A blog by Deborah Long, LINK’S Chief Officer.
This blog kicks off a series by LINK staff, members, Honorary Fellows and invited guests who will bring a nature-climate twist to the COP26 presidency programme. Click here to find out more.
2021 and 2022 are the big years for action to save nature and the climate. Both the climate CoP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 and the nature CoP15 in Kunming in May 2022 will be crucial in setting the necessary level of ambition.
We are living in a climate and nature emergency. These are so closely intertwined that you cannot solve one without solving the other. It would be pointless to try. Finding solutions to both will be key to our future. It means both CoPs need to bring about a paradigm shift to ecological transitions, now non-negotiable for any future on earth.
The drivers of both emergencies need addressing. One of these is the drive towards GDP. Measuring the world’s success through GDP isn’t working. It values all the wrong things: a natural disaster has a massive negative impact on our ecological capital but generates financial capital through clean up schemes. The ecological loss goes unrecorded, and the financial boost is mistakenly valued. We need to move into measuring what matters: social and planetary wellbeing. If either our social or ecological capital is going down, we are not being successful.
A key part of that is a just transition to new ways of working within Earth’s planetary limits. Young people are, quite rightly, demanding change. They can very clearly see the mess they are inheriting and are angry. They are angry not just about the mess, but about the delays and inaction of governments across the world as they watch their future and their children’s future not matching up the future that past and current generations have been lucky enough to inherit.
Both CoPs mark a point in the road. What do we hope comes out of them? 2021 is the start of the Decade for Ecosystem Restoration. This decade must be a success: without ecosystem restoration we will fail to bequeath a planet worth living on. Success means this next decade will be one of hard work. It will need to be based on much longer term thinking and planning; a governmental term is not enough, ten years is not enough. But ten years is enough to see whether the Climate Action Plan and the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy will make the scale of changes needed to achieve our 2045 climate net zero targets and the 2050 nature restoration goals. It will need to be a decade of new funding: the scale of action required both in terms of the amount of work to do and the geographical scale it needs to cover are so vast that current sources of funding are simply inadequate. In Scotland, the £500 million nature restoration funding from government is welcome and half of what we need to see – and then that needs to be matched by another £1 billion from philanthropy, £1 billion from business, all matched by resources in kind from society through volunteering and individual actions at home.
This new decade will need to be a decade of enlightenment as we move entire countries towards measuring what matters. Scotland’s National Performance Framework is a good start towards measuring and valuing wellbeing, but we need to move further from GDP as a measure of success. We need to encourage and inspire and learn from others: everyone can contribute, and everyone has a role. It needs to be a decade of empowerment and responsibility: we need to be able to listen and everyone needs to be empowered to play their part. Citizen Assemblies in Scotland have come up with effective and innovative solutions: we need to build on their suggestions and run more of them. It will be a decade of innovation and new thinking, of new priorities and creative solutions. And it will be a decade of excitement and purpose as we learn and make progress. It will need to be a decade underpinned by altruism and empathy when we all work together. That’s a huge ask in today’s increasingly fragmented, disrupted and angry world but we all share a single planet. Cooperation and mutual support are the best survival tools we have.
If the next decade is all those things, it will also be a decade of burgeoning nature, healthy and accessible food, clean air and clean water. We’ll see forests spread across the landscape, and oceans teem with life. And we’ll see a generation with new hope for the future.
© Image by Calum McLennan