Today's blog is written by Mel Coath, Our Principal Policy Officer on Climate
As the most important international climate meeting since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015, COP26 is taking the world’s media by storm. The Paris Agreement set out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting warming. Six years on, governments and civil society from across the world have gathered to assess what progress has been made (not enough!), and to decide how to raise ambition moving forwards. The RSPB is attending COP26 to fly the flag for nature and to highlight the critical role it plays in this climate ambition. So, one week in, how is it all going?
Well, it’s worth saying that COP26 has been a COP like no other in many ways. For a start we have, of course, never before had a COP in a pandemic. As such, it’s been much harder to attend negotiations in person - and online access has been patchy – causing frustration for both negotiators and civil society. Face to face meetings with country representatives to share our views has also been a real challenge in this context.
Despite these challenges, the RSPB has been working with partners and using all the tools available to highlight what action we need to take on the climate and nature emergencies. For example, we’ve been working closely with Birdlife and other NGO partners to reach out to influential negotiators with our key asks. We’ve also been liaising daily with other NGOs to share intelligence and keep pushing for ambitious outcomes. You can read more about our positions and our asks through our nature focused articles in ECO – the NGO COP newsletter..
It has been crucial and incredible to work with BirdLife partners from Liberia, Nigeria, Iraq, Germany, Spain and Israel attending COP this year. The challenges we face from a changing climate are shared globally and it has been inspiring to learn about the shared solutions too. Together, we are making clear that ambition from nature has to be underlined by some key principles: action through nature must be additional to and not instead of rapid fossil fuel phase out; the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities must be integral in any solution; and proposals must support increased biodiversity and nature restoration.
Are we winning in putting nature at the heart of decisions at COP26? Well, although the role of nature in climate action does not have its own negotiating strand, we know it is currently on the table for the overall COP26 ‘decision text’ and we’ll work hard to encourage Parties to keep it there. The UK Government has also made nature one of its key themes at COP and we’ve heard about nature far more than we have at a climate COP before. The UK facilitated a series of nature events and announcements including a designated “Nature Day” on Saturday 6 November.
In addition, an ambitious declaration was made at the World Leader’s Summit to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. This was signed by over 130 countries and backed by billions of dollars of private and public money. We welcomed this substantial step forward, but we will continue to hold government to account on delivering on these promises by taking concrete action.
COP26 is much more than the decisions made by world leaders, it is a coming together of all those who share a love for our planet, to make connections and take action. The RSPB have also been working hard to highlight the importance of nature in the events surrounding COP. We’ve co-sponsored the Peatland Pavillion event space and brought together partners from the UK, China and the Caribbean to highlight the importance of restoring coastal wetlands. Our Parliamentary colleagues have also been meeting with MPs, MSPs and Ministers to ensure that the UK’s international efforts are underpinned in all four governments of the UK.
And RSPB youth representatives have done an incredible job taking our messages to new audiences, including at events raising the importance of Scotland’s precious peatlands in delivering for climate, nature and people. Finally, on Saturday RSPB staff and supporters took part in some of the incredible marches up and down the country including the 100,000 strong march in Glasgow where RSPB staff took a beautiful model avocet through the streets.
Halfway through, and it is still very hard to determine whether this COP will ultimately be successful. From inside the negotiating halls, we are seeing some progress, but it is slow, and we still need to push hard for the role of nature to be much better reflected This week, our policy team will be working tirelessly to continue to influence the official COP26 ‘decision text’ and land nature’s crucial role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is vital to translate the good words we’ve heard from leaders last week into the formal UNFCCC process to embed positive action for nature into climate ambition globally. From outside the COP, protestors and observers have felt exasperated that world leaders have been making grand claims but that these are not being backed by sufficient action. There is a tangible disconnect between the politics and the science that highlights the climate emergency that we are facing. However, from both inside and outside the COP we will be working hard to push negotiators to rise to the challenge on behalf of us all and we will write again here to reflect in a week’s time on where we ended up.
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