2021 was meant to be a steppingstone year for our planet and climate change with the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference culminating at the end of October. Living in harmony with nature, a target to achieve. Keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius ‘alive’, will be a challenge for us all, but there were some positive notes to take away from COP26 (European Commission, 2021).
COP26 was the first COP to listen to the science drawing directly on the report prepared by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which highlights how the impacts of climate change will be considerably lower at 1.5°C than 2°C (IPCC, 2021). The IPCC highlights how human activity has placed intense pressure on the planet’s natural eco-systems, where many experts and climate scientists claim that continued over-exploitation of natural resources, climate change and disruptions of nutrient and phosphorus cycles will transgress planetary boundaries (Rockström, 2018) leaving our eco-systems no longer resilient. Global leaders tackling climate change are left with little choice, and the science must frame all future decisions and policies on handling climate action.
Other positives from COP26 included countries providing updates on strengthening their nationally determined contribution (NDCs), which are targets setting out how far countries plan to reduce emissions across their entire economy and/or in specific sectors. Most parties (151 out of 194) had submitted their new or updated first NDCs which are committed to reducing or limiting their emissions by 2025 and/or 2030 (UNFCCC, 2022).
The bad news is that, not enough is being done to meet targets necessary to avoid tipping points and irreversible damage to ecosystems and there is still so much more to do in the fight to reduce global emissions. COP26 also revealed the lack of funding from the global North and other developed nations in helping the global South deal with the already disastrous effects of flooding, heatwaves and other extreme climate. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was initiated in 2010 with aims of assisting developing countries’ transitions to low- carbon climate-resilient economies, and while there have been projects for mitigation and adaptation, there is still a gap in funding and the lack of support for countries in the global South to achieve just transitions (Omukuti, 2021).
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that in an emergency we can join our forces and act fast and together to fight a crisis.
What about the climate crisis?
Worldwide, we have witnessed increasing destructive hurricanes in the United States for instance, devastating rainfall and flooding around Europe, irregular and more intense wildfires in Australia and California. Studies in the UK have shown that “extremely warm winter days in central England, as in 2018/19, are still very rare, but human influence is estimated to have made them about 300 times more likely” (Christidis and Stott, 2021). 2020 was the UK’s third warmest year since 1659. Scientists at the MET office also warned that “we now expect a year as warm as 2020 every other year” (McCarthy et al., 2021).
Indeed, the over-exploitation of nature’s resources such as excessive logging and unsustainable agricultural methods leading to deforestation and loss of green biomass and high greenhouse gas emissions are a contributing factor in disrupting the biosphere and water cycles causing such damage, but perhaps the world’s reliance on coal is the main culprit. China and India alone account for 64% of global coal consumption and emit about 35% of the world’s GHG (over half of the world’s GHG is emitted by China, USA, EU, and India) (Palmer, 2021). Phasing down coal by 2050 for these countries is unrealistic and thus more finance and technology is needed to assist countries to make a speedier transition away from coal.
What happens next?
How can countries that are so heavily dependent on coal seek a just transition away from this fossil fuel? It will of course take time, and a clear pathway and direction to alternative energy use, and the fact that this is the first COP to even address this fuel as warming the planet is a relief (Mathiesen, 2021). Day 7 negotiations focused on nature-based solutions, “Nature-based solutions are absolutely critical,” said UN Environment Programme Chief Inger Andersen. “When we protect nature, nature provides security for us. It gives us the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe.” (United Nations, nd). Carbon emissions also have direct effect on food that we consume (Schartup et al., 2019). The next COP27 to be held in Egypt will be a time to really understand how governments have demonstrated and actualised policies in tackling climate action.
So, here at BEES we want to see the glass as half full. We want to continue providing you all with the knowledge to better equip your understanding of how the natural world can provide a myriad of possibilities in helping to restore and rejuvenate our ecosystems.
In 1970, at the time of the 1st European Conservation Year, President Nixon sent a message addressing environmental issues:
’... we in this century have too casually and too long abused our natural environment. The time has come when we can wait no longer to repair the damage already done, and to establish new criteria to guide us in the future.
'The fight against pollution, however, is not a search for villains. For the most part, the damage done to our environment has not been the work of evil men, nor has it been the inevitable by-product either of advancing technology or of growing population. It results not so much from choices made as from choices neglected, not from malign intention, but from failure to take into account the full consequences of our actions.
“The tasks that need doing (…) call for fundamentally new philosophies of land, air and water use, for stricter regulation, for expanded government action, for greater citizen involvement, and for new programs to ensure that government, industry and individuals all are called on to do their share of the job …”
(Bulletin of the European Information Centre for Nature Conservation, Council of Europe, Summer 1970).
We and you, as citizens, have our share of the job. By learning and caring more about our environment, together we can make a difference. By sharing with others how to look after our green spaces, to reduce our carbon footprints, to better recycle and reuse, and better preserve our natural resources and heritage, we can help and give a chance to our beloved planet Earth and limit global warming to 1.5°C. Because after all climate change “is not just about what the weather is like in the next 10 years, it’s also about what’s on your plate in the next five” said Amina Schartup of Harvard University (Yong, 2019).
It is time to feel empowered by our surroundings, learn and protect the nature in our communities to give us all and future generations a chance for a healthier, greener planet! Let’s make 2022 a year of changes for us and our children!
We wish you a happy and green journey from everyone at BEES.
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