COP26 – A cause for celebration?

by ZSL on

Dominic Jermey, CVO OBE, ZSL Director General

The COP26 global gathering in Glasgow concluded this month, following a fortnight of big discussions, big events and big pledges – but what does it all mean for our planet?

The Glasgow conference saw scientists, conservationists and environmental activists – including ZSL’s delegation – convening passionate discussions and side events, publishing the evidence to engage  world leaders and policy makers about climate change, its impact and the actions we need to take. The science is abundantly clear. Now we must act on the science. We must translate COP26’s words into action. We must hold governments, businesses and ourselves to account if we want to keep a 1.5C rise in temperature within our grasp. And we must do so now.

I get the anxiety around greenwashing. We would all recognise that so much of what has been pledged so far lacks critical definition or detail. That is why the next phase will be absolutely crucial, so that we get in place clearly defined agreements, impactful plans for executing them and publicly accountable deadlines – this is no time for dither, debate or delay. The urgency is overwhelming. 

I believe this is possible. Global leaders have made huge public commitments, businesses have pledged to change their practices and the world’s media – with the help of tens of thousands of protesters - has shone a penetrating spotlight on the climate and biodiversity crisis we face. And critically also on the solutions that ZSL and other organisations are putting forward.

Mangrove outplanting activity with students in Nabitasan, Leganes
Outplanting activity with students in Nabitasan, Leganes

At ZSL, we have been making the case for Nature-based Solutions as a key weapon for combatting climate change. These approaches should be part of the suite of urgently required actions we need to take, not a greenwashing alternative to reducing coal or curbing emissions. We have got into a vicious circle: climate change jeopardises the long-term survival of already threatened species, while biodiversity loss itself weakens nature’s ability to cope with changing climatic conditions. ZSL senior researcher, Dr Nathalie Pettorelli published a study ahead of COP26 examining Nature-based Solutions and presented her research at a COP26 side event in Glasgow. Tackling climate change is simply not possible without also addressing the global crisis of biodiversity – as Nathalie put it: “Nature, not just trees, is central to tackling climate change.”  

Nature-based Solutions to climate change – including habitat protection and restoration – can be low-cost yet high-impact. They can benefit people and wildlife together. By protecting an entire ecosystem, we can help to restore all of the services that ecosystem provides – to both climate and biodiversity - while restoring or creating sustainable livelihoods for local communities. 

COP26 has put much-needed focus on these issues. It has provided a platform to reach those whose actions matter the most and given a voice to some of those most affected by climate change. I hope it is a catalyst for action. 

Help us give nature the chance it needs to recover and support our work today. We will be championing the vital action needed – please keep visiting our website to read our updates on COP26 in the weeks and months ahead. 

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At ZSL, a key area of our work is the employment of Nature-based Solutions – an approach which both adapt to and mitigates the impacts of climate change. These Solutions, which include habitat protection and restoration, are low-cost yet high-impact, and provide multiple benefits to people and wildlife. We ensure that biodiversity recovery is at the heart of nature-based solutions. 

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