It’s less than six weeks until the world’s leaders are due to meet in Scotland to decide the fate of the planet. If that sounds melodramatic, we recommend some background reading in the shape of the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Alternatively, just look back at some of the horror stories and graphic images relating to so-called extreme weather events that the world is increasingly witnessing.
The road to Glasgow is paved with good intentions, but the ultimate destination has to involve deeds not words. It’s imperative not only that we have joined-up thinking about nature and climate during the discussions and debate that will inevitably characterise COP26, but also that this leads rapidly to collective action compatible with the climate commitments enshrined within the Paris Agreement.
For the uninitiated, this agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change that was adopted by 196 countries in 2015 and entered into force some five years ago. Its goal is to limit global heating – let’s not call it warming – to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels.
“In order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we have to ensure that global temperatures do not rise more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Natural carbon sinks have a pivotal role to play in our efforts to limit emissions and remain below that critical threshold.”
One way or another, the agreements reached – or not reached – during the 12 days of Glasgow will have a seismic impact. As that crucial conference looms large, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is calling for a focus on four priority areas in order to maximise the impact of global efforts to tackle the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises.
First and foremost, we need to prioritise the protection of nature, and not just for its own sake, but because of its crucial role in preventing runaway climate change.
“The stability of our climate is based on diverse and resilient ecosystems – a healthy planet, in other words. Species loss and habitat destruction not only exacerbate climate change, but also undermine our ability to absorb and adapt to its effects.”
Secondly, nature – in the form of nature-based solutions – must be embedded within rapid and deep decarbonisation, not as a substitute for phasing out fossil fuels, but as a vital additional means of raising climate ambition and action.
Thirdly, we need to engage more effectively and equitably with the communities living on the front line of the climate and biodiversity struggle, bridging the gap between systems-level ambitions and grassroots delivery.
“It is vital that we view this planetary emergency through the lens of the grassroots communities who are already struggling with the effects of a global climate and biodiversity crisis that threatens their very survival, and that we target support where it is needed most.”
Finally, the level of finance available for nature-based solutions must be scaled up massively, and deployed wherever the need is greatest, in order to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
As we count down to COP26, FFI’s climate team will be championing these precepts, which are enshrined in a new paper, and straining every sinew to ensure that the message is heard loud and clear – and acted upon.
Over the coming weeks, our in-house experts will be shining a light on some of these issues in greater depth. Just as importantly, we’ll also be hearing from some of our regional staff and partners working at the coal face of conservation, and showcasing examples of how FFI projects throughout the world have long functioned as nature-based solutions, if largely unacknowledged as such.
“It is still within our gift to avert catastrophic climate change, but only with a fundamental transformation in the level of ambition, investment and action to deliver high-quality nature-based solutions and the rapid transition to a zero-carbon economy.”
Our overriding message is that the clock is ticking. We’ve all seen the James Bond movie where 007 has less than a minute to defuse the bomb that will trigger global catastrophe. Right now, we’re living through a slow-motion version of that dramatic final scene. In our case, we have a slightly longer window of opportunity, but there’s no doubt that this next decade will be gone in the blink of an eye. Every second counts, both before and during the forthcoming COP26. The time to act is now. Will the real-life climate heroes please stand up?
Tim has worked closely with FFI since 1999. He has edited &FFI (formerly Fauna & Flora magazine) since its inception in 2001 and is co-author of With Honourable Intent - A Natural History of Fauna & Flora International, published in 2017.