12 February 2019
In Rush for Answers to Climate Change, Sustainable Development, Equator Prize Launches Search for Local, Nature-based Solutions
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Indigenous peoples and local communities are implementing solutions that strengthen their resilience to the impacts of climate, accelerate carbon sequestration, and deliver on multiple SDGs at the same time.

We need to learn from them, and find ways to scale up or replicate their impacts, so we make the progress we need by 2030.

The Equator Prize is accepting nominations of outstanding work in this area until 26 February 2019.

This year sees a confluence of important events in both the climate and sustainable development agendas. The UN Secretary-General will host a Climate Summit on 23 September 2019, to “boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.” In the subsequent two days, the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development will convene at the level of Heads of State and Government, a gathering held only every four years. The world is rushing to tackle climate change to avoid catastrophic consequences by 2030, and yearning for progress on the SDGs.

Hosted by the UN Development Programme and partners, the Equator Prize 2019 will showcase the contributions of local communities and indigenous peoples to both agendas, and will demonstrate how nature-based solutions are integral components of the responses to climate and sustainable development challenges. Nominations are now open for local communities and indigenous peoples doing outstanding work in this area.

The importance of nature is often overlooked in climate and development discourses. About a quarter of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is traced to the clearing of forests, mangroves, wetlands and peatlands, as well as the use of intensive agricultural practices. At the same time, the protection and restoration of carbon-rich ecosystems, and the transformation of our agricultural systems towards more sustainability could provide nearly 40% of the climate mitigation we need.

Nominations can be submitted in eight languages until 26 February 2019.

Nature is the foundation upon which the SDGs are built. The Goals and targets related to food and water security, poverty reduction, disaster risk reduction and sustainable energy will not be achieved without healthy ecosystems and the sustainable use of natural capital. Nature provides the infrastructure essential for economic and social development on our planet. It is difficult to imagine businesses and communities operating for prolonged periods of time without the healthy, functioning ecosystems required to ensure clean water and air for all, provide materials for the economy, and buffer us from climatic extremes. Yet approaches to achieving the SDGs that are based on nature and the sustainable management of natural resources are too rarely on the agenda of governments’ discussions about implementation.

Similarly rare in high-level policy discussions is the topic of indigenous peoples and local communities. Yet local communities are at the forefront of climate change and sustainable development. They are implementing solutions that strengthen their resilience to the impacts of climate, accelerate carbon sequestration, and deliver on multiple SDGs at the same time

A few examples of such communities:

  • In Kenya, Mikoko Pamoja is the first community-based initiative to sell carbon credits generated through the protection of the village’s mangrove forest. The community reinvests income from these credits into clean water and education, providing a virtuous cycle of development dividends.
  • The Organización para la Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag in Ecuador has created community water-forest reserves, improved access to water, enabled communities to engage in small-scale sustainable farming activities, established micro-hydro power units, and provides eco-tourism opportunities. Its efforts are tackling SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action) and 15 (life on land) simultaneously.
  • In Indonesia and Malaysia, the Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands in the Heart of Borneo (FORMADAT) supports farmers to grow traditional varieties of rice and fruit. Cultivating a high variety of crops is a buffer against the impacts of climate change. Organic growing methods yield higher prices, improving local incomes.

These local examples provide pathways for replicating and scaling up climate and development solutions. We need to recognize, celebrate and champion these local successes. The prestigious Equator Prize does just that, by shining a spotlight on communities who advance nature-based solutions to climate and sustainable development.

We welcome nominations in eight different languages. The global search for community and indigenous initiatives doing exceptional work on nature-based solutions continues until 26 February. The winners will each receive USD 10,000, and will participate in a series of policy dialogues and events during the UN General Assembly and Climate Week in New York in September 2019. The Equator Prize Award Ceremony will coincide with the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit and the summit-level HLPF, thus connecting the two agendas, and showing that solutions for climate and sustainable development not only exist and reinforce each other but are already being implemented successfully all over the world. We need to learn from them, and find ways to scale up or replicate their impacts, so we make the progress we need by 2030.

This article was written by Martin Sommerschuh, Coordinator, Equator Initiative, UN Development Programme (prize@equatorinitiative.org)

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