Viewpoint: How Social Entrepreneurs Can Bolster Climate Resilience
Friday, December 4, 2015
As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris convenes, it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of government policy-level agreements on climate change. The world’s poor communities — whose lives and livelihoods are tied most directly to local natural resources — are already feeling the impact of climate change. They are suffering now from diminished access to energy and clean water, food deprivation, deforestation and other habitat loss, the spread of tropical diseases, and other threats to their health and livelihoods.
Promoting climate resilience by social enterprise blends the sensibilities and goals of social action with the rigor and financing structures of business.
Climate resilience means the ability for a community or region to keep functioning in the face of the negative impacts of climate change, and to adapt to future impacts of climate change by creating more sustainable social, ecological, and economic systems. Climate resilience encompasses areas such as off-grid clean energy, safe drinking water, and sustainable agriculture and forestry.
And here’s a crucial point: Promoting climate resilience among the global poor is not simply some do-good exercise to help us more fortunate world citizens to feel better. We in the developed world are far more sheltered than the poor from the direct impacts of climate change, at least for the time being. Look no further than the current Middle East refugee crisis to get a glimpse of how quickly things can change.
If people are driven from their homes because their crops are flooded or fail from drought — because water sources become too polluted or scarce to drink, or because it’s no longer possible to find enough fuel for cooking, heating, and lighting — what choice do they have than to flee their unlivable homes? And where will they seek food and shelter? Most likely, in areas of the developed world that are habitable and hospitable.
Even without the specter of millions of climate refugees flooding across borders, we of the global north have a moral responsibility to take action on behalf of the poor. As Pope Francis noted in his Laudato Si encyclical, those of us who are responsible for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change have accrued an “ecological debt” to the global south, where those least responsible for climate change are suffering the majority of its ill effects.