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Climate crisis

The impact we seek: The planetary emergency is contained and the most vulnerable protected through revitalised global cooperation.

The Issue

Humanity has a rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future. We have less than a decade left to hold the global temperature rise to 1.5°C and avoid irreversible effects on the planet. The climate crisis is hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and accelerating the biodiversity crisis: we need to halve emissions by 2030 and restore nature.

“We are entering a new era, one which requires bold action. All climate commitments must be transformed into real-world action, including the rapid phase out of fossil fuels, a much faster transition towards green energy, and tangible plans for delivering both adaptation and loss and damage finance.”

Mary Robinson

Chair of The Elders
First woman President of Ireland

Our Priorities

Countries must implement the climate commitments they have made. Lack of political will is the main barrier to making domestic policy changes at the speed and scale needed. While the UN remains the most important multilateral climate space, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), G7 and G20 must also deliver finance and emissions reductions at scale.

We want to see action on the following:

Big emitters held to account for policies that align with the 1.5°C limit and the global nature goal, and accelerate just transitions

The Elders target select G20 countries to promote just transitions in sectors driving the climate and nature crises. We hold G7 leaders to their pledge to end all inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, and push them to lead the world in accelerating the transition to net zero emissions. We also partner with others pushing for net zero and those working on solutions.

Global solidarity mechanisms strengthen the resilience of those most vulnerable 

The Elders seek to influence the shape of the new climate finance goal to be agreed by 2025, and push for implementation of the UN agreement to operationalise a loss and damage fund. We also use our moral voice to press for climate justice underpinned by better and faster finance flows to those who need it most.

A seaweed farmer working on the beach in Tanzania. Photo: Natalija Gormalova / Climate Visuals Countdown
The inspection of a wind turbine in New Mexico, USA. Photo: Joan Sullivan / Climate Visuals Countdown

Public and private finance aligned with global climate and nature goals 

The Elders support the re-engineering of global development finance institutions to raise the trillions needed to tackle the climate crisis. We encourage major shareholders on development bank boards to push for reform, and call for stricter standards for corporate sustainability pledges. 

Voices of women and youth leaders are heard and create the political space for more ambitious action 

The Elders use our networks to engage and inspire leaders in the women’s movement who may not yet have climate as a central concern. We also keep intergenerational dialogue at the heart of our climate work, championing the voices of new youth and women climate leaders, and act as a bridge to decision-makers. 

Amazonian women at a march for International Women's Day. Photo: Karen Toro / Climate Visuals Countdown

“It will take all of us to mitigate the most devastating effects of climate change. We can only make progress if we are truly inclusive and defend everyone’s right to speak out.”

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein

Member of The Elders
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Our Approach

Core to our work on the climate crisis is the recognition that The Elders can have the biggest impact by coordinating with others in civil society. By working in close alliance with civil society networks, the Elders can use their credibility, authority, and high-level access to decision-makers to convey the right message, to the right people, at the right time.

We believe that civil society groups play a crucial role in holding governments to account and championing the inclusion of diverse voices within climate change planning and policy-making processes. Vulnerability to the climate crisis is not only determined by exposure to climate change events but also by social and structural constraints and inequalities within societies, which means it is crucial the voices of the most marginalised are amplified and that their human rights are protected.

More on our Climate crisis work

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Intergenerational dialogue

Any credible response to the climate emergency needs to recognise the intergenerational injustice of climate change, and the intersectionality of other major challenges facing humanity.

The views of younger people must be at the heart of decision-making on climate change and these opinions, and the needs of future generations, need to be considered and addressed at all levels of government and in international decision making. Without action, climate change will rob future generations of the rights and opportunities many of the current generation take for granted.

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Gender equality and women’s leadership

Gender equality is a critical element of effective policy responses to the climate crisis. Across societies, climate change affects women and men differently. Despite women being disproportionately affected by climate change, their crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation is being largely under-utilised and under-resourced. Restricted land rights, lack of access to financial resources, training and technology, and limited access to political decision-making often prevents women from playing a full role in tackling climate change. The Elders will bring a gender perspective into all of their work on climate change. It is very important that the role of women as decision-makers and implementers is prioritised.

“We see the climate crisis already unfolding before our eyes and for people in the Global South this is an emergency we are already living through. The science is robust, the response to this environmental and human rights emergency needs to be just as solid. Nationalist policies and self-interest will not solve the climate crisis, we need countries to work together.”

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Member of The Elders
Former President of Liberia & Nobel Peace Laureate

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