Disconnection leads to addiction. We need to draw attention to environmental impacts, and challenge the present power dynamics with your ethics, reflecting on assumptions, norms and values of individuals, communities and institutions.

Public health has become too negative, focussing on what you should not do, and should be more positive. Originally public health and urban planning were together, before the former turned to medicine and the latter to engineering. Health has become too individualised, driven by consumerism, so that we buy our way into health. Yet our health is tied to our community, and needs to connect to social justice. The pharmaceutical industry has had a massive effect, conducting research for profit and exacerbating inequalities. A few major corporations contribute to poor health outcomes, for example through the processed foods they sell. They need to put health at the centre. The lifestyle sold in wealthy countries then influences policies elsewhere.

When asked what could be the specific contribution of IEF, this could be translating meaning into practice, showing the connections between one planet and one human family. It could make the link to development and economics, and the consequences of competition, exploitation and inequality, all for financial gain.

A participant from Uganda described the importance of indigenous wisdom, and efforts there to plant more trees and grow diverse food crops with the International Tree Foundation. They try to push back against the pressures to adopt hybrid seeds that must be purchased every year, along with all the package of industrial agriculture.

In conclusion, there was agreement that we need a shift in perspective to see one humankind, with deep structural change in unity to solve all of these problems, in a longer time framework thinking seven generations ahead.

The video can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VigiAJLwupY



Strengthening Global Climate Governance

Tuesday 2 November 2021 video

The second IEF panel was a hybrid event, both on site in Glasgow and online.

While the 2015 Paris Agreement set important targets for climate change mitigation and adaptation, commitments are voluntary and implementation has fallen far short. Strengthened mechanisms of global climate governance are necessary to avoid or at least mitigate a climate catastrophe.

The moderator, Dr. Joachim Monkelbaan, explained the origin of the word governance as referring to the steering of a boat, and we are all in the same boat.

The first panelist, Maja Groff, summarized the Interim Report of the Climate Governance Commission, "Governing our Climate Future". Given that climate action is not on track and that we face catastrophic and irreversible consequences, we need to think creatively and quickly to stabilise the global climate system. Despite even the UN Secretary-General’s warning of code red for humanity, policy makers have not internalised the urgency of action. The Climate Governance Commission is positive solution oriented, pointing to existing solutions to keep us on track. Their interim report identifies three gaps. The first is climate solutions. We have technical, economic and social solutions, and directions like the Exponential Roadmap Initiative, but they are not being applied at scale. Then there is the climate policy gap, especially at the national level, to implement and incentivise solutions so that they are applied widely and scaled up. The climate governance gap is evident at the global level, where we need purposeful and functional global mechanisms. The report reviews 22 different proposals, including bottom-up near-term actions like a green hydrogen alliance and a climate policy clearing-house, and longer-term global governance reforms like a Global Environment Agency or an International Environmental Court. These provide a menu of proposals for discussion. We have to act at all levels, including the global.

Then Dr. Augusto Lopez-Claros, chairman of the Global Governance Forum, discussed Financing Instruments for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. At the time of the 2015 Paris Agreement, it was estimated that $75-90 trillion would be needed by 2030 for low-carbon renewable energy infrastructure to adapt to climate change. Without this, the recent development gains and reduction of extreme poverty would be reversed, and the pandemic has already driven a hundred million people into extreme poverty. This was understood to be a tall order, with public finance still tenuous since the 2008-09 financial crisis, and an increase in public debt of 20 percent of global GDP. The commitment of the wealthy countries in Paris to provide $100 billion per year in assistance to developing countries to cope with climate change has never been reached, and was in any case inadequate.

In his paper for the Climate Governance Commission, Dr. Lopez-Claros reviews the financial instruments that could be available. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has proposed carbon taxes as the most practical. To keep below 2°C, such taxes would need to rise from $2 per tonne to $75 by 2030, but only Sweden and Switzerland have reached that level. This makes emissions costly as an incentive to change behaviour, is easy to implement in tax systems, and could generate revenue of 1.6 percent of GDP annually. The funds could be used for mitigation, and to cushion the impact of price rises on the most vulnerable. Another option would be to tax international financial transactions, the so-called Tobin tax. Keynes already warned about round-trip transactions for speculation in the 1930s. When Tobin updated his proposal in 1995, such transactions amounted to $1.3 trillion per day or $300 trillion per year, six times total trade expenditures. Today they amount to $6.5 trillion per day, so a tax of 0.05 percent would raise $800 billion a year. Banks obviously hate the idea and have lobbied governments against it. A third proposal would be for the IMF to issue liquidity in the form of Special Drawing Rights, as they did for $250 billion in 2009. On 2 August 2021, they allocated $650 billion, of which $225 billion is destined for developing countries, and wealthy countries were encouraged to share part of what they received for pandemic measures. A more efficient tax system closing tax loopholes and tax-free havens could raise $500-600 billion per year. The problem is not a lack of resources, but of the political will to finance the transition.

Dr. Arthur Dahl, president of the International Environment Forum, addressed bringing environmental governance to the global level. He noted that environmental problems like climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution have globalised, but governance has not. Giving primacy to national sovereignty leaves global efforts voluntary, but in a globalized economy dominated by the rich and powerful, stronger global governance could protect national autonomy. The crisis today is in the implementation of the many international agreements that have been signed, leading to a failure of trust. The principles of governance that we accept at the national level, with legislative, executive and judicial institutions, need now to be extended to the global level to address global environmental threats. Present intergovernmental processes are too slow, require consensus, and are voluntary with no way to address free-riders or to give priority to the common global interest.

Climate change presents an opportunity for a breakthrough in global governance, creating an institution like a Global Environment Agency. Its functions would include knowledge provision using science to define planetary environmental boundaries, a deliberative and legislative function to adopt binding legislation and to determine the just distribution of responsibilities, and enabling an implementing function to enforce those responsibilities and to assist those needing help, a trust and justice-building function to settle disputes, and a learning and reflexivity function to adapt rapidly to global environmental complexity and uncertainty. This would not be a massive bureaucracy, but an orchestrator with authority over many processes and institutions and subsidiarity. It could be built on UNEP and the UN Environment Assembly. States would need to give up some national sovereignty but with guarantees of their national autonomy in implementation. His paper with Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen for the Climate Governance Commission, Towards a Global Environment Agency: Effective Governance for Shared Ecological Risks, has just been published.

Dr. Halldor Thorgeirsson provided a different perspective bringing the global home. After working for years on global governance and the Paris Agreement, he had turned to national implementation, learning by doing. With the present urgency, there is no time for institutional redesign, so we need to make what we have work. This requires a focus on cohesion between the global, national and local levels to mobilise the transition. Leaders can agree globally but are not accountable back home. The Paris Agreement was designed to address this with both bottom-up and top-down processes, with global objective to mobilise Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs). It is challenging to combine long-term concerns and short-term national interests, and some countries face major challenges in redesigning their economies if, for instance, they depend on coal mining.

This requires national narrations to show everyone’s place in this effort. It means focussing on opportunities, and needs trust building through national consultative processes with the people affected. National Advisory Climate Councils can help with this, and yesterday they created a network to learn from each other and serve as bridge-builders between the global and the national. They can visualise a better future and bring the people along by showing what you can start doing, rather than stop doing. Covid has helped to show the unity of humankind, but this is challenging to internalise. The Queen’s speech to COP26 called for statesmanship over political manoeuvring. It will not be easy to maintain faith in the future, but the future often seems impossible until we do it.

A youth perspective on the future of global governance was provided by Avah Donnelly-Darling addressing A Change in Thinking. While only a senior in high school, she has worked on a documentary on global governance, visualising a better future. For her, the main obstacle, particularly among youth, is to glorify cynicism when becoming “realistic” adults, leaving idealism behind. She said our thoughts shape reality, so we can change from criticism to the search for opportunities, leading to major advances that seemed impossible. Global governance is the natural next step in our evolution and the new reality, since the solutions are imbedded in any problem. She sees herself as a positive realist in a world of negative idealists. Youth should be more involved in decision-making, as it is their future. They have the possibility to change those around them to create the next generation of positive realists, and lead to global environmental governance.

Finally, Dr. Wendi Momen, chair of the UK National Alliance of Women’s Organizations, linked women and girls for climate action. Women should participate from the grassroots to the highest levels, where they bring realism and know climate change risks and see its negative impacts since more women and girls are affected. They are marginalised and their voice is not heard even though they are largely responsible for the food we eat. Climate change intensifies their burden, leaving little time for education, jobs or entrepreneurship. Natural disasters wreak a greater toll on women and girls, with little access to information, and often trapped in their own homes, leading to leaving school, selling girls, trafficking and gender-based violence. Climate change is a human rights issue, disrupting communities, food security and resource access, impacting the cultural division of labour, and leading to sexual exploitation. But women and girls are not simply victims, they are the greatest resource of untapped potential, used to caring for others and solving their own problems. The traditional knowledge of indigenous women is important in adapting to climate change. There should be consultation and collaboration on challenges like climate change and migration, on disaster preparedness and response, and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. The voices of women should be included in all human endeavors.

To begin the discussion, the moderator asked the panelists for immediate action points. These included having a clear vision of where we want to go, changing the rules of the COP to replace consensus by some form of majority voting, having the courage to demonstrate statesmanship and a desire to change the status quo, holding conversations involving all segments of society, and for leaders to ask the advice of their mothers or other women in their lives.

There were suggestions of a global climate tax on excess emissions if these could be defined, and for coalitions of the willing, such as the high ambition coalition that was so effective in Paris at COP21. A coalition was announced today for forest preservation and regeneration. The new network of climate councils at the national level could focus more on real impacts, providing advice on socio-economic forces, and encouraging more participation by stakeholders. On the challenge to put these ideas into practice, it is necessary to work at every level, including families, communities and local governments. Cities are often in advance of national governments. Where political will is lacking, we need credible and believable solutions. Unfortunately, social media too often distort understanding and cultivate denial, so this needs to be addressed through consultation to inform and engage in discussion, to learn from each other and honour people for doing so. There is a need for unity on a vast scale, with nature and at all levels including religion and culture. The NDC mechanism agreed in Paris includes a ratchet-up mechanism with a global stock-take in 2023 which should create peer pressure, empower and give courage to accelerate action. People suffering from climate change impacts will also strengthen the political mandate for change. There is a coming change in our relationship with nature, with the Convention on Biological Diversity also adopting a new framework, and the conventions working more closely together.

The video can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/DJWsgW2DC1M



Also on 2 November, the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Glasgow held an event to launch their Bahá’í Eco-pledge, a beautiful booklet with 19 individual pledges for practical measures that anyone can do, and a selection of relevant Bahá’í quotations. Given the moral imperative of global justice and the need to achieve sustainable balance in our lives and on the planet, these aim to help every citizen to take action. The booklet can be downloaded in online and high resolution (8.5MB) versions here.



Earth Reflections

local action

On Wednesday evening 3 November, the last of a series of monthly online Earth Reflections organised by Glasgow Bahá’í Community was held with participants in Glasgow and from around the world. These events leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow aimed to help individuals and communities to prepare for this momentous meeting and as a reminder of the importance of our planet. It provided an opportunity to listen and to share reflections, hopes, poems, prayers from different traditions and tributes to the planet we call home. There was music, a Hindu prayer, poets from the Shetlands and Uganda, reflections about the beauty of nature, quotations from the Quran, a Bahá'í prayer in Hawaiian, reflections on the prayer and meditation vigil before COP26, and Sami chanting.



Biodiversity: Imagining a Positive Future for Nature and Culture

Thursday 4 November 2021 Video

Climate change and the biodiversity crisis are intimately linked, and both must be addressed together. In protecting fragile environments from the poles to the tropics, we can learn much from both indigenous peoples who have long lived in harmony with their environment, and from nature itself and its requirements for resilience.

The moderator, Dr. Martina Muller, welcomed the nearly 60 participants. She opened with a reality check on the challenges facing society, saying that we are losing species and habitat at a record pace, our natural systems safety net is beginning to disappear; the foundation that supports human life is in danger; and we must start to change direction now or it will be too late.

The first panelist, Ilona Kater, presented her case study of Arctic communities in a changing climate. The Arctic may be seen as the edge of our world, but it is not the great Arctic wilderness, since people have been living there for 40,000 years using its resources sustainably and respectfully in a carefully managed landscape. Removing people can be detrimental. Traditional ways were always dynamic, adapting to climate changes and surviving. However this is now threatened with rapid climate change causing avalanches, thinning sea ice, coastal erosion and melting permafrost damaging infrastructure. Livelihoods are affected, as when winter rain formed ice on the tundra and many reindeer starved. There is grief at environmental change.

While Arctic peoples are vulnerable, they are proactive, facing their problems with dignity and pride. They still suffer from the colonial legacy, with efforts to deny them their language, beliefs and identity. They feel a loss of agency, where they have solutions to preserve their environment but no power to influence policy.

Arctic lands are also resource rich and exploited for energy, tied to the colonial practice of dispossession of land and resources.

There is an important role for indigenous communities in meeting the challenges of climate change and loss of biodiversity in the Arctic. They participate in the Arctic Council with inclusion and equity, but without a vote. They can deliver technical and scientific solutions; and offer wisdom from a long culture of 'living sustainably' within the Arctic.

Among hopeful developments is the leadership coming from indigenous Arctic communities in policy and governance addressing Arctic challenges. They have knowledge, energy, will and desire as they imagine a positive future. The inclusion of native communities in global governance is a step in the right direction. However, this comes at a time when these communities are faced with the double challenges of a legacy of colonialism that exploited resources beyond carrying capacity, and of living with the consequences of global climate change that surpass local action. Cooperation, consultation, inclusion and agency are the foundation for good decisions and living in a more sustainable way, not only in the Arctic, but for all humanity.

The second panelist, Dr. Arthur Dahl, provided another example of biodiversity at risk, describing the existential threat to coral reefs. With beautiful photographs taken when reefs were at their best, he showed how the coral reef ecosystem is productive, diverse, and dynamic, with high levels of cooperation and integration. Reefs grow in shallow tropical waters to access light, and are very energy-efficient. They are the largest biological structures on earth, visible from space, with high biodiversity and ecological integration. 500 million people live within 100km of a coral reef, and indigenous peoples in the islands and along the coasts learned to live in balance with them through sustainable and respectful use. Coral reefs are economically important, providing goods and services worth $2.7 trillion per year.

The bad news is that coral reefs are under threat. Already in the final decades of the 20th century, pollution, overfishing, destructive fishing practices, ecological imbalances and new diseases were killing corals, with an 80% loss of corals in the Caribbean. Then with climate change and higher water temperatures, corals began bleaching, losing their symbiotic algae and dying. The first global bleaching in 1998 saw the loss of 8 percent of global coral cover. Also CO2 dissolving in seawater becomes carbonic acid, making it harder for corals to build their calcium carbonate skeletons. Further bleaching events caused 14 percent further coral loss, being replaced by algae. Damaged reefs can recover if given a chance, but continuing higher temperatures now hinder coral recovery. In addition, present reef monitoring only looks at coral cover, not species diversity, so we do not know how many species may be in danger or already extinct.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions will help coral reef recovery, but we need rapid action if we are to save the coral reef ecosystem. We could lose almost all coral reefs by mid century due to human activity if we do not act now.

On the hopeful side, SIDS (small island developing states) are organizing and are more vocal on the world stage, as well as trying to deal with global impacts through local action. There is some interesting work on regrowing coral reefs if outside pressures can be reduced. More generally, living sustainably in contact with nature is not only grounded in good science but has a spiritual effect on the individual.

The final panelist, Dr. Laurent Mesbah, reflected on the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services for humanity, including the need for practical actions driven by a vision for a better future. He was inspired by the recent International Environment Forum (IEF) statement on the Ethical Commitment to Protect Nature and its Biodiversity: https://iefworld.org/IEFbiodiversity. We need to reflect on the evolution of life, it's diversity,  adaptability, efficiency and interconnectedness, demonstrating cooperation to build systems that are stronger than their parts. Humans are part of this, with the capacity to understand nature and the universe, and to be inspired in our arts and sciences. The most beautiful book is nature, and is especially important for young children. Indigenous peoples were particularly integrated in these natural systems, with deep understanding on how to survive, but this was often oral knowledge and is easily lost. Ecosystems have the capacity to recover, but it takes time and we do not give them the time. We need long-term thinking, not short-term thinking to solve 21st century problems.

This has been an international issue for global governance since the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 (where Arthur Dahl was present). Next year will be the 50th anniversary, also with meetings on climate change and biodiversity, hopefully with agreement on a framework for action with science as its basis. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are another framework for humans and nature together, to be achieved by 2030. Young people are disappointed with so many empty promises, as we see with the demonstrations at COP26. They are increasingly aware and want actions rather than words.

What can be done? How do we stop greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and coral reef damage? Dr. Mesbah said we need a change in attitude, to build a deep relationship with each other and with nature based on respect and deep love. Values like humility, respect, moderation and cooperation will push us to act. He shared quotes from the Bahá’í Writings on the harmony of science and religion, the balance of material and spiritual civilisation, and need for global governance and cooperation, moderation and justice. This is the foundation for the new framework that is needed.

The lively discussion that followed, with questions from the moderator and the chat box, explored issues of adaptation to climate change. People were adapting in the Arctic, but since they are more settled and not migrating, they are caught between new needs and old ways. Researchers are working on adapting corals to higher temperatures, but that concerns a few species, not whole ecosystems. Pacific islanders are rethinking the concept of well-being, replacing GDP by indicators of social relationships and cultural values. Indigenous values were connected to the environment, protecting the community in times of scarcity and sharing generously in times of abundance, to stay within environmental limits. They had deeper principles of being part of nature as something sacred, in reciprocal relationships where you do not hurt what is part of you. Such values can inspire recent work on global environmental governance.

In addressing the values that can help us to reconnect to nature, direct experience is important, building personal connections that can become love of nature. It is particularly important for children to be in nature. In cities, they can lose this connection. Contact with nature has a spiritual dimension, with cities the world of bodies and the country the world of the soul, full of beauty and teaching humility. Nature also has a healing power.

At COP26, indigenous people were present and expressing their values, but policy makers have difficulty balancing the short and long term. Everyone needs to be invited to the table to discuss what are the obstacles to change and how to overcome them.

The video recording of the panel can be viewed at https://youtube.com/watch?v=9gpgMyYpbSU



Engineering And Climate Change: Remaking the Future

Thursday 4 November 2021 Video

Technology is inseparable from climate change: it either accelerates it, or is indispensable to mitigating it. The difference lies in great measure in the choices engineers make. How do we ensure we make the right ones? These were the issues discussed at a panel of engineers exploring their role in addressing climate change.

Ana-Sofia Velasco stepped in as moderator when the intended moderator could not connect. She noted that technology was inseparable from the issues around climate change causes and solutions, and that the decisions engineers make affect society.

The first panelist, Dr. Helen Morley, a specialist in engineering ethics, described the need to creating collective engineering climate standards for the good of all, as an expression of ethical responsibility. Climate change is impacting agriculture, water, natural disasters, affecting infrastructure and leading to mass migrations. Everything contains an engineering challenge within it.

Professional engineers have knowledge, expertise and trust, so that we trust a bridge won't break  when we drive over it. Engineering as a profession is a calling, enabling people to do things. She asked what do we want to enable? How do we engage the public? Where are boundaries drawn? An expert must be trusted, so what is acceptable? Answering these questions may start as individual conversations, but they should become decisions of the profession, just as there are ethical standards in medicine. It is engineers who choose who joins their profession, and they should step up to recognise this as a public service.

The next panelist, Prof. Rafael Shayani, called for social innovation in engineering education in order to address climate change. Most engineering education concerns technical issues. Students learn that fossil fuels are the cheapest source of energy. They are taught a fragmented vision, with energy generation separated from use and impact. The social and environmental dimensions are treated as externalities. Yet engineers should be taught social issues. Engineering can make renewables cheaper and change the world. It can transform electricity, industry and transport. The Emissions Gap Report, the IPCC and the International Energy Agency all call for a major transformation in our energy supply. Engineering students need to learn to be creative, not only technical. They should be empowered for change, creating the world that has never been using their science for human benefit. He said there were great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems. A big challenge is how to teach low carbon energy in developing countries. He emphasized the importance of dedicating our lives to matters of great import, and being anxiously concerned with the problems of the world we are living in. The Sustainable Development Goals should be studied in engineering courses.

Software engineer Ismael Velasco spoke to the challenge of social mobilisation of software developers for climate action. If we ask what is preventing action, it is not scientific knowledge, which is there, nor technology which exists but is not scaled up, but too many vested interests not wanting to change the existing system. Engineers have the power to stop climate change, but they are limited by the boundaries in the system. The best inventions with good intent can be taken over by others and lose their integrity, applied to bad ends. Most engineering jobs are building the present technological system leading to calamity, driven by the profit motive. Engineers cannot change the world alone; they need ethical standards and a focus on social return on investment. There is incredible engineering potential for change, with socially conscious and committed people who give a lot of unpaid time for human benefit. The challenge is to tap into that potential for social solidarity and to overcome logistical barriers, but our systems of governance are not up to crowd-sourcing. He made three suggestions: become influencers in the technological system for social action, find ways to coordinate and harness those who want opportunities to help, and create networks to coordinate engineers and policy-makers.

Finally, Phil Sturgeon addressed climate action in tech, asking what can a technologist do about climate change? First is finding your community of like-minded people, and he suggested websites for climate action and climate change. Then host your servers somewhere sustainable, the cleanest with the least energy consumption. Search for green infrastructure with the least power and carbon grid intensity balancing location, time, energy mix and cost, using a cloud carbon footprint calculator. You can leverage green Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to pick the best time for big jobs, or plant trees and remove carbon as you grow your business. Finally, there is a need to design sustainable APIs, since 4 percent of carbon emissions come from the Internet. There is a lot of room for improving its climate impact.

The discussion raised interesting questions, such has how to deal with risk? What is the human cost of a technology? This requires robust decision-making, and helping each other if it does not work. Politicians like simple technological solutions to everything, so one role of engineers may be to dampen their expectations. A Global Climate Council is needed to guide institutions and create trust, engaging more voices in consultations bringing together engineers, decision-makers and stakeholders. The main question is ethical. Everyone can do something, like choosing to use dirty or clean energy. A profession or work and ethics can be combined, making a change or doing things better. There was a question about geoengineering like cloud brightening or giant mirrors for reflectivity, but these ignore environmental impacts and are more expensive than protecting natural solutions. Too many such proposals are simply delaying tactics, promoting any engineering solution to avoid the necessary fundamental transformation in the system. There may be other concerns such as social inequality that could help to reframe the discussion. Any technology can be used for beneficial or destructive ends, but designs can have the intention to make some uses easier and others harder. Considering likely uses or misuses should be a collective discussion. A global technology assessment process is needed, but who does it and how to assess need to be determined. When there is an urgent need for action, how we consult is not being discussed. This needs to be given more prominence. The present discussion of the impact of social media might provide a template for other issues. A final question was how to blend engineering innovation with institutional innovation. Youth today think in a different way and will bring new ideas, while government ministers may have experience, but in old ways and do what they know how to do. We need institutions of young people with ethical positions, ready to take big steps in renewing institutions with new people.

The video recording of the panel can be viewed at https://youtu.be/SXzKvNUKpxg



Strategies for Climate Resilient Communities

Friday, 5 November 2021 Video

Communities worldwide will need to transform in a wide variety of ways in order to meet the demands of climate change. The fifth and last IEF panel looked at strategies for climate resilient communities. As communities experience and adapt to change, they learn valuable lessons. The panel considered a range of different case studies.

Dr. Janot Mendler de Suarez showed how the principle of unity in diversity as illustrated in biodiversity can unleash transformational powers of communities in Africa and the Caribbean. Mr. Laurence Farshid Bonner described the concept of transport justice in planning the ‘20-minute neighborhood’ in the United Kingdom. Mr. Willy Missack demonstrated how local ownership and commitment build resilient communities in Vanuatu.

To start off, moderator Ana-Sofia Velasco asked the attendees what comes to their minds when they think of climate resilient communities? The most frequent responses were equity and unity.

Dr. Janot Mendler de Suarez then explained the first principle of biodiversity: unity in diversity. Biological communities are self-organizing systems, as with trees in a forest communicating through their roots. Biomimicry can serve to cultivate cyclical connections. Understanding this can help human communities to unleash their transformational power and do things differently.

She shared three different stories related to projects in which she had participated in the Dominican Republic, Mali and Togo. In the Dominican Republic, a Peace Corps worker had tried for two years to install a community water system without success. Finally he asked what the community wanted, and they said a baseball field for the community’s favourite activity. He helped them to build the baseball field, and to show their gratitude they built the water system that provided them with clean water as he wished. The lesson she learned from this was to always question your assumptions.

In Mali, she was working to restore ecological productivity in a conflict zone where all agriculture was done by hand. In a game for the community with mostly men present, she asked them to choose if they identified more as men or women, and to her surprise some men chose the women’s side. When she asked why, they said it was out of solidarity for the few women present. The lesson for her was to question gender and other assumptions. Women’s gardening was more productive, and the men helped out of gratitude. The project was decentralised to local governments and actors. Plans that start bottom-up and then get adopted can be successful, but this is often where funding fails to get through to the community level.

She spent seven years in rural communities in Togo developing an early warning system for flooding. The prize-winning project used machine learning to integrate crowd-sourced data from local people sending water level observations by sms with a system developed by local university students. Because the people provided the data, they trusted the warnings that were issued. She saw the value of leap-frogging linear learning.

From these examples, she understood how to build the social infrastructure of resilience. When we first listen to the needs of the community, and contribute what is of most importance to them, then they are willing to assist in meeting common goals. We are not assisting communities but accompanying them. She said that it is possible to bring in innovation and technologies to communities, by paying attention to the resources needed and the information they can provide. The community itself will value big data, AI (artificial intelligence) and new frontiers when they are made participants in the collective intelligence.

Developing plans through coordination to cooperation and then collaboration builds trust. Trust is ensured when the community is a participant in the process. We should think about communities as self-organizing systems based on unity in diversity, including a spiritual dimension, developing people’s ability to thrive within a living support system that allows them not only to live but also to flourish. We can reconceptualise the power structure, inverting the pyramid of power dynamics, in what could be considered an evolutionary revolution or a revolutionary evolution.

Laurence Farshid Bonner’s talk explored transport justice, planning a more sustainable transport network to support resilient communities in urban neighbourhoods that are well thought-out for climate change goals and social justice. He shared in his passion about his work thinking about transport for people in their daily journeys from their homes to their shops, to their children’s schools and back to their homes. Urban design is about the spaces between buildings. More sustainable transport must have social justice at its heart at the scale of the neighbourhood, considering the needs of the marginalised, the disabled, the most vulnerable, and listening to their needs.

Bonner emphasized how urban design and transport infrastructure can create better and healthier environments to support more resilient communities. It is necessary to understand the big picture, both physical infrastructure and social infrastructure. Design and urban development that are community based can think about the relationship between these two and how they organize themselves.

Urban development around the private automobile since the 1950s has created a car-scale community with the car as the universal god, taking up extraordinary space. We never talk about the 1.35 million who die from vehicle accidents each year, or the 50 million injured. Carbon emissions from car use per passenger kilometre are second after flying. Electric cars use the same space as fossil-fuelled vehicles and are slowing the race to zero, because it will still take 20 years to replace the existing car fleet. Buses and bicycles are space-economising replacements. We need to shift from societies that are more vehicle centred to societies that are more human centred, considering smaller scales, the role of walking, cycling, and wheeling and creating a more just transportation system. 

Designers considering accessibility in infrastructure can address the needs of marginalized communities, the disabled or different ethnic groups that are discriminated against in the existing built environment. As traffic increases, neighbourhood connectivity decreases. Bonner described examples of societies that facilitate bicycle riding, such as the Netherlands, that have seen positive impacts in people’s health including reduction of dementia. Scotland has just made public transport free for all under 18. In Victoria, Australia, a multidisciplinary approach is developing 20 minute neighbourhoods with a 10-minute walk to all services, and space for rain gardens to slow flooding and community orchards. Some cities are excluding cars from the urban centre. We cannot entirely ban cars, as some disabled require vehicle usage.

Our continuous development towards larger scales through political decisions has increased traffic in the spaces that we live in and reduced the ability of people in neighbourhoods to connect with one another. The concept of the 20-minute neighbourhood and better access to public transport could build community connections and more resilient communities.

The other end of the community spectrum was described by Willy Missack in his moving explanation of local ownership and commitment in Vanuatu villages responding to the challenges of current issues without creating a dependency on external resources. Villages and neighbourhoods need to take ownership of the Sustainable Development Goals and national policies and implement them. This often needs to start with the youth who want justice and action for resilient communities, by empowering them to create change. A holistic approach is needed in the educational process, combining moral and spiritual capabilities like respect, honesty, humility and service to the common good with intellectual capacities and knowledge of math, science, language, technology and community development. Communities need to recognize their own abilities to use resources, not creating a dependency on outside assistance and funding. It is vital to achieve a more equitable distribution of benefits for lasting development with local ownership.

In the Pacific, they are using a programme of preparation for social action, where youth learn technologies for everyday life along with moral and spiritual capacities for service to the common good. The curriculum is both conceptual and action oriented, combining study with community-building activities. On the island of Tanna, this has been embraced by the whole community. The youth and islanders are the drivers of their own development recognising their own capacities, while some support is needed to address global challenges like climate change. Building capacities in the communities themselves leaves them better prepared to address a range of challenges, not just climate change but also problems of unemployment, violence against women and girls, and even natural disasters.

The concluding discussion acknowledged how the islands in the Pacific today serve as laboratories in the frontlines of the biggest global struggle that humanity is facing. Some island countries face losing everything to climate change: their homes, their way of life, their culture, even their country. It is important that we learn from the people of these islands, that we honour the reality that they face, and that we learn to have these difficult conversations. This is a problem not only for low-lying islands but for the resilience of humanity itself. There will be a massive global movement of peoples, not just national or regional. We need the harmonization of science and religion to address what humanity is facing. We need to plan displacement with justice, not thinking of climate refugees but of migration with dignity. We need to build the spiritual strength to look beyond material losses and to adaptation for the real spirituality within people, preserving culture and language for the rising generation. Island cultures will be part of the solution. This is the only answer to the crisis we are facing. It is important that we do not lose hope. As Willy Missack put it, “The resilience of humanity itself can be seen in the hearts of the young generation, understanding that this is not just a local challenge, but a global issue.”

The video recording is available at https://youtu.be/OAy59GcfSeY





Health Equity and Climate Change

Monday, 1 November

The relationship between climate change, health and equity is tightly linked and one cannot talk about climate change without mentioning the other two. In this panel we discussed how many factors that lead to climate change are often the same that impact health inequities.

Moderator: Anisha Prabhu
Grown up in Southern Africa, Anisha Prabhu is a public health professional who is passionate about the intersectionality of gender and health in the region. In 2013 she received the Fulbright Scholarship to pursue a Masters in Public Health from the University of South Florida in Global Health and Maternal and Child Health. She has worked with the Ministry of Health of Mozambique, where she was the laboratory coordinator for the national cholera surveillance-testing center and implemented the quality control and assurance program. Most recently, she worked as a consultant at the World Bank-Mozambique, implementing the country’s first national preschool program and promoting discourse on early childhood education because this period of life is critical to creating a civically engaged and globally conscious society.


Dr. Mojgan Sami

A planetary perspective of health and climate change in the 21st century
Every age has its challenges. The challenges of the 21st century are much more global in nature, from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change, and demand much broader visions than previously conceived in former centuries. The institutions and systems of the 21st century do not meet the needs and exigencies of an increasingly interdependent global society that is suffering the consequences of ecological destruction, which impact population health and well-being. A planetary perspective for the challenges of the 21st century provides a conceptual framework for action towards a world that is healthier, more just and equitable in the 21st century.

Dr. Mojgan (Mo) Sami is an Assistant Professor of Health Equity at California State University Fullerton (CSUF) where she investigates the links between the built environment, global health and climate justice. Prior to joining CSUF, Dr. Sami worked for the World Health Organization and the World Bank and is a current member of IEF and the International Union for Health Promotion and Education’s Global Working Group on Planetary Health.

Dr. Farhang Tahzib

Prescription for a healthy climate
The health community from around the world has written a letter to all the Heads of State and National Delegations ahead of COP 26 calling for urgent climate action. The statement noted that it recognised “ethical obligation to speak out about this rapidly growing crisis that could be far more catastrophic and enduring than the Covid 19 pandemic” The presentation explored and reflected on the nature of the ethical obligations of the health community and the wider community and their implications for policy and practice.

Dr. Farhang Tahzib is a senior public health physician, educator, Chair of the UK Faculty of Public Health Ethics Committee, public health advocate and member of various International and National committees. Formerly Director of Public Health.in UK, worked internationally, teaching and Principal Investigator and Director of various programmes in particular around maternal health, prevention of maternal mortality and morbidity and traditional health care delivery system and primary care, funded by WHO, Carnegie Corporation, UNDP, World Bank and others.

Dr. Gill Turner

Why climate change matters to Paediatricians and what we can do
This presentation briefly outlined the impact of the climate emergency on children and young people’s health. It also explored, from a UK perspective, how paediatricians and other health professionals can be an effective part of the change that is necessary.

Dr. Gill Turner is a Consultant Community Paediatrician within the NHS, in Northumberland, North of England. She has a longstanding commitment to young people's health and was the first convenor of the RCPCH's Young People's Health Special Interest Group (YPHSIG) and an active member of the Association of Young People’s Health. She has always been aware of the impact of oppression and inequality on health and has a passion for young people’s rights including young people’s involvement in healthcare. She co-authored “Not Just a Phase” (RCPCH). Gill is active in Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, Medact (Green New Deal) and part of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Climate Change Working Group.

Strengthening Global Climate Governance

Tuesday 2 November, in Glasgow and virtual

While the 2015 Paris Agreement set important targets for climate change mitigation and adaptation, commitments are voluntary and implementation has fallen far short. Strengthened mechanisms of global climate governance are necessary to avoid or at least mitigate a climate catastrophe. This should include institutional changes, financial mechanisms, provisions for subsidiarity to reinforce national and local responsibility and diversity, and other elements of justice and participation, with special attention to the voice of women and youth.

Moderator: Dr. Joachim Monkelbaan
Dr. Joachim Monkelbaan is Representative for Sustainable and Just Economic Systems at the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in Geneva. He lectures on sustainability governance at International University in Geneva. Previously, Joachim has worked with organizations such as UNEP (Economics and Trade Branch), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), WHO, and Climate-KIC. He led several Sustainability Impact Assessments of trade agreements for the European Commission (DG Trade). Joachim’s book on governance for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is available now. He holds a Ph.D in governance for sustainable development from the University of Geneva and Master’s Degrees in international law and economics from the World Trade Institute and Maastricht University.


Maja Groff

The interim report of the Climate Governance Commission, "Governing our Climate Future"
Highlights of its key proposals and approaches to catalyzing greater climate action, in line with the Paris Agreement, worldwide.

Maja Groff is an international lawyer based in The Hague, and is a Convenor of the Climate Governance Commission, which seeks to propose high impact global governance innovations adequate to meet the climate challenge. As a Principal Legal Officer, she has previously worked on the development and administration of multiple multilateral treaties, as well as at international criminal tribunals, has taught at the Hague Academy of International Law and is currently a Visiting Professor at Leiden University, Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs. A graduate of Harvard, Oxford, and McGill Universities, and she is an attorney admitted to practice in the state of New York, formerly working in corporate law. She was a co-winner of an international prize in 2018 on global governance innovation (New Shape Prize).  She serves on the Advisory Boards of BCorp Europe and ebbf, organisations devoted to ethical business.

Dr. Augusto Lopez-Claros

Financing Instruments for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
I drew from my recent paper: Financing Instruments for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation. In this paper I discuss half a dozen mechanisms which could be used not only to shift incentives to facilitate the transition to a renewable energy economy but also to raise the revenues, in the trillions of dollars, which will be necessary to successfully finance that transition.

Dr. Augusto Lopez-Claros is Chair of the Global Governance Forum. He has held senior positions at the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, where he was Director of the Global Indicators Group. He has a Ph.D. in Economics from Duke University and a Diploma in Mathematical Statistics from Cambridge University. He has lectured and published widely; his book (with Arthur Dahl and Maja Groff) Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century was published by Cambridge University Press in 2020.

Dr. Arthur Dahl

Bringing environmental governance to the global level
The climate emergency, the collapse of biodiversity, contamination with pollutants, and other environmental threats are planetary in nature, and can only be governed at the global level. No country is protected from their impacts. Only global cooperation, with governance mechanisms for legislation, implementation and judicial review, will enable us to act fast enough to avoid an environmental catastrophe. This could take the form of a Global Environment Agency.

Dr. Arthur Lyon Dahl is President of the International Environment Forum, on the Advisory Board of the Global Governance Forum, and a retired Deputy Assistant Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, with 50 years' experience in international organisations, including representing the Baha'i International Community at the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, and serving in the secretariat for the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio Earth Summit). He spent many years in the South Pacific and organised the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). With two colleagues, he won the New Shape Prize of the Global Challenges Foundation in 2018 for proposals on UN reform, and their book "Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century" has been published by Cambridge University Press.

Dr. Halldór Thorgeirsson

Bringing the global home
I explored how cohesion needs to be and can be created between global and national governance through empowerment of national change agents. In that I also explored the potential role of national advisory climate councils.

Dr. Halldór Thorgeirsson is currently the Chair of the Icelandic Climate Council. He served in strategic positions at the UN Climate Change Secretariat from 2004-2018 which included managing substantive support to negotiations resulting in the transformation in global climate governance with the Paris Agreement in 2015. Prior to that he was a climate negotiator for Iceland. He holds a PhD in plant ecophysiology and has conducted research on ecosystem restoration with focus on carbon and nutrients.

Dr. Wendi Momen

SDGs 5 + 13: Women and Girls + Climate Action
Dr. Wendi Momen is a social activist and advocate, focusing on a cluster of issues that promote social justice: the advancement of women, poverty eradication, health, criminal justice, interfaith harmony, housing, the environment and business ethics. She is chair of Trustees of the National Alliance of Women’s Organisations, a Trustee and secretary of Widows Rights International, and Executive Board member of the UK Civil Society Women’s Alliance. The author of 13 books, she holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics, where she is a Governor. She is a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the UK, and serves as a Governing Board member of Ethical Business Building the Future (ebbf) and of the International Environment Forum.

Avah Donnelly-Darling

A Change in Thinking: A Youth Perspective on the Future of Global Governance
Avah Darling-Donnelly is a high school student from Canada who is trying her best to direct her future towards the service of humanity. She has come into contact with the most incredible people, who have taught her about this concept of global solutions in order to handle global issues. In discussion and action, she hopes to offer her and other youths views and opinions on how we can reform the institutions and basic ethics of our world, and move towards a more just and unified society.

Biodiversity: Imagining a Positive Future for Nature and Culture

Thursday 4 November

This panel explored the role of values in positive futures for nature and humans, using the Arctic and coral reefs as examples.

Moderator: Dr. Martina Muller
Martina Muller was born in Switzerland, grew up and studied in the US and then moved to Europe for her PhD at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She has conducted field research on the behavioral eco-physiology of seabirds in the Galapagos Islands, Peru, Patagonia, arctic Norway, Iceland, islands in the Mediterranean and the sea of Japan. In the past four years she has increasingly become involved in advocacy and education surrounding climate change in Rhode Island (USA), where she currently lives. She is a board member of Rhode Island Interfaith Power & Light, and 350+ Rhode Island.


Ilona Kater

Arctic Communities in a Changing Climate
Communities living in the Arctic have long had to pay careful attention to the environment around them in order to survive and thrive in this often harsh region. However, the rapid changes in climate being experienced today, along with a rapid shift in culture, is creating difficulties for these communities. In this talk we explored how changes within the Arctic are affecting the people living there, why past methods of adaptation are struggling to keep up with this change, and how some new efforts in the region may prove to be an important model for the rest of the planet when we try to build a more sustainable world.

Ilona Kater is a lecturer in Human Geography at the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge, and is completing a PhD in Arctic Ecology with the University of Durham. Her research examines how reindeer in Northern Europe are being impacted by changes in climate and the built environment around them, drawing on both scientific work and traditional ecological knowledge of indigenous Saami reindeer herders. She is fascinated by the complex relationship between humans and our environment, how different experiences and forms of knowledge can teach us much about the world around us, and how we can use this diversity of perspectives to build a better and more sustainable future.

Dr. Arthur Dahl

The existential threat to coral reefs
Coral reefs, one of the most ancient, diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet, are in steep decline due to ocean heating and acidification, and only remnants may remain in a few decades, threatening the security and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people in tropical coastal areas and islands. What do we need to do to save them?

Dr. Arthur Dahl is President of the International Environment Forum, and a coral reef ecologist who started monitoring long-term changes on reefs a half century ago. He dove on many of the world's great reefs before their decline began, and spent two weeks as an aquanaut living at the bottom of a coral reef. He chose the coral reef ecosystem as his research subject to try to understand unity in diversity as expressed in nature. His career was then devoted to building environmental cooperation at the regional and global levels. As a systems scientist, he now applies the same principles to the challenges of managing the global environment.

Dr. Laurent Mesbah

The Importance of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Humanity 
Humanity has been blessed with many benefits from a large range of services provided by the rich diversity of natural systems on our planet earth. With a growing demography and increasing consumption habits, we have good reasons to worry about our sustainable use of these resources and services. The main question is therefore how to ensure a sustainable use of these ecosystem services. Action needs to take place at every level including the global, regional, national and local. We discussed how the vision needed for a sustainable and prosperous future includes not just material progress but also the practice of essential spiritual values such as justice, respect, cooperation, moderation and wisdom.

Dr. Laurent Mesbah was born and grew up in France in a multicultural background. He did research and teaching in plant genetics at the free university in Amsterdam, the Netherlands where he completed his PhD. In addition Dr. Mesbah completed a certificate of advanced studies in Environmental Diplomacy at the University of Geneva and is a member of the International Environment Forum since its foundation in 1997, and a governing board member since 2017. Laurent Mesbah has been living in Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2000 with his family. He has been designing, managing, implementing and evaluating projects related to sustainable development with international organizations including with the United Nations, the European Union, IUCN, etc. Dr Mesbah develops and leads school and community educational gardens and environments, in addition he teaches environmental sciences, value based leadership, botany, plant physiology, and climate change at the university.

Engineering And Climate Change: Remaking the Future

Thursday, 4 November

Technology is inseparable from climate change: it either accelerates it, or is indispensable to mitigating it. The difference lies in great measure in the choices engineers make. How do we ensure we make the right ones?

Moderator: Ana-Sofia Velasco, Campaigns Assistant, Scope; Project Coordinator, Adora Foundation (UK).


Phil Sturgeon

Climate action in tech: what can a technologist do about climate change?
This talk presented a roadmap to climate actions every engineer can take to make a difference, and offered an overview of resources and web technologies one can use to achieve impact.

Phil Sturgeon (https://philsturgeon.com), works on reforestation with Protect Earth (www.protect.earth), matching land owners and non-traditional funding streams to scale up reforestation and rewilding around the UK; using APIs and software to track, maintain, and fund the tree planting. Phil also works on "Green Tech" software solutions with Green Turtle (https://www.greenturtle.io), teaching folks to reduce the carbon footprint of APIs and system architecture.

Dr. Rafael Amaral Shayani

Social innovation in engineering education: addressing climate change
University programs need to be modernized to align themselves with the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Students graduating from universities need to acquire new capabilities for social innovation to deal with climate change.

Dr. Rafael Amaral Shayani, IEF member, has an electrical engineering degree with a focus on power, energy and electrical systems.. He obtained his MS and PhD in photovoltaic solar energy. He is Professor of Electrical Engineering at University of Brasilia, Brazil, and his research focuses on renewable energy, energy transition and engineering education.

Dr. Helen Morley

Creating collective engineering climate standards - for the good of all
Climate change is an engineering challenge. Engineers training today will see changes in agriculture, land use, civil planning requirements, water availability and mass human migration as the scale of the climate crisis becomes manifest. Each of these are engineering challenges that will call engineers to bring their skills and ingenuity to bear in ways that we currently can't predict. Engineering is fundamentally an enabling activity. It enables individuals, companies and communities to do what would be beyond impossible without the skills and practices that engineers bring. With this vital role comes an equally important responsibility to ask "what should we enable?" Since many of the causes of climate change have been enabled by engineers, it is now more important than ever that we take stock of the role of the engineering profession on the wellbeing of humanity and the common global home. Key to establishing how engineers should be guided, supported, encouraged and required to act, is to recognise that engineers have a powerful voice and opportunity when acting collectively. The strength of a formal profession is that it can author and establish rules that limit its practice and benefit society. In this they can take inspiration from The Declaration of Helsinki, created by the medical profession for the profession, to hold physicians to a higher standard of ethical conduct than was found in the legal framework of individual countries.

Dr. Helen Morley started as an electronic engineer before pursuing a PhD in Engineering Ethics at the University of Leeds, UK. Her work has included teaching ethics to engineers, working with Engineers Without Borders and co-organising an ethics and climate change event with the Royal Academy of Engineers. Her research focused on understanding how engineers can be supported in making ethical decisions. In 2017 she co-authored a paper on engineering ethics and climate change.

Ismael Velasco

Software developers and climate action: the social mobilisation challenge
As an industry, software development is brimming with altruistic professionals with strong ethical orientations and a desire to be of service. At the same time, the software industry provides the enabling tissue that makes the degradation of our environment possible and aggravates the polarisation of our societies. How can we harness the collective altruism and strategic position of software engineers for climate action? How do we coordinate for maximum impact? Where do global institutions fit? Can we aggregate into a net force for good?

Ismael Velasco is a Software Engineer building web applications in sectors including education, fintech, mental health and the public sector. His initiative for crowd sourcing resources during the peak of the pandemic won the Global Hack prize for Solidarity and Empowerment out of 1000+ projects entered by 10,000 innovators. He founded the Adora Foundation in 2012 and has worked in 20+ countries in the areas of sustainability, resilience education and values and behaviour change.

Strategies for Climate Resilient Communities

Friday, 5 November

Communities worldwide will need to transform in a wide variety of ways in order to meet the demands of climate change. This panel explored strategies concerning transportation systems, disaster preparedness and response, and unity building in local communities.

Moderator: Ana-Sofia Velasco, Campaigns Assistant, Scope; Project Coordinator, Adora Foundation (UK).


Laurence Farshid Bonner

Transport Justice - Planning the 20 minute neighbourhood
My work is primarily concerned with the spatial reorganisation of cities and towns, supporting local governments to reallocate space in favour of walking, wheeling, cycling and public transport/transit, enabling more resilient communities and neighbourhoods.

An urban designer and a transport planner working in the UK, Laurence designs and delivers transport infrastructure projects to create more people friendly environments which are healthier, more accessible and efficient.

Dr. Janot Mendler de Suarez

Unity in diversity - can applying the first principle of biodiversity unleash the transformational power of communities? Insight on community-driven clean water from a psychologist in the Dominican Republic. Questioning gender assumptions with community resilience animators in Mali. Leapfrogging linear learning in Togo. What I've learned about how change actually happens: the importance of linking knowledge -> volition -> action -> serious games. Cultivating co-learning and how humor can open difficult conversations and help bridge differences. How does community resilience take root? Cultivating connections - relationships as infrastructure; building collective intelligence; communities as self-organizing systems.

Dr. Janot MENDLER de Suarez, Visiting Research Fellow with Boston University’s Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, consults with the World Bank Caribbean CREWS initiative on Climate Risk Early Warning Services, co-develops arts-infused global Anti-Racism trainings with the Social, Sustainability and Inclusion unit, and is co-designing Hurricane Hurry, a virtual Disaster Risk Financing game with a Caribbean technical support team. As a Technical Advisor with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Janot has helped conduct conflict zone climate screenings in West Africa with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and in the Caribbean. She supports a dengue risk forecasting pilot and is forging links between social protection and climate resilience at the river basin scale, An expert facilitator and climate policy advisor, she is a recognized innovator in bridging art and science, through data visualization, the use of serious games for co-learning, and collaborative multistakeholder consultations. Janot piloted the first internet-mediated MSc program targeting developing country students while Senior Lecturer in Geography at Royal Holloway University of London, spent over a decade developing the Global Environment Facility’s International Waters knowledge-sharing platform, GEF-IW:LEARN, and has worked in over 75 countries. With the Metro Boston Race Amity taskforce she helped to establish Massachusetts Race Amity Day, and currently serves as a member of her municipal Human Rights, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and Town Administrator’s Racial Justice Advisory working group.

Willy Missack

Local ownership and commitment
This talk explored community building capacities to allow a population to make use of external resources in ways that recognize their own abilities and do not create dependency.

Willy Missack is a National Project Coordinator of the Ecosystem Restoration and Sustainable Land Management on Tongoa Island in Vanuatu. He is Advisor to the Vanuatu Climate Action Network secretariat working with community based organisations (CBO) and Vanuatu's Negotiator on Loss and Damage. Willy was presented with a Queen’s Young Leaders Award in 2015 for his work to create a sustainable water supply in his community. His project expanded across the island and empowered young people to focus on water projects and to contribute to sustainability.

Last updated 14 November 2021