by Rick Pruetz, Vice President, Ecocity Builders

Climate action can relieve poverty while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the growing hazards of climate change. Project Drawdown recently got specific in a report featuring 28 climate-action solutions that synergistically generate co-benefits for human as well as planetary health (Jameel 2022).    

Although human well-being has generally improved over the last 25 years, almost one billion people worldwide still live in poverty. As demonstrated by Project Drawdown, a comprehensive approach can greatly improve the well-being of millions of people while reducing the effects of climate change that disproportionately impact the disadvantaged. The report uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as its framework. But as followers of Ecocity Builders are aware, the Ecocity Standards also offer a practical guide to muti-dimensional problem-solving. 

Food-waste reduction, regenerative farming, and ten other solutions for improving agriculture and agroforestry deliver huge direct benefits for climate action. In addition, the Project Drawdown report illustrates how these solutions produce direct co-benefits (work/income, healthy food, clean water), indirect co-benefits (networks, education, energy, housing, health, gender equality), and ripple effects (political voice, peace/justice, and social equity). For example, in northern India, the Climate-Smart Village Project combines effective composting, fertilization, and irrigation with the adoption of clean cookstoves, household gardens, and small-business development. As a result, the project reduces GHG emissions, supports food security, improves air quality, adds income, strengthens the decision-making authority of women, diversifies local economies, and reduces the need for the gathering of fuel wood so that women can devote more time to childhood education.

Eight solutions involving the protection and restoration of tropical forests, peatlands, temperate forests, coastal wetlands, and other ecosystems address human as well as climate problems when done holistically. In Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, sustainable forestry and farming practices are facilitating future carbon-offset benefits and conserving biodiversity while alleviating poverty by improving crop yields, healthcare, education, employment opportunities, nutrition, vaccination rates, water quality, sanitation, hygiene, and family planning.

The two solutions of biogas and clean cookstoves not only reduce GHG emissions and energy waste but also spin off four indirect co-benefits (income, gender equality, education, health), and seven ripple effects (social equity, political voice, peace/justice, food, water/sanitation, housing, and networks). Similar benefits, co-benefits, and ripple effects are created by five clean-electricity solutions: distributed solar photovoltaics, geothermal power, small hydropower, micro wind turbines, and microgrids. Even more co-benefits and ripple effects are generated by solutions that foster equality including universal education and family planning.       

Project Drawdown estimates that the 28 solutions explored in this report have the potential to address almost half of the world’s current GHG emissions. Due to their win-win synergies, these solutions also relieve poverty and improve human well-being through their synergistic effects on all components of the Sustainable Development Goals and Ecocity Standards.    


Jameel, Y., Patrone, C.M., Patterson, K.P., & West, P.C. (2022). Climate-poverty connections: Opportunities for synergistic solutions at the intersection of planetary and human well-being. Project Drawdown.

Tallinn. 2022. Tallinn 2025 Development Strategy. Accessed 5-14-22 at

About the author

Rick Pruetz

Rick Pruetz, FAICP, is Vice President of the Ecocity Builders Board and an urban planner who writes about sustainability, most recently Ecocity Snapshots: Learning from Europe’s Greenest Places and Smart Climate Action through Transfer of Development Rights.