Too late for red tape on climate action, says Farhana Yamin

Environmental lawyer and climate change and development policy expert Farhana Yamin urges development practitioners to say no to any requests that could delay increased climate action. Photo by: Richard Cannon / Getty Images for Devex.

LONDON — The time has come for the development community to “get rid of the red tape” and push for immediate action on climate change, according to Farhana Yamin, an environmental lawyer who co-authored the Paris Agreement.

Speaking at Devex’s Turning the Tide event in London last week, Yamin urged those in development to say no to further information requests and other asks from decision-makers that can delay projects on climate action.

“Anytime you’re asked to go back to the drawing board, every time you think we still have to use the existing modalities, which mean that you’re not getting the money and resources out the door, you’re not really hearing the request for — sometimes small-scale things — to happen very, very fast,” Yamin said, who is also the founder of Track 0, an organization supporting efforts to bring greenhouse gas emissions down to zero.

She called for those in the development community to reach into their “audacious leadership” and say “no, we need to do this now.” There are only a couple of years to make the dramatic changes needed, she added.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, decisive and near-term action is needed to ensure 1.5°C becomes the upper limit for the rise in the global temperature. Yet donors don’t understand how urgent and how big a systemic change is needed, Yamin said.

“It’s no longer possible to look at this through the lens of mitigation, adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and resilience. This is about the extinction of cultures and entire ecosystems in a very rapid time frame,” she said, arguing that groups such as Extinction Rebellion are putting forward a far more compelling message than many in the development community.

Watch the Turning the Tide livestream on building a climate-resilient future. Via YouTube.

Last week, Extinction Rebellion climate activists staged sit-ins, blocked traffic, and took over public spaces in cities such as London, Amsterdam, and Sydney in an attempt to get governments to recognize the “climate emergency" and reduce carbon emissions. Hundreds were arrested.

The same week, the International Monetary Fund called for the biggest carbon polluting nations to roll out a $75 tax per ton of emissions — a call Yamin said should have been made 10 years ago.

Likening attempts to source funding for climate action projects to a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, Yamin called this stage of the fight against climate change the "end game" where only demands for systemic change from the sector will suffice.

“I would encourage you as development practitioners to raise your voice for the very reason you entered this profession, to build this kind of world that needs to be built,” she said.

Visit the Turning the Tide series for more coverage on climate change, resilience building, and innovative solutions in small island developing states. You can join the conversation using the hashtag #TurningtheTide.

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  • Rebecca Root

    Rebecca Root is a Reporter and Editorial Associate at Devex producing news stories, video, and podcasts as well as partnership content. She has a background in finance, travel, and global development journalism and has written for a variety of publications while living and working in New York, London, and Barcelona.