While some may consider Ireland’s unprecedently warm weather in early November as an excuse to forget the jacket when going into college or get in a few more outdoor pints before we head into the depths of winter, this weather is quite a harrowing glimpse into the future of our planet. This warmer weather coincided—almost mockingly—with the beginning of COP-27, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference. As if nature’s way of saying “go ahead, give it your best shot.” While unfortunately this view is extremely foreboding, as the generation gearing up to bear the burden of rising sea levels and increases in both natural disasters and air pollution, it’s difficult not to be experiencing heightened levels of climate anxiety.
COP-27 brings together world leaders to brainstorm and negotiate a global approach to tackling climate issues. This year, the conference took place in Sharm El-Sheikh, a beautiful city in Egypt that boasts lush beaches sat nicely on the coast of the Red Sea. The city is nicknamed the ‘City of Peace’ due to the large number of international and diplomatic conferences that it has hosted over the years. While it is easy to get overwhelmed with the future implications of climate change, it is important to push forward and take each win as it comes. That being said, it is important to acknowledge the historical decision made this year at COP-27 to establish a “loss and damage” fund. This fund will assist developing countries who have unjustly fallen victim to the adverse effects of climate change that have been mostly perpetrated by developed countries. The idea of a loss and damage fund has been on the COP agenda for over a decade, so this monumental decision is a significant point of progress. It is clear that this year’s COP conference has taken a more action-based approach, with commitment to the implementation and adaption of programs to tackle climate change. This is a refreshing change to past years, where the conference has seemed to focus more on discussing and planning rather than taking immediate and tangible action.
To further examine the role of business in the context of sustainability and adapting to a more climate friendly business world, it is stimulating to take a look at sessions hosted by EU COP-27 Side Events. COP 27 Side Events is a series of sessions held by observer organisations, such as NGOs or IGOs, giving a platform for these groups to lead discussions or present their current projects all while engaging the audience through interactive discussions and Q&As.
One noteworthy Side Events session was titled ‘Documenting the Multiple Benefits and Engagement Mechanisms of Nature Based Solutions: Applying a Common EU Impact Assessment Framework.’ The event was led by Verónica Ruiz, a Resilience Programme Manager at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Nature based solutions (NBS) “involve working with nature to address societal challenges, providing benefits for both human well-being and biodiversity.” This virtual and interactive NBS Side Event discussed the importance of measuring the impact of NBS, using the EU handbook on impact assessment as a helpful guide, as it will support additional projects and the ongoing development of more sustainable cities and business activities.
The discussion opened with a description of the EU Evaluating the Impact of Nature-Based Solutions: A Handbook for Practitioners and the associated Appendix of Methods and Summary for Policy Makers. This handbook provides a detailed description and guidance for developing and measuring the impact of NBS plans. Five guest speakers talked through NBS projects they have been working on and how they have been measuring and evaluating their impacts. Among the speakers was Trinity’s very own Mary Lee Rhodes, Associate Professor of Public Management at Trinity Business School. Rhodes talked through her work on the Connecting Nature Project, focusing mainly on the economic impacts of the plan. Connecting Nature “co-works with local authorities, communities, industry partners, NGOs and academics who are investing in large scale implementation of nature-based projects in urban settings.” The results of the project found that NBS in front runner locations not only increased net jobs in the areas, but also increased the number of new businesses in the surrounding NBS area. Rhodes explained that measuring the impact of imbedding nature into activities of the cities has led to the discovery that firms in front runner locations are engaging in new ways of planning business in a more sustainable way.
Projects such as those discussed by Rhodes and her colleagues are inspirational and lay the foundation for the future of a more sustainable business world. NBS is a key tool that can be used to engage local communities and businesses under the common shared goal for increased climate action and responsibility. EU Side Events allow those working in the field to engage with everyday observers, providing a bridge between the general public and the deliberations of global leaders at the COP 27 conference. This helps to make the content more digestible and relevant to the average person’s everyday life. The recordings of the EU Side Events session are still available for viewing on their website.
To conclude, given the current backdrop of global energy and debt crises, natural disasters, and increases in the spread infectious disease, it is important to consider one’s role and what each individual can personally achieve in regard to tackling climate change. The projects discussed at this year’s EU COP-27 Side Events are inspiring and give a glimpse into the future of a more globally sustainable business world. As a business student eager to enter the workforce, it is crucial to understand the importance of encouraging sustainable business practices. Employing NBS in future business endeavours should be a fundamental consideration as the next generation steps into management and leadership positions. COP-27 and the associated Side Events help to shine a light on an otherwise bleak and anxiety-inducing matter, calling for action by global leaders, businesses, and local communities alike.
Connecting Nature Project:
EU Side Events: