Tackling climate change through private sector community building

22 January 2023 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read
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Community capacity-building by the private sector will be key in tackling climate change and foster social and environmental sustainability, writes Isabel Franco, Principal Advisor at Hatch.

With net-zero targets quickly approaching and many countries lagging behind their goals, the climate crisis has become an ever-escalating battle. The recent COP27 summit emphasised an urgent need to deliver action on an array of climate issues, including the need to build resilience and to finance climate action in developing countries.

However, significant and untapped resources in the private sector may offer hope.

Isabel Franco, Principal Advisor, Hatch

I believe corporations hold the power to increase engagement with global communities and invest in community capacity-building projects to help meet sustainability and climate targets in alignment with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Sustainable Development Goals.

Australia in particular is lagging on UN Sustainable Development Goals and climate commitments, but there is hope for our nation to catch up, with the Australian private sector playing a key role.

There are several key priority areas in supporting climate action. Building resilience can be achieved by supporting industry, innovation and infrastructure, quality education, life on land, sustainable cities and communities, peace, justice and stronger institutions, partnerships for goals, decent work opportunities and economic growth.

Increased private investment can help empower local communities through integrated responses and multifaceted action, by all countries and stakeholders. Building community capacity will help locals realise their sustainable development aspirations across the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic and environmental.

It will also help contribute to the achievement of environmental stewardship, social equity and the sustainable development aspirations. Community capacity building for sustainable development can have a great impact if capacity is also built into physical assets such as technology, transport and infrastructure.

Innovative finance

One of the key issues recently discussed at COP27 was the innovative finance for climate and development. Current financial commitment to climate goals is insufficient and is not increasing at the speed needed to achieve sustainable development goals. Total climate finance needs to be increased by 200 to 400 per cent – from $1.6 trillion to $3.7 trillion per year – if we are to successfully transition to a net-zero-emission and resilient global economy by 2050.

Most of this financing came from public loans (52 per cent), which only increases debt within developing nations. Debt remains the primary instrument used to fund climate action in developing countries, rather than equity, grants and concessional financing.

I believe increased investment in education, income generation, industry, innovation and infrastructure will help strengthen the capacity for communities to combat their unsustainable practices and meet climate agreements.

As per the 9th Sustainable Development Goal, research shows developing entrepreneurial and trade skills in communities for fostering sustainable industries within the tourism, ecotourism and agriculture sectors, can help avoid the over-import of goods as well as have positive effects on relationships within communities. This, in turn, can result in greater corporate performance and enhance natural resources through reforestation.

Further, the fourth Sustainable Development Goal ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all. Increased access to scholarships and quality education at all levels would serve in the progression towards sustainable development.

Research highlights the need to enhance educator’s capacities, as well as provide greater opportunities for vulnerable populations, such as indigenous communities, women and youth, who don’t succeed at school. Enabling appropriate input from the communities themselves also helps create a wholistic approach to sustainability. Adopting bottom-up approaches can help embrace community-orientated and community-driven agendas, which helps create more resilient and capable communities.

Stronger partnerships are key to successful community capacity building. Evidence shows strong network formation, community collaboration, skill development for relationships formation and overall investment in strong relationships within networks and new project ideas, are crucial elements to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

Private sector stakeholders can also play a significant role in fostering alliances with community groups to drive community capacity building. Embracing the recommendations and goals, such as those discussed at COP27, will assist in developing initiatives that help current communities meet current and future needs in a more sustainable and effective way.

About the author: Isabel Franco is Principal Advisor for Community Engagement and Social Performance at Hatch, a global leader in engineering and operational projects in metals, energy and infrastructure. Franco has 20 years of experience in senior advisory roles at among others the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia Pacific, United Nations Development Program, the United Nations University, and the British Council.