Amid the excitement/turmoil of this week's debates at Westminster, it is possible to think that Brexit* sucks in all the political oxygen and there is little space for anything else.
Yet, globally at least, the wheels of multi-lateralism and cooperation keep turning. This month there are conferences of the Parties to two international conventions (on biological diversity last week and climate change this week) and a meeting of the Parties to the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds Agreement.
The RSPB has a presence at all three meetings alongside our BirdLife International partners.
These meetings matter as they bind countries together around a common plan of action to prevent catastrophic climate change and reversing biodiversity loss. While they have their flaws - too much talk, not enough action - when it comes to saving the planet they are the only games in town so we better make them work.
Credit: Michael Harvey; rspb-images.com
For example, the current climate talks in Paris, are the first true test of the Paris Agreement as nations attempt to agree an ambitious, effective rulebook to keep us within a safe climate. While politics will always change, the science is ever more clear with the recent IPCC report revealing the threats to ecosystems and humans if we fail to limit global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels.
Over the previous fortnight a similar set of nations gathered in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, for the last major meeting before discussions in 2020 to agree a new global deal for nature and people. As I have written previously, 2020 is a watershed moment where countries will come together again in Beijing, China. They are expected to sign a new agreement under the United Nation’s nature treaty – the Convention on Biological Diversity – with an unparalleled level of ambition to turn around the massive loss of nature that humans are inflicting on the earth.
It is promising, that there is a growing realisation that the climate and biodiversity crises are inextricably linked. We cannot save one without the other. The message we have taken to both these meetings is that our landscapes and seascapes need to be rich in nature and help to store or sequester carbon.
In the CBD, the discussions over the next two years are designed to reach an ambitious agreement as groundbreaking as the Paris Agreement. The good news is that Sharm El Sheik has set the path to 2020 – agreeing an inclusive process where we can contribute to the development of the global deal, where governments and others can make ambitious pledges for nature, and where there are opportunities to raise the profile of nature at the highest levels.
Ambition is already starting, and we can already congratulate the UK Government's pledge of £400,000 to assist developing countries in engaging fully with 2020. However, it is not enough to have a strong process in place, we need the politics to follow through and demonstrate world changing ambition for nature at the highest levels. The Egypt meeting made it clear that this is still not strong enough, Biodiversity cannot remain on the fringes of the political agenda, and it is the responsibility of us all to grasp the opportunity of the next two years and ensure that we galvanize momentum for nature.
This responsibility starts at home in the UK, where we should practice what we preach. For example, leadership must be shown through strong environmental principles, legally binding targets, and a world-leading environmental watchdog in the Westminster Government’s new environment bill that is expected before the end of the year. Without legally binding targets the government won’t be able to achieve its promise of leaving the environment in a better state for the next generation.
If we are going to pass on our natural world to our children in anything like a state of good health, we need to ensure every step taken towards the Beijing 2020 meeting has impact. And it's why, despite current domestic political difficulties, we will do everything we can to make politicians use their voice for nature.
*If you have not done so already, you can read a briefing that we have developed through Greener UK to assess the environmental implications of the Withdrawal Agreement. This briefing has been shared with MPs and Peers in the run up to the 'meanginful' vote next week.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654