Posts by Rebecca DeVivo

Reporting from ECCA 2017, Closing Plenary

June 14th, 2017 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

To close out an excellent conference, we were asked to participate in the closing plenary of ECCA. Having had 10 2050 Climate Group members participating in the conference, I was asked to close out the conference with some reflections from young people.

Throughout the conference, 2050 Climate Group attendees reported back on the outcomes and learnings from each of the sessions they attended. Some of this can be found in the form of blogs published on our website.

When it came time to participate in the plenary, it was clear that the topic of young people, their voice, participation and value had been a key topic discussed throughout sessions. This is largely due to the foresight of the local steering group in inviting the 2050 Climate Group to participate, and the excellent work of Sam Curran and Shona Rawlings, who represented the organisation in this forum. Through this partnership, a programme emerged which highlighted young people in each plenary session, and also featured a range of young researchers and school children. This is the first conference that I have attended where I felt that young people sufficiently input into the design and development, as well as attendance and sessions as they ran through. To include young people in each plenary, was a significant decision of the Glasgow ECCA organising committee, one which we think shows a positive step towards further inclusion and value of the perspectives of young people in an integrated and inclusive way.

In the plenary, I was asked to participate in a discussion which focussed around the following three questions.

Question 1. Where are we in Europe with Climate Change Adaptation?

In response to this question, I highlighted the way that we can see a change in how we look at the change in language that we use….

“We are and we continue to be quite detached… both in time and space from the reality of the largest biggest impacts and from the scale of the task at hand. I think this detachment makes us less urgent – this is true for both for mitigation and adaptation. This can be seen in the way we use language now. For example take the word capacity. The way we use this has changed and it seems to have lost all meaning… When we talk about capacity, as almost every presentation did, we refer to building capacity or our adaptive capacity. Somehow this is different from what capacity should be, which is human resources, brain space and funding and financial resources.

Another key word is vulnerability. We have really changed the meaning of this when we talk about adaptation. We have started to use the word vulnerability to be almost synonymous with risk, but this is not the case. Vulnerability is inherently human, it is emotive, and psychological, and we’ve lost touch with what it actually means to be vulnerable to climate change because it is a different thing than measuring risk.”

Question 2. What are new insights from ECCA for science, policy, business and practice?

I started this discussion by agreeing with the points that the other two before me had made, which is that the greater inclusion of stakeholders in this conference is significant. Noting that there was the feeling at this conference that a diversity of stakeholders actually mattered, and this was a significant change from previous conferences.

Elizabeth Dirth at the Closing Plenary. Seated with our panelists.

Following this, I also reflected on a new trend that I noticed that could be capitalised on, and this is the narrative. It is apparent, especially in Scotland, that the narrative around climate change adaptation is changing. A focus on co-benefits, a focus on inclusivity of stakeholders and participation, and a focus on innovation and excitement about the future. The future is sexy … everybody loves to talk about it: future tech, future visions, future generations, futuristic media & culture. Adaptation is pretty fundamentally about the future. There’s more work to do on narratives that hook people, but we’ve come a long way in a short time on this… and I’m quite proud of the work that’s been done in Scotland on this.

Question 3. New challenges, new questions, new directions emerging from ECCA 2017

For me, the next challenge is how do we deal with the inherent injustice in climate change adaptation…

I don’t like to admit this in private, let alone to a large audience, but by the time I’m in my mid 40’s, according to current projections, we’ll be living in a 2 degree warmer world. That means, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, I’ll spend half my life in a world with the consequences of 2 degrees of temperature rise.

Let that sink in… I find this utterly terrifying. And I don’t even live in a small island state, or rely on agriculture for my well-being. I’m not particularly vulnerable like so many of those around the globe, I just happened to be alive at a certain time.

Personally, I believe that as long as we continue to talk about climate change in terms of ppm, degrees of temperature, CO2, cm of sea level rise… using our current models and metrics … instead of talking about it in terms of human lives lost or ruined, we will not progress with the scale and urgency we need to. We also need to learn to value this measurement, the measurement of the human life… and by this I mean the human life everywhere. Climate change is global. The value of my life does not matter any more than that of someone in a Pacific Island state, or South Sudan.

Many of us working in this field are scientists… we’re trained to deal with this a certain way… but at the end of the day, the front line of climate change adaptation is someone terrified about what their future holds. We need to look that person in the face…

I think we all have a responsibility to make that future positive, both by injecting ourselves, our institutions, etc. with a bit more urgency, and also by painting positive pictures of what the future can be. Everybody these days says love trumps fear… will I think hope trumps fear…. Hope of a better future rather than a catastrophic one, and everyone in this room has a responsibility for developing that positive vision and for collective action.


Written by: Elizabeth Dirth, Trustee & former Chair

ecca day2

Reporting from ECCA 2017, Day 2

June 7th, 2017 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet

In the opening plenary of the 3rd European Climate Change Adaptation (ECCA) Conference, it was stressed that young people must be at the heart of climate change. When it comes to the most pressing environmental issue, we are the key stakeholder and part of our role at 2050 is communicating this to other young people. During this conference, members of our Operational Teams and Board will be attending sessions of interest and will use the 2050 blog as a space to report back on what they’ve learned and how young people can get involved.  


On Wednesday, the 2050 Climate Group was out in full force with attendance from Rebecca DeVivo, Sam Curran, Lowri Walker, Katy Syme and David Townsend (Board) and Kate Chambers and Bente Klein (Operational Team Members).

Pictured L to R Sam Curran, Lowri Walker, Bente Klein, David Macpherson(2050 Alumnus), Rebecca DeVivo, Kate Chambers and Katy Syme

Opening Plenary, Notes provided by Sam Curran

Today is innovation day! This is an opportunity to hear from those small business and start ups that want to help overcome those challenges that climate change keeps throwing at us (we’ll cover the Innovation Day in a separate blog).

We kicked off the day with a panel discussion with Baroness Brown (Chair of UK adaptation committee) and Claus Kondrup (Head of EC Adaptation) among others.

Baroness Brown took to the podium first to talk about the approach that is being taken in the UK, well England at least, as the environment is a devolved power in Scotland. We are still working our how we need to adapt, the data isn’t completely clear, and we rely on professional judgement to a large degree. 

Climate change is here and happening now. We are not yet seeing the action required in this area. We are already seeing the risks to health and wellbeing due to increased temperatures – especially in our cities. We need to adapt our buildings now as they are here to stay. 

We need to stop locking in problems. We are about to build tens of thousands of homes and buildings on flood plains. It took us 15 years to plan and build the Thames barrier. If we are to safeguard the country by 2050 we need to start planning and building right now! If it takes this long to build resilient societies then it is absolutely critical that today’s youth are right at the heart of the decision making.

We need to stop the reduction of our green spaces. Although in slightly better news apparently home owners have stopped paving over their gardens. Keep on gardening folks!

Adaptation is much newer than mitigation. At the EU it really only became a thing in 2014.  The commission is planning an public consultation at the end of October. This will allow people to shape the future EU policy on climate change adaptation policy. Young people, 2050 Climate Group – let’s make sure our voices are heard!

No mention of the Donald and his pulling out of the Paris agreement. Hopefully this is a sign that the UK and EU know that they can’t rely on anyone else.


Adaptation cultures: Knowledge, values and practice

Sam and Rebecca attended this morning session. Notes provided by Rebecca.

In this session, we heard from three different researchers exploring the links between culture and climate change adaptation studies and practices. The researchers suggest that adaptation is strongly linked to its social and cultural environment both as practice and policy.

Over the last 30-50 years there has been an intensification of communication and knowledge exchange, which has led to a global constellation of cultures. When it comes to climate change adaptation, how far do we need standardisation or how far do we need to design for local particularities? In the first talk, Dr. Thorsten Heimann from Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space looked at how societies deal with climate change risk. Based on his research, he found that in 4 different European countries climate change was being discussed in completely different ways. This is primarily due to the different values, beliefs and identities each culture has. (This wasn’t news to me, but was really interesting to here it in practice in relation to flooding. (On a side note, I’d highly recommend reading How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate by Andrew Hoffmann)) 

In this research, culture was defined as shared knowledge and practices. In relation to climate change, a climate change culture also exists. This culture can be defined as shared knowledge of vulnerability, shared resilience practices (adaptation or mitigation).

One interesting thing Thorsten mentioned was the fact that the reason for more climate sceptics in Poland relates to the large number of conservatives and the history of the country and reliance on coal mining. The main take home from this session was understanding that having different values, beliefs and identity means that there will be different approaches to tackling climate change! It’s important to acknowledge this and not rely on one size fits all solutions.


Food security and supply chain resilience under a changing climate, Notes provided by Kate

This sessions was a series of presentations and panel discussion showing four different perspectives on the challenges facing our global food systems under climate change. Richard Tiffin provided an economic overview of agriculture, and how extreme ‘shocks’ could impact. Richard emphasised the importance of collaborations and sharing of data, to help us understand a very complex food system that no-one currently understands! 

All speakers stressed the importance of long-term, systematic thinking around complex food security issues. There is a need for experts to share data, and for policy makers and scientists not to be reductionist with this information. There was also a recurring message around the power of the consumer – food systems are partly dependent on consumer demand. The supermarkets are pushing growers and farmers for ‘perfection’ because of this expectation.


Discussing Coherence: from national adaptation planning to achieving global adaptation and sustainable development, Notes provided by Bente Klein

The goal of this session was to discuss how the reporting obligations and adaptation planning in the Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework and the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).

One suggested way forward is that each and every country needs to set a baseline for itself. Every country needs to say that this is my desired level of resilience, depending on the national circumstances they can then be assessed quantitatively or qualitatively. Then it is up to the countries to agree what needs support or not. Coherence is desirable to ease any reporting burden on developing countries, as reporting on three different conventions puts a lot of stress on these countries. Next to spending a lot of time to find the right indicators, it should be questioned whether it is not more useful to spend time working on qualitative assessment. Further discussion included Loss & Damage.


How climate services can enable successful urban adaptation, Notes provided by Katy Syme

Five academics presented their research projects on climate services which have helped other organisations with urban adaptation.

Amsterdam University of Life sciences presented on a project to help the Dutch government reach their 2020 goal to have all streets that are being constructed or reconstructed to be climate resilient. This is needed to encourage adaptation (not a current priority). They developed 10 example typologies with different resilient options versus ‘traditional’ design, including 100 year costed designs for building, maintenance, and the cost of flooding. Adaptation approaches included lowering streets to allow for water storage, and green infrastructure. For a similar cost, a climate ready alternative can be retrofitted in most situations. They have produced a free online book containing the typologies and adaptation examples. They also considered the value of the different examples (eg health benefits of greening)

Angela Connelly (University of Manchester) produced flood disadvantage map for pilot areas in Scotland. They mapped socio-spatial vulnerability, including vulnerability of place. This is an open web-GIS tool, like the ClimateJust (JRF funded) project. There is a focus on co-production measures in the development of the mapping and using maps to help start conversations with disparate groups / sectors.


Stay tuned for the final day where Board Member and previous Chair of 2050 Climate Group, Elizabeth Dirth, will be presenting at the closing plenary!

Please note, we are keen to try and report daily and as such, these reports may be brief. It’s possible that we might elaborate on some of the learned topics in future blogs. 


About ECCA 2017 (taken from website)

“The theme of ECCA 2017 is ‘Our Climate Ready Future’. Our vision is that this conference will inspire and enable people to work together to discover and deliver positive climate adaptation solutions that can strengthen society, revitalise local economies and enhance the environment. We are bringing together the people who will deliver action on the ground – from business, industry, NGOs, local government and communities – to share knowledge, ideas and experience with leading researchers and policymakers.”

Full Programme

Reporting from ECCA 2017, Day 1

Reporting from ECCA 2017, Day 3

salad bowl

Food for Thought

May 31st, 2017 Posted by Blogs No Comment yet
photo of natalie

Young Leader, Natalie Sweeney

We need to lower our carbon footprint! This is something that we hear a lot, but what does it mean and how do we do it? Our carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of the actions we take, writes Natalie Sweeney. This includes everything from commuting to work, the food we eat and the things we buy. The footprint is calculated by adding up all the carbon emissions into the atmosphere from every single stage of an action. For example buying a tomato which starts with growing, transport to shop, cooking into the meal it’s being used in etc. I have recently started being a young leader for the 2050 Climate Group which is an organisation that runs a young leaders development programme to raise awareness about and action against climate change. This has been really useful in understanding how we can make small, personal actions to lower out carbon footprint.

Food alone is responsible for 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions and the rising population means that food demand is also rising. The higher income a household has tends to mean a higher demand for animal products such as meat and dairy which have a higher carbon footprint than most food because the growing and preparation of it produces a lot of emissions. We can lower this by buying seasonal foods, even if they are not grown in this country. Often we may be put off to see foods in our supermarkets that are grown from another country rather than the UK but actually, as long as the food is in season and is transported slowly to this country i.e. by ship rather than plane, then the carbon footprint of the food is actually very low. What we can do to lower our carbon footprint with food is to eat seasonal food, avoid unnecessary packaging, recycle packaging, eat less meat and dairy and buy food with a shorter shelf life if you know you’ll be eating it that day anyway rather than reaching for the food at the back. These are obvious and simple little things that make a big difference.

It isn’t all about reducing our carbon footprint, it is also about improving our carbon handprint. The handprint is how much we have saved or counteracted any negative actions. We can start growing some of our own fruit and veg, planting a tree, taking the car one less journey a week. Small actions are what make the biggest difference.

I have focused on small, personal actions even though the problem of climate change is far bigger than any of us. This is because we cannot always control what others do, or businesses, government and law, but we can change things that we can control. We can be more aware of how our actions affect the planet and read up on how we can make a difference.

This post comes from YLDP 2017 young leader, Natalie Sweeney.

Taken from Largs and Millport Weekly News.

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