The only reason that Pact exists is to improve lives in the communities where we work. How, then, can we not take action against the biggest threat to their collective future?
I am of course talking about climate change. For too long, the global development sector, Pact included, has been relatively inactive when it comes to our own emissions and sustainability accounting. We have not walked the walk.
I’m pleased to say that recently, Pact has been working aggressively across our organization to change this, and I am especially proud to announce our commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
There are so many reasons that Pact has chosen to make this a top organizational priority, but at the end of the day, they all come back to our mission. Poverty is inextricably bound up with climate change. We know that vulnerable populations and countries suffer more when agriculture and water are impacted, or when livelihoods wither because of degraded fisheries or forest ecosystems. Our work at Pact focuses on these marginalized groups, and climate change resilience and adaptation are critical to their prosperity.
Sadly, there persists a view that development and environmental organizations somehow exist in separate boxes, working on separate issues. It is time to leave behind this false dichotomy. We must recognize that all development organizations, whether they work on climate, poverty, health or peace initiatives, have a shared interest in working toward net zero and ultimately carbon negative. I also believe that donors, whether private, government or individuals, will increasingly demand to see the emission reduction plans of organizations they fund, as they should.
"All development organizations, whether they work on climate, poverty, health or peace initiatives, have a shared interest in working toward net zero and ultimately carbon negative."
Soon after I joined Pact, we began taking actions to measure our carbon footprint. We are using our initial accounting as a benchmark to improve over time and to reach net zero. We are engaging our global staff, drilling down to develop action plans for each of our country offices, and we have created an Environmental Sustainability Key Performance Indicator that is reported to our Board of Directors to ensure accountability. This index measures our environmental impact across our operations, including our total greenhouse gas emissions. We recently launched a page on our website about our environmental sustainability efforts that shares more details.
As Pact has taken these steps – amid the Covid-19 pandemic – we’ve learned a lot. A key lesson for me has been that we were far too reliant on air travel, especially from our Washington office to our other offices around the world. Covid has shown us that we can successfully implement our programs with much less travel. Besides reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, this can help us to decolonize development – another top priority that I see as linked to climate action. As we engage internationally, industrialized nations must be mindful that we are top emitters, and that meeting our responsibility to emit less is in fact a component of decolonizing development. There are many important reasons to decentralize responsibility within development organizations and make room for greater authority in the country offices that are the heart of our operations.
We’ve also learned that making real progress on environmental sustainability isn’t easy. Not every country office is able to progress at the same pace. Some must contend with limited technology, with a lack of alternatives to diesel, and so on. But that isn’t stopping us from setting standards, drawing up plans and taking action to the best of our ability.
It isn’t easy, but it is worth it. And in the end, if we want to truly live up to our commitment to the communities we serve, it is the only choice.