The goal of COP26 was clear from the start: to keep 1.5 alive and to make the finance available for a just global transition. But while progress was certainly made, outcomes did not move us far, or fast enough.
We need to see much greater urgency, ambition and financial support to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming and support the areas of the world, especially the global south, where climate change is already devastating the lives of communities at the forefront of the crisis. The science is clear. We are already locked in to long term climate impacts which are making themselves felt around the world today for both people and nature. But without substantial emissions cuts by 2030 we are on a trajectory to far worse. We therefore welcomed the agreement to revisit countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) on an annual basis going forwards, as this at least responds to the urgency of our situation.
Our additional ambition for this complex global summit was to ensure that world leaders officially recognised nature’s role in limiting warming to no more than 1.5 degrees, recognising the clear link between the climate and nature crises, both in terms of impacts and in terms of mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. And here genuine progress was made. Despite not being part of the formal negotiations, nature featured firmly on the climate change COP agenda for the first time. We were pleased that the final outcome texts from COP26 recognised the vital role of nature in helping the world staying within the 1.5 degree goal, the importance of maintaining and restoring ecosystem integrity around the world and the need for stronger environmental and social safeguards. In addition, we welcomed the pledges made on global deforestation, the joint statement on commodity trading endorsed by 28 countries and the work completed to ensure more integrity in carbon markets globally. All of this has potential impact for nature.
Beforehand and throughout the negotiations in Glasgow, the RSPB, alongside others, spoke up for nature, demonstrating effective nature-based solutions for climate change that restore and expand natural habitats, lock in carbon and protect us from the impacts of extreme weather, all while providing homes for threatened wildlife. We believe the climate and nature crises are interlinked and that nature can be our greatest ally in addressing climate change. It seems the world is now starting to realise this too.
And alongside thousands of you, we came together, as a powerful voice for nature and for faster action, by joining the Global Day of Action in marches across the UK.
What’s now clear is that as well as going far further, world leaders need to put the pledges already made into action now, both domestically and globally, including here in the UK. Because the nature and climate emergency won’t wait for complex political negotiations to conclude. The wildlife we love is already vanishing from our gardens, our countryside and even nature reserves; wild spaces around the world are under threat; and extreme weather is leading to increased flooding and drought.
In the coming years the next generation will become our leaders, our decision makers, and they will be asking us uncomfortable questions about what we all did, or didn’t do, to prevent and adapt our world to the nature and climate crisis.
For the RSPB, our members and supporters, our actions will continue to match our words. We’ll continue to take urgent action with our partners to tackle the nature and climate emergency through delivery of our work here in the UK and around the world and will continue to give our supporters a powerful voice to hold politicians to account if they fail to extend and live up to their commitments.
We will be watching to see how politicians across the UK translate the commitments made in Glasgow into national, binding plans. We’re also already preparing for next spring’s critical biodiversity COP15 in China, where a new global framework for nature's restoration must be agreed. And must then be delivered.
As we all reflect on the achievements and failures of COP26 I want to send a clear message to decision-makers on behalf of the RSPB and our supporters: don’t delay in applying the actions already promised to address the nature and climate emergency. And we must now go further and faster to revive our world.
Chief executive of the RSPB
Last Updated: Tuesday 25 January 2022