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Amplifying Voices for Climate Action: Insights from Global Nonprofits on Adaptation, Design, and Inclusion at COP28

Through Climate Intersections, NetHope is building a vehicle for leaders in the digital industry, intergovernmental actors, and international civil society to find new and innovative ways to address the climate challenge.

December 15, 2023

By Lance Pierce, CEO, NetHope

Our NetHope Climate Intersections program recently wrapped up more than a week of critical conversations at COP28 in Dubai. This program aims to reduce the impact of climate change on people in vulnerable contexts through digital technologies, especially for women, youth, and indigenous people or disenfranchised communities. We achieve this through anticipatory action to increase resiliency with access to early warning systems, upskilling and building climate data and skills of nonprofits and local communities, and promoting climate equity to amplify and integrate community voices, experiences, and needs.

As someone who has attended the UN climate talks for over fifteen years, I can confidently state the significance of high-quality data in earth science and in assisting humanity alter their lives and work to the consequences of a changing climate. In the past, the reduction of industrial emissions has consistently held a significant position in these meetings. Furthermore, since COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, the discussion has expanded to encompass adaptation and resilience. What’s also very interesting is the growing wave of interest in generative AI and related innovations this past year. These breakthroughs have helped push the broader suite of digital information technologies much closer to the center of the dialogue around climate solutions. 

In that same period, since I first started attending COP, humanitarian relief and international development organizations have shifted from being on the periphery of the talks—if they participated at all—to being much more involved joining their colleagues and counterparts in the conservation sector, who have been involved since the founding of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in the early 1990s. The reasons for this accelerating participation are simple: the increasing consequences of a changing climate provides the backdrop for everything these mission-focused organizations do in their work. We know because that’s what we do at NetHope every day: work with NGOs to use technology to accelerate their mission’s effectiveness in a changing world. NetHope civil society organizations from our diverse Membership were present and active in Dubai, engaging in substantive dialogues with government negotiators, corporate representatives, and indigenous peoples.

We spent time listening to our NetHope Climate Intersections Working Group, made up of representatives from our Members. NetHope Members are more than 65 global nonprofit humanitarian, development, and conservation organizations serving over 1.67 billion people in vulnerable contexts worldwide. Their messages back to COP negotiators, donor governments, and the technology companies with whom they partner are threefold:

  • Encourage governments, donors, and other financial contributors to allocate more funds to adaptation & resilience.  Why? Because a changing climate poses a threat to the significant investments in human development and well-being, biodiversity, and conservation the NetHope Member organizations have made over the past 70 years.
  • Design solutions with/for the humanitarian sector vs. for other sectors then forcing humanitarians to adapt. Why? Because technology designed for the affluent that trickles down and out of mature consumer markets is generally not fit for purpose for rural and vulnerable communities.
  • Be inclusive and bring equality to women, youth, and indigenous peoples. Why? Because the power of digital technology can have both positive and negative impacts: it can radically level the playing field or radically worsen existing inequalities.

There were some exciting developments at COP28 for those who have been following this event for a long time. Concluding the negotiations, the assembled countries reached an unprecedented agreement, calling for a faster transition away from fossil fuels altogether. Before and throughout the event there were other milestones such as the progress made on the long-stalled loss and damage fund, the amount in climate finance pledges reaching more than $80 billion (according to host government, UAE)  to date, the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and climate action, signed by more than 130 countries, the joint US-China announcements on methane reductions (a greenhouse gas with vastly greater warming potential than CO2), and all the actions taking place under the Green Digital Action umbrella to which we are signatories in partnership with our friends and colleagues at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and more.

Digital and data are the cross-cutting sectors and issues that enable all the solutions being developed by other sectors. We’re proud, through our Climate Intersections program, to be building a vehicle for leaders in the digital industry, intergovernmental actors like the ITU, and international civil society to find new and innovative ways to address the climate challenge. 

For example, during COP28 we announced a partnership with Ushahidi, a NetHope Member organization, to launch an exciting new pilot program in Uganda that will capture people’s stories and shared experiences with a changing climate. These stories will then be linked to some of the large-scale data sets that will be used to drive climate change and early warning projections. We will connect people’s on-the-ground experiences in vulnerable contexts with macro-level climate models. By doing so we hope to humanize the data and assist in the development of more effective mitigation and adaptation strategies. Likewise, we participated in the next phase launch of the Humanitarian Climate Charter, a leadership effort originated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, another NetHope Member working in nearly every country in the world.

Let’s be clear: digital and data solutions are not the sole pathway to helping people in vulnerable contexts manage and live more resiliently and adaptively in a changing climate, and they are likewise not the only factor in comprehensive emissions mitigation. But we will all be living in a warming climate for the rest of our lives, and we will have to get better at adapting. We will have to do so with an integrated view of equity, and we’ll need more actions with double benefits—mitigation and adaptation. Smarter use of digital and data technologies, increasingly powered by AI, will be a vital resource for helping us all do that.

Reducing the impact of climate change on people in vulnerable contexts through digital technologies will not be done by a single entity. It will take a village, collaborating and deploying solutions together, supported by visionary governments and philanthropy.


NetHope’s New Strategic Plan – Digital for Climate Adaptation & Resilience – Climate Intersections Program Highlight

NetHope has launched its 2024-2030 strategy. A generation ago, the Digital Divide described the gap in access first to computers, and then to the internet and essential technologies. But today, new digital challenges threaten international NGO mission advancement as organizations are forced to grapple with the widening gap between available resources and growing needs. These new challenges – what NetHope calls the new Digital Divides – represent critical gaps in infrastructure, systems, capabilities, and knowledge. Over the next decade, we will lead collective action to bridge the New Digital Divides – skills and leadership, inclusion, protection, transformation and innovation, and climate adaptation and resilience - leveraging our powerful, proven model for advance global good.

Bridging the New Digital Divides Spotlight: Digital for Climate Adaptation & Resilience
Climate change is a crisis that underpins many of the challenges and growing needs facing our sector—both in the digital context and beyond. To foster a prepared and resilient NGO sector, we must develop adaptive responses and integrated tools for the coming and contemporary effects of climate change. NetHope will draw on the full might of our convening, grantmaking, accelerating, and catalyzing power to scale effective digitally-powered responses to climate-related challenges across our sector and especially for women, youth, indigenous people, and disenfranchised communities.

Program Spotlight: Climate Intersections Program
NetHope launched its first climate program, with the generous support of Cisco. Our mission is to leverage the reach of the NetHope community via digital, data and partnerships to help more people thrive in the face of climate change. NetHope humanitarian and conservation NGO Members and their ecosystems, thematic programs, local and marginalized communities and NetHope tech partners are the core of Climate Intersections program. We believe that collective action is the way to fight this climate crisis. Sharing resources and finding digital solutions together is not something new for NetHope Members.

Resources

  • Find out more on how the NetHope community is using digital technology to protect lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems.
  • Explore NetHope’s study exploring how digital technology can support climate adaptation and resilience of vulnerable communities.

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