Sustainable Climate Impact Fund – those four words say so much and encapsulate the principles of what we are trying to do. For me as a sustainability practitioner working on the project, the phrase intertwines the joint objectives of addressing climate change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals very neatly.
Since their launch in 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have become a shared international language of sustainability that recognises the inseparability of human, ecosystem and planetary needs. The SDGs have moved us away from previous approaches which seemed to place human activities and environmental stability necessarily at odds. By bringing out the connections between the 17 Goals and their 169 targets, we are able to shape improvements in one area of focus which do not worsen the impacts in another. This is ultimately what sustainability means in practice.
The other key change from their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals, is the principle to leave no one behind. It is not enough to weigh the balances and say we have improved as an aggregate when those most in need have seen little improvement. Additionally, the changes we make must themselves be sustainable, able to continue without adverse effects on finances, environment or people.
Climate Action is itself one of the 17 goals and in 2017 the World Economic Forum (sometimes called Davos after its headquarters and annual conference in the Swiss city) called upon the world to recognise that addressing climate change was essential to be able to meet each of the other Goals. If we do not address the effects of climate change already being felt, and act to prevent further changes we will not be able to develop a sustainable future for anyone, and those already in vulnerable situations will be the worst affected.
There are already frameworks for carbon offsetting which support sustainable development (using the UN Clean Development Mechanism), and by looking at the local needs and potential benefits beyond simple greenhouse gas reduction or removal, the same finance can do much more. The best investments don’t just prevent simple emissions, they enable communities to live in ways that are holistically more efficient and less polluting, with improved health, wellbeing and quality of life.
This speaks of two things to me: meeting real needs identified in the project locations by working with the community; and being able to confirm the difference in both numbers and lived experiences.
By developing the projects with the Gold Standard impact methodologies, we will be able to predict and then monitor the greenhouse gas avoided emissions for each intervention. We will also be able to use the indicators for the most relevant UN SDGs to measure additional impacts beyond climate change mitigation. Whilst the expertise of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) teams in the area will enable us to better understand the health and wellbeing benefits to the communities.
This is the simplest part, but also the backbone of SCIF. LSHTM could have invested in carbon offsets managed by someone else to address their residual carbon emissions, but they wanted to do something more and make that money work harder in the places they already know so much about. As anyone knows who has worked in health or community roles, whether as a professional or a volunteer, in the UK or anywhere else, there are other factors in the lives of the people you meet that are contributing to the issues you are supporting them with. Those things require money to fix them and are tied together in complex webs of interactions.
By developing verified carbon credits with an understanding of community needs, the impacts on climate change mitigation, local sustainability in terms of environmental integrity, health and wellbeing will be far greater than for a project whose sole purpose is avoiding emissions, but with the same, or possibly greater benefit in carbon offsetting terms to those who buy the credits.