Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB reflects on COP26 and the Glasgow Climate Pact and what happens next.
The goal of COP26 was clear from the start: we must keep 1.5 alive. This is what science tells us, this is what the evidence of our own eyes tells us, and with the nature and climate emergency affecting all life on earth – this is what our planet is telling us. The Glasgow Climate Pact is of course just one marker on an ongoing journey, but overall delivered disappointingly little progress at too slow a pace. We need to see far greater urgency, ambition and financial support to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming and support the areas of the world where climate change is already devastating the lives of vulnerable communities.
It was positive that the vital role of nature in mitigating and adapting to climate change and the need to protect and restore our wild places featured far more prominently than at any previous climate COP. But fundamentally if we fail to drastically reduce emissions, species will vanish, and extinction will be just one example of irrecoverable loss.
The summit has also made it clear that our leaders both need to go further and put pledges already made into action with real urgency. The nature and climate emergency will not wait for global political cycles. The wildlife we love is already vanishing from gardens, our countryside and even nature reserves; wild spaces around the world are under threat because in the short-term it is seen as more profitable to develop the land for other purposes; and extreme weather is leading to increased flooding and drought.
In the coming years the next generation will become our leaders and decision makers, and they will be asking us uncomfortable questions about what each of us did or did not do to prevent and adapt our world to the nature and climate crisis, not our ambition, not our words, but what we did. For the RSPB and our members, our actions will continue to match our words. We will continue to take urgent action to tackle the nature and climate emergency, and will give our supporters a powerful voice to hold politicians to account if they fail to extend and live up to their commitments.
We are already looking ahead to how politicians across the UK translate the commitments of COP26 into national plans, and are also preparing for next spring’s biodiversity COP in China where a new global framework for nature's restoration must be agreed. As we all reflect on what we have gained and what opportunities have been missed at the Glasgow summit I want to send a clear message to decision makers on behalf of the RSPB and our supporters: there must be no delay in implementing the actions already promised to address the nature and climate emergency and we must go further, much faster.