Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer with RSPB Scotland, has this update on recent climate change negotiations and the Paris Agreement.

The birth of the Paris Agreement

The past few weeks watching the Paris Agreement negotiations has been like waiting for a birth as a new father all over again. We didn’t quite know when it would be born, its birth was delayed, and being in Glasgow I definitely felt removed from the process. But when it did arrive there was the moment of relief and happiness, checking it all over to make sure it was real and everything was there. Also similar to having a baby, everyone has an opinion about the newborn and how to bring it up; what it needs to thrive.

Like the African proverb which says ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’ so the Paris Agreement will demand all of us to give effort and attention if it is to be live up to its promise. We always knew that Paris would not solve climate change there and then – it was not an end point but rather a beginning.

This ‘Beyond Paris’ focus is needed because at present there is a significant gap between the country GHG reduction promises and what is needed to meet the 1.5oC  aim of the Agreement. We know that nature has an important role to play in helping us bridge that gap and this has been recognised in the wording of the Agreement. It outlines that ‘Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases...., including forests,’ That means that countries must protect and restore habitats like tropical forests and peatlands because of the carbon stored in them and their ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This paves the way for some of our conservation activities like blanket bog restoration to attract investment and the carbon savings being counted towards meeting Scotland’s climate targets. Restored habitats will also provide more homes for nature – the very nature being affected by climate change now. 

We have been calling for a new global climate agreement for many years. Many of you bravely joined us and 5000 others in the windy wet weather to march through Edinburgh at Scotland’s Climate March on Nov 28th. Thank you – your voice counted. It was a tremendous shout out from Scotland to the world and to our own politicians that we need climate action now. World leaders and diplomats delivered the Agreement on Saturday - what we must do now is to hold the Scottish Government to account and ensure that they meet the ambition of the Agreement.

There are many books written about how to raise children, there have been many and varied words written about the Paris Agreement – both for and against it. It’s not perfect but it is the only one we have. It needs us all to use our voices to make sure it drives forward the strong climate action that the planet, people and wildlife needs.