That was the year that was!

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So, we are nearly at the end of 2021 and it’s been an interesting, if not slightly frustrating year. In the UK we started the year off in lockdown and at the end of the year the pandemic is still with us. During 2021 the world also experienced economic shocks, supply and demand problems; with phrases such as ‘build back better’ and ‘build back greener’ becoming common place.

2021 also saw a raft of reports pressing home the message that we need to act now about climate change and reversing the decline in biodiversity loss – with most saying we have nine years to sort the issues out or we will be past the tipping point. The joint report from IPBES-IPCC spoke about the two issues intertwined for the first time – a blessing to those of us involved in both conservation and sustainability. The first draft of the post-2020 GlobalBiodiversity Framework was published in July 2021 and to be honest did not seem to contain the in depth targets and initiatives that were hoped for.

During September we had the launch of the Taskforce on Nature Related Financial Disclosure, this initiative has developed quickly and is another reminder to companies that both nature and climate change need to be accounted for in their operations.

In the Autumn, IUCN held their congress both in Marseilles and on line with some great speakers and engaging topics, following this came COP15 – the first of the two part conference of parties – Convention of Biological Diversity which was held in China. The second part of COP 15 is due to be held from April 28th to May 8th 2022.

The world held its breath as COP 26 took place in Glasgow, two weeks of tough discussions and a general feeling that more action was needed rather than just hot air and promises. It probably didn’t help that a certain president was filmed apparently asleep during talks or that a certain prime minister allegedly flew back to London for an evening meal. At times the voices outside of the conference were a lot louder than the arguments inside the conference, though I suspect glueing your hands to a motorway and causing chaos doesn’t help the protest groups win total sympathy !

On the other hand the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, even if the language used softened in places from previous drafts, did contain the first mention of fossil fuels. The final document calls for parties to accelerate towards “the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. Both China and the USA issued a joint statement confirming their drive to limit global warming to 1.5ºC and implementing the Paris agreement. The commitment to stop deforestation was welcomed but the deadline of 2030 has been widely condemned as it gives countries the scope to carry on as normal for now and also it is not the first time countries have pledged to stop deforestation or that 2030 has been used as a target,

For me, three key aspects stood out from all of the discussions and presentations at COP26:

  1. We need systemic change and well as political change, and to work systemic change needs to be driven from the grass roots upwards and also the top down.
  2. We need to listen to and engage with indigenous knowledge more often and use this knowledge to drive change , both behavioural and political change.
  3. There needs to be more engagement with youth groups and the youth voice, both at a grass roots level and within the leading global organisations such as IUCN, UN, CBD and governments etc.

So where does that leave us……. at the end of 2021 we are still heading for a global temperature change in excess of 1.5ºC despite all of the pledges. Climatic extremes are still causing loss and devastation, people are still starving and biodiversity is still being lost at an unparalleled rate……… However there is a glimmer of light, systemic change is starting to be made, people are aware of the plight this planet is in, people understand they do have a voice to be heard and are making that voice heard. Changes can be made, even if they are small changes and we always say that many small changes add up to a larger and greater amount of positive change. 2022 is going to be a positive year for the environment and on that note we wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.

Best wishes

Paul

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