As so much of our lives in 2020 have been virtual, our summit was no different. Our Sustain Dane Summit was broadcast online with virtual speakers to enlighten us on the theme of Decade to Deliver.

Our Summit featured key-note speaker Crystal Chissell, Vice President of Operations and Engagement at Project Drawdown. Project Drawdown is the world’s most comprehensive climate solutions plan. She was also the former mayor of the town of Highland Beach, Maryland. Her public service duties included conservation, rain gardens, stewardship of Chesapeake bay and creeks, and construction of a new LEED platinum town hall with solar power and permeable concrete.

What is Project Drawdown?

“Drawdown” refers to the moment our greenhouse gas emissions stop rising, and reverse the trend altogether beginning a steady decline towards pre-industrial levels. Project Drawdown posits this is actively achievable with existing technology available today.

Project Drawdown lists a solution by solution explanation of action that can be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Chissell’s virtual presentation was both of scale and detail. She illustrated the big picture where solutions overlap and commonalities, as well as delving into the intricacies of local efforts to implement these solutions on the ground. Drawdown is a cornucopia of solutions that scale for large impact.

Drawdown concludes that electricity, agriculture and industry make up three quarters of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions originating from human activity and are central sectors to reduce these emissions to zero. According to Chissell, carbon sinks on land and in the ocean trap 40 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, while the remaining 60 percent is trapped in the atmosphere.

Drawdown recognizes the ocean as a vital carbon sink, in addition to terrestrial aquatic ecosystems like wetlands, mangrove forests, seagrasses, and salt marshes which all sequester carbon dioxide.

Climate Solutions Framework

Drawdown enlisted 90 researchers in 27 countries to work on all aspects of the climate solutions framework. Solutions were chosen to be available, viable, proven to reduce GHG. Also, solutions must have positive benefits that outweigh negative repercussions and have sufficient data to show the efficacy of the solution.

Drawdown is made up of scientists who know science. It is the philosophy of Project Drawdown that it need not bear this burden of policy alone, and there are an infinite number of policy experts to draw on as a global resource.

In a big picture sense, Drawdown calls for three main actions: (1) reduce carbon sources (2) support carbon sinks and (3) improve society for all. Many of the solutions that Drawdown proposes both reduce GHG emissions and improve society by promoting equity, and in this way we see the solutions as being holistic. For example, Drawdown climate solutions include increasing health outcomes and education access for women.

Other specific Drawdown solutions explored by Chissell in her presentation are improved cookstoves, which would not only lower emissions but would promote health in the Global South. Also a global reduction of food waste, a significant source of emissions, promoting a plant-rich diet, the benefits of which are myriad in agricultural and transportation sectors, greening transportation and building walkable cities with bikes, high-speed rail and electric cars.

Project Drawdown recognizes indigenous sovereignty and in addition recognizes the benefits to society of indigenous legal rights. Indigenous wisdom is rife with climate solutions.

Local & International Impact
Chissell emphasized seven accelerators for this work:

  • Shape culture
  • Build power
  • Set goals
  • Alter rules & policy
  • Shift capital
  • Change behavior
  • Improve technology

When asked about her personal Top Three solutions, Chissell made it clear that we cannot focus on any handful of solutions and that Drawdown is an integrative effort. However, she mentioned that in particular, she would like to see food waste reduced and for society to adopt a plant-based diet which would also reduce food insecurity. There are caveats, and we see that every solution is not applicable everywhere in an equitable manner. As Chissell puts it, when it comes to meat consumption, equity might mean less overconsumption for rich countries, while suggesting that impoverished countries could still eat meat to supplement healthier diets.

Drawdown is an impressive effort, with solutions that can and must be scaled out on a local level. As one Sustain Dane participant shared in the post-program survey, “Fascinating presentation! Great to hear more about Project Drawdown and Crystal Chissell’s positive, practical approach to climate change. Thank you, Sustain Dane, for making this happen.” Drawdown is about partnership and the ripple effect to advance solutions and awareness. Let’s work together and go make it happen!