Climate Change

Changing tropical climates. Photo: Copyright © Cathy Baldwin 2020.

Work on climate change and environment

My work on environment and climate topics started in 2002-2003 at BBC Radio Science Unit. I reported for BBC World Service programme Science in Action on building outdoor structures with snow and ice in the frozen north of Finland, and deep well geothermal drilling in Iceland for geothermal energy production. I became acutely aware of the effects of global warming on the indigenous Saami reindeer herders of Northern Scandinavia and North Western Russia, and the need for more renewable energy. Since then, I have worked on the social and health consequences of environmental change potentially caused by infrastructure and energy developments (see Health and Social Impact Assessments) in the UK, Australia and Japan. I have also conducted desk-based research on the potential of HIAs in Thailand and Indonesia to reveal levels of industrial pollution from petrochemical plants and associated health effects, that freedom of information requests, as a legal avenue for obtaining information from governments about polluting companies, had not yielded.

I then did extensive research on community resilience (as part of adaptation) to climate change in 21 urban settings in 14 countries globally for my book, Social Sustainability, Climate Resilience and Community-Based Urban Development: What About the People? as part of a desire to understand the social and human aspects and effects of climate change. This was borne out of frustration with the domination of climate policy and strategy by economists and natural scientists. My contention was that whilst it is critical to know and grow knowledge on the processes and outcomes of climate change, and its impact on the global economy and economic growth, the human dimension – the actions, behaviours and psychological processes which both shape our contribution to global warming, and steps we must take to mitigate/manage it – is sorely neglected in the policy world.

This research, with Dr Robin King of WRI, led to the production of a ‘socially-aware planning framework’ for city policy-makers, urban developers, architects and others looking to create physically resilient cities to ensure that cities can support social resilience too. The large number of case studies (21) which informed the research also generated a manifesto of recommendations to support these stakeholders in this endeavour. The book has received many positive reviews. The recommendations have been implemented by the City of Maroochydore, Australia, in development plans for a new Central Business District, work undertaken by Royal Haskoning engineering consultancy, and the Brazilian NGO, Catalytic Communities. It has been commended during conversations with the World Bank Social Resilience Programme, Unicef, the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars (Washington DC), and the UN’s Disaster Risk Reduction Unit’s Urban Programme (Barcelona).

I was Climate Change Lead on the Results, Monitoring and Learning (RML) Contract of the UK government’s Department of International Development (Ministry of Overseas Aid) / DfID)’s Cities and Infrastructure for Economic Growth (CIG) programme. This contracted operated from 2019-2021 in Zambia, Uganda, and Myanmar, and saw the provision of technical and development assistance to governments in the sectors of urban planning, renewable energy, finance and infrastructure. My objective was to ensure that climate change mitigation and adaptation (including resilience) were ‘mainstreamed’ into all technical assistance and spin-off projects so that the maximum carbon reduction and climate preparedness were achieved within the programme’s life cycle.

I am currently Principle Investigator for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on a climate change-driven, mixed methods study in North Macedonia. The study investigates the motivational factors or the behavioural enablers and barriers to household decision-makers deciding to take out green loans to install energy efficiency solutions and renewable energy solutions. The study comprises a cross-sectional survey, focus groups and key informants interviews to understand the perspectives of seven key groups: single parent-headed households, female-headed households, returning migrants, remittance recipients, people with disabilities, Roma and other vulnerable ethnic groups and employees with Covid-19.

The driver for the green loans is that air pollution in North Macedonia is at critical levels from the burning of unsustainable sources of fuel such as at coal fired power stations, and the domestic use of burning coal and biomass for cooking and heating. This results in large amounts of GHGs being emitted and contributing to climate change, and detrimental health impacts on the population. By encouraging the people of Macedonia to apply for green loans and adopt sustainable solutions, this programme will support them in the behaviour changes they need to make to adapt to the changing climate, mitigate emissions and permanently change the way they consume energy.

This project supports the Government of North Macedonia’s National Plan for Clean Air as well as the Government of North Macedonia’s mitigation-related commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It will contribute directly towards the SDGs 7 (7.a), 10 (10.2 and 10.7) and SDG 13 (13.2) and UNSDCF Outcome 3 (3.1).

The ice caps are melting. Photo: Copyright © Cathy Baldwin 2020.