December 14, 2021

Collaboration for climate action—insights from the inaugural Drawdown Lift Advisory Council

by Christina Kwauk, Glory Oguegbu, Ndola Prata, and Carissa Patrone (Drawdown Lift)

The inaugural Drawdown Lift Advisory Council is made up of 15 members who shape, guide, and inform Drawdown Lift’s research on the links between climate change solutions, poverty alleviation, and human well-being—particularly in emerging economies in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Council members include innovative and talented academic researchers, thought leaders, advocates, and development practitioners who have a variety of topic-area expertise and a passion for working in a multidisciplinary manner to address the world’s dual equity and climate crises.

Collectively, Council members working in 11 different countries offer insights about:

  • food security and nutrition
  • conservation and natural resource management
  • gender
  • women’s health
  • girls’ education
  • sustainable energy
  • the demographic dividend 
  • reproductive health
  • planetary health
  • poverty alleviation and development economics
  • and climate resilience 

Here, three new Council members—Christina Kwauk, Glory Oguegbu, and Ndola Prata—share thoughts  on bridging the gap through collaboration and innovation, collective and individual reach, and embracing the complexity of working together to address climate change. 

While working to advance climate solutions and research, Council members will apply their diverse expertise to forward climate work that is intersectional and challenges various systems of oppression. For example, examining how climate action is financed—and how the impact of such action is measured—not only informs programming and action on the ground, but also lifts up the need for a better understanding of how various global systems can advance climate solutions that provide cascading benefits while addressing barriers to climate action and resilience. 

“One of the things that drew me to the Drawdown Lift Advisory Council,” says education leader Christina Kwauk, “is that this sort of effort between such diverse sectors really reflects the kind of cross-sectoral, holistic, systemic work that needs to happen for the kinds of social transformations—even before many technical changes—we’d like to see.” 

Part of the Council’s collaborative action encourages better policies and support for communities who have been (and continue to be) the most impacted by climate change, particularly rural communities in low- and middle-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Award-winning development entrepreneur and youth advocate Glory Oguegbu says that the Council’s work encourages “better decisions that are informed.” She emphasizes that this sort of informed decision-making translates to better policies that incorporate real-world climate impacts on communities and changing climate trends as part of the whole.

Bridging the gap

Only through collaboration and collective action can climate stakeholders bridge glaring gaps and support the world in reaching “drawdown”—the point in the future when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline, thereby stopping catastrophic climate change. Drawdown Lift Council members share knowledge and best practices to establish better avenues for collaboration, exciting new opportunities, and stronger networks for future action.   

An important goal of this collaborative climate work is to foster a deeper level of system self-awareness and bridge-building to address misconceptions and foster healthier systems that work for everyone, everywhere. Encouraging governments, donors, and philanthropies to fund and finance action in intersectional ways helps foster climate action that addresses problems that communities are facing today. For example, programs focused on agriculture can more deeply examine the intersections between population, health, and education within their work, and partner with folks that value holistic action.  

Collective and individual power 

Individual and collective action must go hand-in-hand—everyone has a role to play when it comes to climate solutions. Ndola Prata, public health physician and academic thought leader, says that despite being an expert in one area, she can make her role “more impactful if we synergize with other disciplines and collaborate together.” By working together across disciplines, she says, groups can achieve more ambitious goals that make better sense to more people. 

When thinking about achieving climate and planetary health solutions, stakeholders must be mindful about how they choose to magnify a solution or action. For example, as a collective, the Drawdown Lift Advisory Council can forward rights-based action and research through the lens of women and girls as climate leaders and solutionists—especially when they have equitable access to high-quality education, sexual and reproductive health and rights, land tenure, and decision-making. 

Council members can contextualize and promote the most relevant climate information for their communities, sharing tools that foster a deeper understanding of current and local climate impacts, and ways to forward solutions that prioritize long-term climate-resilience. 

Oguegbu says, when starting her journey as a climate advocate, she was “confused a lot of the times when I was reading about climate change, because many of the things that I saw did not apply to me as a Nigerian living in this part of the world.” Hearing about declining polar bear populations, extinctions, and melting ice didn’t resonate. “So,” she says, “I tried to think about how I could promote climate change to the people in my country because they couldn't understand this—I began to study ways that climate change affected me.”  

Embracing challenges and complexity together 

Climate change—one of the most complex challenges of our lifetime—will continue to negatively impact every sector and community on Earth without collective action. Prata would like to “open up, quite a bit, the perspective on how to look at these issues—not to shy away because ‘it’s too complex for us to tackle’ but to appreciate the complexity” of working together to implement numerous climate solutions. 

When a diverse group of climate actors from a variety of disciplines work together, opportunities to influence, listen to, and include future generations of climate professionals multiply. COP26, the 2021 UN Climate Conference, showed the world how modern climate work often fails to  address disproportionate impacts and highlight stark inequities within resource allocation. 

“If we’re talking about the need to address poverty, underlying structures of inequity, systems of oppression, and so on,” says Kwauk, education expert, “then we need to bring together diverse actors working on little pieces of those very complex problems.” It’s the way to create opportunities for people to achieve a higher quality of life and reach their full potential, no matter who they are or where they live.

Drawdown Lift’s inaugural Advisory Council will continue to embrace the challenges of systemic, holistic, and multidisciplinary climate action—and the complexity that comes along with it—as a way to advance long-lasting, relevant, and equitable solutions for a safer future. 

 

More Insights

Profile  |  January 24, 2023
Drawdown Science team member Yusuf Jameel
Drawdown Science Profile: Yusuf Jameel
This article is the third in a series introducing the members of Project Drawdown’s new science team. Yusuf Jameel joined Project Drawdown in 2021 as a research manager for Drawdown Lift. In January 2023 he transitioned to the Drawdown Science team as associate scientist, data science. A multidisciplinary scientist with experience in water resources, public health, data analytics, and science communication, he’s passionate about finding solutions to climate change and bridging the gap between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Yusuf obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. Please welcome Yusuf as he shares his thoughts on growing up on the banks of the Ganges River, enhancing human well-being through the adoption of climate solutions, porcupine hair, and more. Q: When people ask you what you do with Project Drawdown, what do you tell them?  A. As a member of the science team, I work on climate solutions using my experience in data analysis, especially on solutions that also address the food–energy–water nexus. I also work on translating the science in a way that makes it widely accessible.  Q: Of all of the things you could be doing, why did you choose to join Project Drawdown?   A: Project Drawdown is on a mission to actually address the biggest problem the world is facing today, climate change. I was really impressed by the book. It was the first to lay out that yes, we can address climate change—it's not just about gloom and doom, it’s also about opportunity. Project Drawdown addresses climate in a way that’s multidimensional, promotes the best science, addresses the different audiences, and passes the mic. That really motivates me. Q: What do you consider some of the biggest obstacles to implementing and scaling up climate solutions?  A: First is unlocking the finance to fund climate solutions globally. We need capital from the private sector, from banks divesting from fossil fuels, and we need to invest in green solutions. Another challenge is politics. We need to think more altruistically. This is a global challenge requiring everyone to join hands, yet it has not been the case so far. The good news is, public perception is changing. Hopefully politics will change, and more capital will be funneled into climate solutions. Q: OK, time for a break. What’s your favorite food? A: I would go with my comfort food, and that’s biryani. It’s a big tradition in South Asian countries, and if you ask anyone in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, biryani is probably one of the top dishes. It’s not the healthiest dish, but it’s just so comforting.  Q: I’m sure you have many, but can you tell us about one superpower you bring to this job? A: I’m a jack of all trades. Whether it’s high-level thinking, brainstorming ideas, or actually doing the work, I’m comfortable doing it all. I’m also adaptable. If a situation requires me to step up and take the lead I can, or I can step back and follow.  Q: What's a childhood experience that relates to the work you're doing today?  A: I grew up on the banks of the River Ganges. Every now and then there would be flooding. As a result, many people would go through an annual cycle of losing crops and be entrenched in a cycle of poverty, unable to get out. This had a profound effect on me. When I started reading about climate change and seeing flooding events become more and more intense, I recognized the need to address climate and development holistically.  Q: What’s your favorite Drawdown Solution?  A: There are so many of them! I really like Distributed Solar Photovoltaics and Reduced Food Waste, but my favorite is Clean Cooking. I think that solution can revolutionize the lives of billions of people in the world, especially young girls. It not only addresses climate but also vastly improves health, addresses gender equality, and opens up economic opportunities. If we can implement clean cooking and distributed solar, we’ll see huge changes in the lives of billions of people globally.  Q: Time for another break. If you were a nonhuman animal, what animal would you be?  A: As a kid I had short hair that was like vertical hair, as if I had had an electric shock. So many of my friends called me Porcupine. People  would rub my hair all the time as it felt like velvet. Now I keep my hair long.  Q: What gives you hope?  A: I derive my hope from two things. First, we’re rapidly advancing technology—a lot of people from across the world are putting their effort into finding and implementing the best and most important solutions to address climate change. Second,  when I was at COP27, I saw that young people are really leading the movement. That gives me hope that we can do meaningful work on this very important but challenging issue. Q: Anything else you’d like to share?  A: I like nature. I especially like mountains. This is something I realized very late in life, maybe because I grew up in cities with very little nature around. When I moved to Utah, I started going to the mountains. I realized how peaceful and how nice it is, and I can’t not talk about it.  As human societies are getting more urbanized,  a lot of us, especially young people who live in large metropolises, are cut off from nature. And I hope they reconnect with nature. We need to appreciate nature and biodiversity much more than we do. Once it’s gone, it’s not coming back. We need to love it, respect it, and protect it.
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