The Big Climate Fightback
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Programme Delivery Lead - Tree Charter
In the first two weeks of November, Glasgow hosted COP26, the global climate change conference. We were pleased to see emphasis on nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis at the event. But while some important agreements were made, it’s clear that much more must be done to drastically reduce emissions and keep within 1.5°C degrees of warming. Failure to do this will impact all life on Earth - the stakes could not be higher. Here’s a summary of some of the key points from the conference.
A powerful message from COP26 was that nature-based solutions are central to tackling the climate crisis. Discussions centred on nature protection and recovery, with 92% of countries agreeing to tackle nature loss within their national contributions.
More world leaders than ever before signed a landmark declaration to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. The UK led the signing of the agreement. Our governments must now accelerate efforts to protect and expand vital habitats like ancient woodland in all UK nations.
The Scottish Government has already recommitted to action for Scotland’s rainforest after intense pressure from environmental NGOs. In England, we want to see swift action on Government’s recent welcome commitment to review ancient woodland protection. We’ll be pushing UK governments to deliver these promises, halting the loss of ancient woodland and helping the recovery of native woodland ecosystems. Read our statement about the UK context for the deforestation declaration.
Credit: Jill Donnachie / WTML
The Pact is the overall agreement signed at the end of the conference by nearly 200 nations in attendance.
There was global agreement that we need to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, reaffirming the 2015 Paris Agreement. However, the combined national contributions announced at COP26 still put the world on track for a temperature rise of 2.4°C. We can’t underestimate the importance of this increase. The Glasgow Climate Pact signed at COP26 expresses the need for greater action now and emphasises that we are in a climate emergency, asserting that climate change is impacting us today.
World leaders have agreed to further improve their national targets at COP27 in Egypt next year.
Methane is one of the greenhouse gasses that is 10x more damaging to the climate than carbon. If we are to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C, this agreement will need to be upheld and implemented.
At the beginning of COP26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that the conference would focus on ‘cash, coal, cars and trees’. In some ways this is a pitchy summary of the key talking points.
Important progress was made on phasing down global coal production, with more than 40 countries committing to end investment in new coal power generation. It’s the first global agreement of its kind. This is a noteworthy shift - coal is responsible for 40% of global emissions annually.
The first Global Methane Agreement was also signed by over 100 counties, forming a partnership to cut emissions by 2030.
But there was no sign of phasing out oil and gas production. To effectively tackle the climate crisis, we urgently need to phase out all fossil fuel production.
In 2009, developed nations pledged to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations and the most vulnerable populations tackle climate change. This climate finance would help deal with the devastating impacts already evident in the Global South – much of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. But this target has not been met.
The $100bn ask was reignited at COP26, with hopes that developed nations will be able to provide this essential funding by 2022. In truth, it will cost more than this to tackle the climate crisis and save communities from sea level rises and the increasing rates of natural disasters.
"Hopefully we see the government follow through with this, instead of making promises they don't keep, knowing it will be their successor's problem."
In the lead up to the conference and throughout, we were busy around Glasgow and beyond. We met with business leaders, parliamentarians and scientists to discuss the crucial role of woods and trees in tackling climate change. We marched alongside hundreds of our supporters in Glasgow, Cardiff and Nottingham to call for greater climate action. And together with the Students for Trees network, we organised tree planting events on university campuses around the UK. Those same young people also sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling for greater action on woods, trees and wildlife at COP26.
Now the conference is over, we’ll continue to urge nature-focused action on climate change. Trees are our most powerful weapon and together we can make a difference.
A lot of people are sharing their views on the successes and failures of COP26. This is the purpose of the event – to bring countries together to make agreements and set plans in motion. Now the conference is over, action must follow.
The UK Government will retain presidency over the COP process until November 2022, when Egypt becomes the host nation for COP27. This means the UK has a crucial role to influence what happens next. It must use the coming year to assert international leadership in limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
It can set a good example by rapidly implementing the net zero strategy for the UK. This will need bold action. Woods and trees should be protected and expanded within this strategy as vital carbon stores. Rest assured we’ll be keeping the pressure on to make this happen.
We need government to act and lead. But tackling climate change and reducing emissions is something that affects us all, every day. You can make a difference by taking part in the Big Climate Fightback – our campaign to get 50 million trees in the ground by 2025.
Help lock up carbon with a donation to help us protect and care for our woods.
We want to make sure everyone in the UK has the chance to plant a tree. So we’re giving away hundreds of thousands of trees to schools and communities.