Failure to deliver on climate and nature promises will betray future generations
Two summits coming up in quick succession are crucial for the planet’s future and the media has a key role in holding leaders to account, writes Bernadette Fischler Hooper, Head of International Advocacy at WWF.
WWF’s Living Planet Report, published today, sets out the stark truth that global biodiversity is in devastating decline with global monitored wildlife populations plummeting by 69% on average since 1970. The report details how the continuing destruction of habitats and climate change are altering our lands and seas, threatening the wellbeing of people and survival of wildlife, while leaving us all less able to cope with a warming world.
The speed and intensity of this decline is driven by the failure of leaders around the world to deliver on their various promises for nature and climate made at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow and elsewhere. Yet, before the end of the year they will have not one, but two occasions to safeguard the planet’s future and make good on their pledges. We will be watching them closely and we’re asking for the public and media’s help to hold them to account.
In November, leaders will gather in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, for UNFCCC COP27, the UN climate conference. Then in December, they will head to Montreal, Canada, for CBD COP15, the UN biodiversity conference. The conferences come at the end of another year of extreme weather events, including severe drought in the horn of Africa, devastating floods in Pakistan, and record-breaking temperatures in the UK. Together these summits are an opportunity to address the linked crises of climate change and nature loss – two sides of the same coin.
Putting food on the menu at COP27
The IPCC has confirmed that to have any chance of limiting warming to the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement, emissions must peak in the first half of this decade and be on the way to a 45% reduction by 2030 from 2010 levels.
It is a tough ask and will require energy systems that are efficient, fair, and powered by renewables like wind and solar. Ahead of COP27, it is essential that the media continue to scrutinise progress on transitioning to renewables and investing in energy efficiency, but journalists should also look beyond the energy sector to other areas too. We cannot tackle the climate crisis without fixing food systems. The global food system contributes around one third of greenhouse gas emissions and is also the number one cause of biodiversity loss, deforestation, freshwater pollution, and the collapse of marine wildlife.
Farmers around the world are suffering the effects of a warming world but the most vulnerable countries bear the greatest consequences of climate change and food insecurity despite their limited contribution to their causes. This is particularly relevant with COP27 being held in Africa, where extreme heat and water scarcity are leading to failed harvests, livestock losses and widespread hunger.
Vast swathes of rainforest are still being set on fire in the Amazon to clear land especially for cattle ranching and soybean plantations, harming people, wildlife and the planet’s ability to regulate the climate. COP27 must produce a clear mandate for governments to focus their climate action not just on agricultural production but all parts of food systems, including food loss and waste, as well as diets.
At COP27, leaders must also deliver on finance, especially for adaptation and loss and damage, crucial for the most vulnerable countries of the world to be able to increase their resilience to climate events and to contribute to achieving the Paris Agreement goals.
Securing a nature-positive future at COP15
Just over a fortnight later, COP15 in Montreal will offer the last best chance to secure an ambitious global deal for nature, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. The conference is already two years later than originally planned and has been moved to Montreal from Kunming, China, due to the pandemic.
Along with other organisations, WWF is calling on all countries to secure a game-changing nature-positive deal that reverses the loss of nature by 2030. Ending the decade with more nature than we had at the start is essential to securing a sustainable future for both people and the planet. It also helps ensure that the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change remains within reach.
In fact, if leaders pull together this could be nature’s equivalent of the Paris Agreement. But there is a lack of ambition in the current draft text to tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss, including our broken food systems, and, as with climate COPs, finance remains a key sticking point in the negotiations. An increase in financial resources for biodiversity will be essential to implement the framework.
The media can help us hold politicians to their promises
It would be a tragedy if these two summits fail to deliver the results that the planet needs, yet it is a real risk as leaders turn their attention elsewhere. We are told that the war in Ukraine with the linked food and energy security crises mean that green measures must take a backseat in the drive for growth and securing supplies.
Yet our reliance on fossil fuels is the very reason we are grappling with the worst cost of living crisis in a generation and there is no food security without thriving ecosystems. Nature could be our most powerful ally in the fight against climate change – storing carbon, cooling the planet, and providing a buffer against extreme weather – while at the same time producing healthy, sustainable food.
Our planet needs successful outcomes in Sharm El-Sheikh and Montreal, and the media can help by ensuring that climate, nature and the food system stay on the table this autumn. We can help you to tell the stories of some of the communities, landscapes, and wildlife most affected, and highlight some of the solutions that are readily available. By holding leaders to account on their promises, we can all help bring our world back to life.