Environmental Stewardship, ADRA’s Response to UN’s Climate Change Summit

Humanitarian agency’s experts shared lessons and suggestions at the COP26 in Glasgow.

Kimi-Roux James, Adventist Development and Relief Agency
Environmental Stewardship, ADRA’s Response to UN’s Climate Change Summit

Representatives from more than 180 countries gathered in person and virtually in Glasgow, Scotland, for two weeks in November for the United Nations’ twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties (COP26) and, more importantly, to strengthen actions addressing the climate crisis.

Alarm has spread worldwide over rising greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures, fueling unprecedented disasters across the globe. The COP26 has been the center of attention, as hope grows for progress being 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, more prolonged 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 Die Tropenwaldstiftung (Tropical Forest Foundation) and Welthungerhilfe (World Hunger Help) in 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 ecosystems 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 [in] excess emissions. About 35 to 36 gigatons of that is from fossil fuels and 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 said. 

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. 

“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 over the next 10 to 15 years as we progress to net-zero CO2 emissions,” Irvine said. 

Successfully Reducing CO2

Adding to the COP26 climate resilience panel discussion was Anna Krikun, program coordinator of ADRA Deutschland, who shared a project ADRA has 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 said. “This led to food insecurity; people were eating mainly starchy 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 weed killers 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 they adapted ways of growing crops during a drought. In addition, there was less reliance on mono-cropping; less reliance on fast foods; pregnant women were receiving proper nutrition; and anemia rates decreased; also 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 are an important factor of CO2 drawdown, but the impact goes far beyond that: water and food quality, biodiversity, community resilience; and community incentives and awareness are crucial,” she said. 

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 the 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,” Catherine Boldeau, ADRA’s development education officer and urban lead in the United Kingdom, said.

According to Boldeau, the partnership 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 faith-based responsibility to 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,” Carina Rolly, advocacy and policy advisor for ADRA in Germany, said.

She adds that Germany 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 said. “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,” Kruger said. “These solutions are being recognized as effective and cost-efficient, helping people adapt to climate change and building community resilience.”

Kruger noted that the project is the first of its kind and will not be 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 said.

The original version of this article was posted by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

Kimi-Roux James, Adventist Development and Relief Agency