Cooperative international ‘Marshall Plan for Climate Action’ gains support

The latest comprehensive climate-science report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lays out 5 futures, based on observed change and known science of atmospheric and ocean heating. Only the most ambitious, pervasive, high-ambition change, can now limit global heating to 1.5ºC or lower by the year 2100.

Even in that best-case scenario, global average surface temperatures will rise to 1.5ºC or higher sometime between 2030 and 2040, reaching 1.6ºC before restored natural systems can absorb enough heat-trapping gases to bring global heating down to 1.4ºC. Too much change must happen too quickly to simply rely on evolving circumstances and background rates of technical innovation.

In Olympic terms, we are now in the home stretch, where only a last-minute uphill sprint to zero emissions can win gold; if we fail, the ramifications will reach all of us. This is why the call for a coordinated international “Marshall Plan for climate action” is gaining support, from government, business, and stakeholders:

For too long, the cause of climate action has been seen as one of austerity, of limiting, of cutting back, sacrificing modern convenience and the benefits of industry in favor of a less technically advanced way of living. With new clean energy technologies now price competitive, and with the steadily worsening threat of immediate climate emergency touching every region, we now know it is inaction that will impose austerity and sacrifice, and climate action that will build a better future.

Image from US Geological Survey reveals sediment in the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast. Investments in climate-smart agriculture are an urgently needed area of cooperative climate action, which can also protect marine ecosystems.

Both world-leading scientific findings and observed experience tell us that we are on track to experience:

196 nations and the European Union have committed to provide a minimum of $100 billion per year to support carbon-free energy systems and climate-smart development around the world. That funding will be needed just to catalyze the wider transition to climate-smart priorities and practices in all sectors.

In June, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for the G7 to commit to a “Marshall Plan for climate action”. UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa noted that this is needed for developing countries, but the benefits of such a plan are also needed to secure the future wellbeing of developed countries.

Observers highlighted the need for deeper cooperation and more robust funding commitments. Julian Havers, E3G’s Public Banks expert said: 

The G7 needs to step up and support developing countries in green and sustainable development and come forward with this green Marshall Plan. They must use COVID19 relief as an opportunity to rethink how international financial institutions can take the structural challenges of climate change into account.

Not only would a Marshall Plan for Climate Action realign major financial flows with climate priorities; it would expand opportunity, redefine return on investment, and support the building of systems that are more resilient, more inclusive, and better able to achieve sustainable development.

What will the details of this Marshall Plan look like? There are clues in plans by the G7 and G20 to massively expand investment in health, resilience, climate priorities, and Nature, and in the tens of trillions of dollars in financial assets being realigned and redeployed through the Race to Zero, the Race to Resilience, and initiatives like FAIRR, Ceres, and the Climate Bonds Initiative.

This Marshall Plan for Climate Action should align with the Principles for Reinventing Prosperity and with all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals. This is not to overcomplicate matters; it is to recognize the unnecessary complication and unaffordable negative impact of not adequately managing risks across these macrocritical (economy-shaping) drivers of opportunity and wellbeing.

Cooperation to price pollution, to build in climate-smart standards for trade, agriculture, and finance, and to ensure the widest possible deployment of clean, climate-safe energy systems, can neutralize the growing threat of resilience failure. Such a global cooperative approach would greatly expand the pool of value creation available to investors, for public sector spending to catalyze, and for the everyday benefit of stakeholders and communities.

We know that higher levels of resilience intelligence make an organization, or a nation or region, less vulnerable to shocks and better able to adapt and evolve in the highly competitive world of pervasive climate risk. That means the future of nations, the health and wellbeing of entire cultures and regions, will depend on how much we invest in healthy, sustainable food systems and the resilience of ecosystems, watersheds, infrastructure, and human health.

Every community everywhere should have a plan for short, medium, and long-term investment in a healthy, sustainable future. Resilience-building practices must become mainstream, affordable and practicable in every context. A Marshall Plan for climate action is a way to make sure the best information is shared, resources are put to work, and smart investments are made for the future wellbeing of people and Nature.

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