It really depends on who you speak to, whether CoP26 was judged a success. Yes, the Glasgow Climate Pact was signed by 197 countries in the final hours. And yes, there were some ground-breaking side agreements on coal, forests, cars, and finance. But there remains a huge gap between the pledged emission-reduction targets and those agreed in Paris in 2015.
Further, there remains a lack of commitment from high-income countries to subsidise the lower-income countries that are, for the most part, more affected by climate change. On a positive note, however, there is broad agreement that change is going in a positive direction, despite the gap that must be filled to limit global warming to 1.5°C
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2018), the leading authority, states that exceeding a 1.5°C global temperature rise would be catastrophic for much of life on Earth. Some island nations believe that they will not survive the sea-level rise, let alone the increasingly destructive weather patterns.
What is certainly clear is that we can’t wait for our governments to step up and bridge the gap. CoP26 reports indicate that talk of net-zero is mostly just talk, with plans to offset emissions alarmingly light on detail (Economist, 2021). Climate change action has become a political football, with those willing to act only committing to distant targets. So, what can we do when our political leaders fail to take a strong lead?
Businesses must ultimately take charge, and I was encouraged learn that during CoP26 businesses were pushing ahead to focus minds and deliver actions. The ‘Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism’, the ‘Declaration on Forests and Land Use’, and the ‘Ocean for Climate Declaration’ are all intended to bridge the gap between good intentions and meaningful climate action; tangible actions that finally and firmly put biodiversity on the climate agenda.
As countries and businesses – and even individuals – consider their actions to achieve net zero, few consider the relevance of natural systems. It’s ironic, when these can present a host of sustainable, low-cost solutions to many of our challenges: including harnessing the capability of many ecosystems to absorb and store carbon. You may have heard the recently-coined term “nature-based solutions”, referring to the protection and restoration of natural habitats and wild areas as a way to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere. Regular readers of ANIMONDIAL’s blogs will have already seen examples of the evidenced benefits of forests, oceans, and their biodiversity. Nature is an essential part of the effective and efficient response to climate change, and also to avoiding future pandemics and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
It is my firm belief that bridging the gap between emission reduction and carbon capture need not be a difficult and complex task. Effective actions to enhance biodiversity and restore nature will narrow that gap. Yes, it would help if our governments would regulate business to measure its impact on nature, and to demonstrate reduced negative impact, as proposed by Target 15 of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. But why wait until this becomes law? We know what has to be done. Businesses, in fact anyone, can play their part in minimising negative impacts and boosting biodiversity.
What can you do?
ANIMONDIAL’s recommended path to minimising negative impacts, bridging the gap, and achieving Net Zero:
- Evaluate your business operations and activities against validated, inter-related indicators to measure your impacts and dependencies on nature. Discover your ANIMAL FOOTPRINT here.
- Identify where your business is doing well and, where you can do better for animals and nature.
- Calculate your carbon emissions across your operations: transport, goods, food & beverage, services, etc.
- Commit to meaningful, time-bound, evidence-based targets across priority locations to halt and reverse the loss of nature and achieve Net Zero.
- Minimise your negative impacts on nature by reducing activities that drive biodiversity loss.
- Decarbonise your business operations and activities across your supply chain. Shift to alternative materials and actions to reduce carbon emissions.
- Regenerate and restore ecosystems in partnership with others, applying nature-positive action across your value chain.
- Invest in nature-based, community-led solutions that support local people who live alongside natural areas, and encourage nature guardianship.
- Encourage governments and policymakers to adopt and implement ambitious nature and climate policies
ANIMONDIAL will continue to work with our travel and tourism partners to support and advise businesses to better manage their impacts on nature and boost biodiversity through community-based, nature-positive solutions.
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REPORTS FROM CoP16
- Launch of the Glasgow Declaration: A commitment to a decade of climate action in tourism | UNWTO
- Nature in the spotlight at UN Climate Conference COP26 | Business for Nature
- Was COP26 in Glasgow a success? | The Economist
There is now no doubt, planetary health, animal exploitation, biodiversity loss, emergent disease and climate change are all interconnected and stem from the often-exploitative human activity on the natural world. The costs of inaction will be far greater than the costs of resolution. Whereby everyone will be affected unless everyone plays their part.
At CoP26 next week, the UN Climate Change Conference, world leaders will debate how and when, during a year of unprecedented challenges, they will implement actions to fulfil the Paris Climate Accords. Ultimately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming. Planet Earth is currently experiencing its highest atmospheric CO2 concentrations, that has not been equalled for millions of years. Inactively to reduce emissions will result in temperature rises that threaten the balance of life and the collapse of everything that gives us security.
An inevitable outcome of CoP26 are regulatory measures that will enforce decarbonisation, which are understandably at the forefront of the minds of the green-conscious business that wants to play their part. For the travel and tourism sector, however, limiting carbon emissions, whilst recommended, can only be minimal.
Nature-enhancing solutions, on the other hand, provides the sector with a relatively cost-effective solution to this conundrum. Nature is the very fabric on which all life on Earth is based. It includes the plants and the animals, the soil and the rock, and the air and water on which life depends. Whilst biodiversity refers to the multitude of living things that make up nature – the 8 million or so species on the planet – including us, humans. Nature has the natural ability to absorb and store carbon so, the greater the biodiversity, the greater the amount of carbon stored. Travel and tourism already value nature, from its vital eco-system services to the uniqueness it provides to the destinations we love to visit. This literal lifeline offers travel and tourism an opportunity to bring greater value to nature, ensure its better protection, and ultimately position the sector a force for good.
This was my proposition to the Latin American travel and tourism sector during the LATA’s EXPO this October. Latin America is hugely undervalued, considering it is the most biodiverse geographical region on Earth. It is home to most of the known amphibian species, birds, mammal species, and an amazing 60,000 species of tree! Not only that, but its forests produce 20% of the oxygen we breathe, act as a store of 50% of all the carbon dioxide we humans produce, absorb solar radiation, limit the Earth’s reflectivity, regulates our freshwater supply, and stabilise climatic conditions. All vital allies in our struggle to combat climate change. Yet 100 acres of rainforest is cleared every minute, with Amazon wildfires, said to cause the loss of 10 million hectares each year. Why? Because local communities currently put greater value on the conversion of forest to agricultural land, than the protection of the forests.
Tourism has the ability to reverse this disruptive, and life-destroying trend. Managed responsibly, tourism can bring greater value to these wild places, encouraging the better protection of animals and nature, and incentivise local guardianship rather than deforestation.
To that end, ANIMONDIAL and the LATA Community are working together to reduce travel and tourism’s negative impact on the region where possible and champion nature-enhancing practices. Launching in 2022, a year devoted to biodiversity, the initiative will celebrate Latin America’s rich biodiversity. Mobilising governments, businesses, and communities to bridge the gap in knowledge and understanding, identify and minimise negative impact, adopt sustainable practices and restore nature lost.
Whatever happens at CoP26, action on climate change is already affecting the way we value land and ecosystems. But waiting for our governments to act may be too late, let this be an opportunity for travel and tourism to take the reins, and ensure biodiversity-rich, lower income countries have the opportunity to benefit financially from restoring their climate-friendly landscapes. Delivering nature’s approach to lessening climate change and our ability to work in harmony with nature.