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If You’re not Taking Action After COP27, Move Out of the Way for Climate Innovators

Leaders and advocates from around the globe convened in Egypt for the annual COP27 (the 27th Conference of the Parties) to address the pervasive climate challenge. This was my first time attending the conference, and I hope I don’t have to attend many more – meaning that I hope we solve the climate crisis soon. There is a lot of scrutiny on whether this conference as well as others such as DAVOS are worth partaking in for multiple reasons: there’s hypocrisy in burning jet fuel just to talk about how we need to decrease petroleum consumption; there’s often a lack of representation from the people most impacted by climate change; and lastly the goal of the event is complex in of itself. Everyone came to COP27 for their own reasons, and whether it was just for the optical illusion to care about sustainability or an genuine intention to improve the planet, aligning 190 countries to rebalance Earth’s carbon cycle and reduce global warming to 1.5ºC, without the participation of major polluter countries, is overwhelming. 

However, I believe we can make strides before COP28 if we put trust in innovators, especially those working in the Global South.

My solution to help reduce climate change is called BIOSORRA. BIOSORRA transforms crop waste into crop yield by producing an affordable organic soil improver (biochar) that increases farm crops up to 150% while also sequestering CO2.

Make space for the innovators solving the climate crisis

There is a big gap between governments ,corporations, and innovators that can mitigate climate issues. I was frustrated to see so much emphasis on what is going wrong. Most attendees of COP27 are familiar with climate disaster statistics. The world is having record levels of warm months, natural disasters are displacing people from their homes, and ancient ice caps are melting and water is literally swallowing habitable land. As an innovator myself, and knowing many others working in the climate and sustainability space, it was frustrating not being able to talk about solutions. 

(Serra (left) with Mehdeen Sehgal (middle), and Kathleen Draper (right), from International Biochar Initiative)

I would suggest integrating a bottom-up approach by having a “solutions zone,” which could be organized by carbon removal innovation areas (lands/ air/ ocean/ rocks demonstrations or measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) technologies) and by country clusters. This would catalyze discussions between innovators, donors, and government stakeholders, which would lead to collaboration and real progress. 

In a panel led by Google focused on technology for more sustainable travel and transportation, Professor Robert Miller from the University of Cambridge suggested that policymakers need to incentivize and support innovators and their solutions. I agree, the excessive bureaucracy to implement change is hindering progress.



 

In my own endeavors, I have been shocked by the cost and extremely slow speeds to get approvals to deploy my climate solution in Kenya, which sometimes tempts me to move ahead without them or move to another country. 

The Global South deserves climate justice now

According to the Boston Consulting Group, Africa produces only 3% of global emissions, but will be the continent most affected by climate change. We are seeing momentum to correct this injustice like the recent announcement of the Africa Carbon Markets Initiative (ACMI) during COP27. However, I’m hoping to see more strategy revealed for direct carbon removal and I hope it includes affordable innovations like my own.

When thinking about climate solutions in Africa, challenges arise around geopolitics, slow technology adoption rates in rural areas, and infrastructure conditions, among other factors. These nuances do not make the continent an attractive region for investors looking to invest and deploy hyper growth technology. However, we owe it to Africa and other low-emission regions of the world to cooperate and open doors by financing new solutions to tackle the climate crisis and mitigate future harm. This sounds like a big undertaking, but through my own experience, I know it’s feasible.

(Serra and her team showcasing BIOCHAR)

I moved to Kenya in 2022 from Spain with the goal of strategically addressing climate change, food insecurity and poverty. BIOSORRA’s main focus is in the Global South to address climate justice in underserved communities, producing biochar - from waste that would be otherwise burned - for smallholder farmers.

Biochar is the most efficient climate based solution as we wait for direct air capture to address energy challenges, and it gives the highest CO2 removed at a lowest capital expenditure (CAPEX) intensive investment. It removes carbon out of the atmosphere and is stored in the soil for thousands of years. 

Biochar for farmers is an affordable and sustainable option compared to chemical fertilizers, that improves soil fertility up to 150%, requiring 30% less water and 30% less fertilizer, leading to  food security and a 40% reduction in emissions of greenhouse gasses.

There’s $1.8 trillion spent per year on measuring what is harming the planet, however, we should all acknowledge how big the problem is (hopefully all who attended COP27). It’s time for action now and the first step is getting out of the way of local innovators who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Serra’s participation in COP27 was made possible by a donor who met Serra after her pitch during Solve Challenge Finals in New York City. If you would like to find ways to support innovators on the frontline of solving today’s greatest challenges, learn more!


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