Hello! My name is Natasha, I’m a BSc Ecology student studying amongst the beautiful habitats in and around Aberystwyth. I love all aspects of natural science and history, such as conservation, mycology, botany, zoology (to name a few!). I run an Instagram blog @the_biophiliac_blog which is where I share my love for nature, wildlife, science communication and tips on sustainable living.
The 26th annual COP event has arrived, with this year’s conference being hosted locally to us Brits in the city of Glasgow. This year has covered such topics as energy, oceans, nature, and the implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. There is a paramount focus on taking enough action to ensure global average temperature does not exceed the expected 1.5°C rise. So, what has come of the conference so far?
In regards to the ‘Good’, the UK government aims to commit to the ‘30 by 30 vision’ by The Wildlife Trusts. This aims to restore 30% of British land and sea by 2030 and has set (perhaps a rather distant) goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Furthermore, world leaders have agreed to end and reverse deforestation by 2030, and over 100 countries pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 as well.
Now, turning our attention to the ‘Bad’, even with 40 countries pledging to shift away from coal use, major coal guzzlers such as India, the US and China are not partaking in this. Some world leaders did not even attend the conference, most notably those of Russia, China, and Brazil, all of which are among the countries with the largest carbon footprint.
Despite this, the conference has seen a myriad of passionate environmentalists in the form of protestors, public figures and climate professionals attending. At present, there is a heightened sense of climate catastrophism and eco-anxiety among the public, as well as world leaders and politicians. So, the very least we can expect to take from COP26 is that the climate and the environment is in the forefront of everyone’s mind. There is a collective, undisputable affirmation that climate change deniers no longer have credence, and perhaps now sit on-par with anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers and tin-foil hatters. This facilitates the argument towards what action can we take right now, rather than debating whether rapid climate change exists or not (FYI, it does!).
Now, what does this mean for the conservation of threatened species, particularly in Britain? After all, the effects of climate change will be seen firstly on our own doorstep, if not on BBC News at Six. Climate change is one of the biggest drivers for species extinction, therefore if these pledges are followed through and are successful, the boost in biodiversity may likely help at-risk species, like the many small mammals. We have seen successes in conservation such as that of the red kite, and the reintroduction of the marvellous ecosystem engineer, the European beaver. Therefore, with more government funding, why can’t the same success be achieved with other species? Either way, there is no time for debate, as according to the Mammal Society’s Red List, one in four of our native mammals are threatened with extinction.
So, is this all just more fictitious goals and empty pledges? Or are world leaders finally listening to the pleadings from their anxious populations, mostly young people? We can all agree that individual, and more so, government action towards rapid climate change is of the upmost salience. Finally, Sir David Attenborough also spoke at COP26 this year, “In my lifetime I’ve witnessed a terrible decline…in yours, you could and should witness a wonderful recovery”.