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As COP28 draws to a close, one thing is crystal clear – we are at a pivotal moment.
Our CEO Ian Dunn reflects on the results of the climate conference and why there is reason to hope.
The 28th UN Climate Conference of Parties has just drawn to a close in Dubai, during which there had been fierce negotiations over the future of fossil fuels.
In the early hours of this morning the gavel went down and 198 governments agreed to “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner… so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”. This wording is not as strong as we had hoped, but it is the first time fossil fuels have ever been explicitly mentioned in a final agreement (in almost 30 years of climate COPs) and as the UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell said, it is the ‘beginning of the end’ for fossil fuels.
This issue is at the heart of climate action and this agreement was long overdue.
There are other key outcomes from this COP which give us reasons for hope:
More specifically focused on the intertwined climate and nature crises, we welcome two new initiatives coming out of this COP.
1.COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action
The acknowledgement and recognition of the adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture and food systems, and on billions of people including smallholders that are dependent on their resilience for food and livelihoods, is a great step in the right direction. Just two years ago, there was little or no mention of this issue, yet 158 governments endorsed the Declaration at COP28.
2. COP28 Joint Statement on Climate, Nature and People
This was an absolutely vital step in ensuring the climate and biodiversity crises are no longer considered as separate issues. We have known for a long time that they are fundamentally and intrinsically linked, and this is the first step in connecting the outcomes of the UNFCCC COP28 and the recently adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
This announcement was made: ‘At COP28 during Nature, Land Use and Ocean Day, we affirm that there is no path to fully achieve the near- and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement or the 2030 goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework without urgently addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation together in a coherent, synergetic and holistic manner, in accordance with the best available science.’
Eighteen governments have endorsed this declaration so far and we need to see many more signing up to this joined-up approach in the weeks ahead.
At Plantlife, we work tirelessly to bring the value of grasslands to the forefront of conversations around farming, nature, biodiversity and climate, both in the UK and internationally. Covering more than half the Earth’s land surface and with the livelihoods of around 800 million people depending on them, the importance of grasslands and savannahs cannot be underestimated.
More generally, this COP marked a turning point for the role of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition of their contribution in not only safeguarding 80% of the world’s biodiversity, but their knowledge in living in true harmony with nature. Adopting this way of thinking will be a pivotal step in combating the climate crisis. Plantlife is aware of the importance of Indigenous knowledge particularly when it comes to Important Plant Areas (IPAs), with one of the criteria for identification being related to cultural significance.
You can read more about IPAs here specifically the Chiquitano people of Bolivia who identified 18 IPA sites to protect the Chiquitano dry forest which many of the community depend on for their food and livelihoods.
It is safe to say there was a healthy dose of concern and scepticism about this COP. What would come out of it? Would this be ambitious enough to secure a safe future for generations to come – from large cities in the Global North to the Small Island Developing States on the frontline of the climate crisis? The reference to fossil fuels and the language in the final text can be considered a win, but now we look to parties to solidify the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ of implementing the measures to ensure we stay at or below 1.5 degrees of warming.
One thing is crystal clear: we are at a pivotal moment, for the stability of our planet and all life on Earth, and Plantlife will keep working to show how wild plants and fungi can be at the heart of the solution.
Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, shares her experience at COP28 understanding the role of nature and Indigenous Peoples in the climate conversation.
This WWF & Plantlife document makes the case for the world to recognise the vital role that grasslands and savannahs can play in addressing the climate and biodiversity crises.
We are teaming up with WWF (the World Wide Fund for Nature) at COP28 to press for better recognition of grasslands and savannahs, alongside other habitats.
Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, will be at COP28 to speak up for the vital role of wild plants and fungi in the fight against climate change
At Plantlife, we are focused in gaining recognition for grassland ecosystems around the world as nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. Storing between 25-35% of the world’s terrestrial carbon, they are an underutilised resource.
It’s the final few days of COP28, but arguably one of the most important discussions is yet to come – Food and Agriculture.
The results of these topics will have far-reaching consequences on our wild plants and fungi. Our Grassland Advocacy Officer, Jo Riggall, explains why.
As I write this, I’m eating a piece of toast. As you read this, you may be eating something too. All 8.1 billion of us need food. Just like other types of consumption, such as oil and gas, our food consumption requires and releases energy. In fact, the food system is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.
It therefore makes sense that food is a central focus of the climate Conference of the Parties (CoP28) taking place at the moment in Dubai.
The CoP28 theme today is ‘Food and Agriculture’, which is a good opportunity to put down my toast and highlight some of the food and agriculture discussions at CoP28, and what they mean for wild plants and fungi.
We rely on wild plants and fungi for so much, however they are the overlooked centrepieces at the heart of all ecosystems.
Take grasslands: the livelihoods of around 800 million people depend on them and they cover more than 50% of the world’s land.
Imagine nomadic reindeer herders navigating the Steppes in Mongolia, or small-scale pastoralists grazing their livestock on Kenyan savannahs. Humans are part of a virtuous Venn diagram, with grasslands at the centre:
It’s important to differentiate this approach to grassland management from the more intensive farming, that shatters the mutualistic relationship between people and the natural environment.
Intensive, large-scale agriculture relies on greenhouse gas-emitting synthetic fertilisers and ploughing, with tightly packed livestock damaging the sensitive flora and degrading the soil.
That’s why we’re looking to world leaders at CoP28 to recognise the value of healthy grasslands and savannahs as part of a sustainable food system, that helps boost biodiversity and tackle climate change.
We need joined-up action across governments and their policies tackling farming, food security, public health, nature & net zero.
At CoP28, 134 countries have signed up to the United Arab Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, committing to integrate food into their climate plans by 2025.
This could be an important step towards real action to bring down emissions from global agriculture, in tandem with supporting farmers, pastoralists, and smallholders who farm in a low-carbon way.
However, alongside real action there’s also real risk – of greenwashing. We should be sceptical of subsidies that still go towards funding intensive agriculture, or untested technological solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We’ll be watching how governments put this Declaration into practice.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether governments will make tangible commitments to actually shift food production away from intensive agricultural practices.
Will governments stop harmful agricultural subsidies and instead pay and support less intensive farming, that helps restore swathes of degraded grassland?
Will they ignore the huge farming and fertiliser lobby to help farmers break free from costly input cycles?
Will the rights of indigenous people and local communities to their land and traditional pastoralism be respected?
We want the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of healthy grasslands to be meaningfully incorporated into countries’ climate and biodiversity strategies.
As I finish my meal, these are the questions I will ponder ahead of CoP28’s final few days. The solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises are by no means bitesize, but I have hope, if we’re all sat together at the same table.
Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, shares her experience at COP28 understanding the role of nature and Indigenous Peoples in the climate conversation.
Today is Nature Day at the climate COP28 in Dubai. Having just spent a week at the conference, I’m taking the chance to reflect on the role of nature in these huge global negotiations.
It was my first UN Climate conference and a truly eye-opening experience. With around 100,000 participants from around the world and all sectors, I was able to listen to and connect with a huge diversity of new people, as well as our NGO partners in the global Climate Action Network.
One of Plantlife’s ambitions for COP28 is to see greater recognition of nature as a powerful part of the solution to climate change, as these crises are intrinsically linked. We know that wild plants and fungi are the foundation of all ecosystems and our natural world.
So, when we say ‘nature’, we mean wild plants and fungi – I said this to many people in Dubai, giving them pause for thought. Plants and fungi are so often seen as just a green backdrop to other wildlife, yet they deserve a place in spotlight on Nature Day.
We are calling for COP28 decisions that put wild plants, fungi and all nature at the heart of climate action. To make this really work, we need to see joined up working between the UN climate convention and the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), agreed through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In practice, this means that governments need to cross-reference their net zero and climate adaptation plans with their biodiversity strategies, including by delivering the global plant actions as part of the GBF.
On my last night in Dubai, I chose a side event to attend at random and it was the best, most meaningful one I went to that week. It was organised by the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) on women implementing climate justice solutions.
At climate COPs, it’s easy to get swept up in the numbers, the scale of the conference itself and sometimes being star-struck with the high-profile climate influencers in attendance. But this event was held by Indigenous women and was incredibly powerful and emotive.
The speakers shared their lived experience of what it’s like to be on the frontline of fighting a global crisis.
This is a global crisis that Indigenous Peoples played no hand in creating, yet which has had an often-horrifying impact on their relationship with nature. They are also rarely given a role in the solutions.
One speaker, when referencing the CBD slogan of ‘living in harmony with nature’, said how shocking it is that Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge was not being called to the forefront of decision-making – when these are decisions about the natural world with which they have always lived in absolute harmony and balance.
The UN states that at least a quarter of the world’s land area is owned, managed, used or occupied by Indigenous Peoples and so the fate of nature, our climate and Indigenous Peoples is deeply interlinked.
There are signs of hope. Brazilian President Lula da Silva handed an opportunity to speak at a COP event to their Minister of Environment, Marina Silva. Having grown up in the forests of Brazil, she has a deep personal understanding of how Indigenous communities depend on the forests and live in them. The Brazilian Indigenous Peoples Minister, Sonia Guajajara, is leading the country’s negotiating team after the President left the conference. This is a small step towards doing the right thing, despite the President facing criticism and winning the Fossil of the Day Award earlier this week for announcing the expansion of oil production.
The alarming speed and scale of climate change and biodiversity loss demands urgent and large-scale action. Small steps are not enough. We are looking for strong and ambitious action on nature and climate from the world’s governments at COP28.
The CoP 28 Presidency set out 4 pillars in its COP28 Action Plan – one being ‘focusing on people, nature, lives and livelihoods’ and another ‘fostering full inclusivity’. These are essential foundations for action, harnessing the power of nature and Indigenous People’s knowledge to create a liveable world for future generations.
One of the key connections between people and nature is farming – we all need to eat! Tomorrow is Food Day at COP28 so look out for our blog on the role of grasslands and savannahs in supporting food security, livelihoods, biodiversity and carbon storage.
Covering more than half the Earth’s land, with around 800 million people being dependant on them globally for their livelihoods and food, and their ability to hold up to 35% of the Earth’s land carbon, they really fit the bill. Yet somehow grasslands remain undervalued and overlooked compared to forests and oceans.
See how Plantlife is working with WWF and others to highlight these critical ecosystems.
img:istock/Guilherme de Melo
Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, will be at COP28 to speak up for the vital role of wild plants and fungi in the fight against climate change.
As I pack my bags and head off to Dubai, I wanted to share a few thoughts about what’s at stake at the climate COP and what role Plantlife can play at this huge global event. So, what is COP 28?
It’s the 28th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Given the urgency of tackling climate change, these meetings of the world’s governments happen every year; two years ago, COP26 was hosted by the UK in Glasgow.
This COP will be a pivotal moment for the planet and people around the world will be watching closely. At the conference, the first Global Stocktake will take place – this is where Parties will report on their progress towards slashing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting the goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (also known as the Paris Agreement, adopted back in 2016).
We already know that progress needs to go faster and further – we are currently heading for about 2.5°C of warming by 2100, even if current pledges to tackle emissions are achieved. So, at COP28 we need to see governments commit to taking more action to cut emissions – and fast.
Alongside that, we’re calling for the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation to be finalised with references to nature and the vital role it will play in ensuring we adapt to the impacts of climate change.
We’re calling for the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation to be finalised with references to nature and the vital role it will play in ensuring we adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Well, the first reason is that climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the greatest challenges we’re facing globally, and they are intrinsically linked. There is simply no way to look at one crisis without considering the other.
Wild plants and fungi underpin all life on earth, they provide us with oxygen, food and fibres for our clothes, fuel, medicines and building materials. But on top of all of that, they are also a powerful force to tackle climate change; much of Plantlife’s work focuses on securing recognition of this. For example:
Despite all the incredible work that is being done worldwide to reduce biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change, it is thought by experts that we are currently in the 6th mass extinction. Latest estimates show that 45 % of flowering plant species could be at risk of extinction. Plant species are going extinct 500 times faster than they would be without the impacts of human activities – and faster than we can describe and name them.
This is the same for fungi, which can be directly affected by shifts in temperature and moisture levels. The overwhelming majority of fungal diversity is directly dependant on plants– whether as beneficial partners, decomposers or parasites – climate-related habitat change that harms plants in turn affects their co-existing fungi.
COP 28 is naturally facing some controversy, and people are understandably voicing concerns about how much will be achieved.
As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “It’s time to wake up and step up.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
We’re at a pivotal moment worldwide as to whether we will meet the Paris Agreement and we need a global commitment to ‘phase out’ not just ‘phase back’ fossil fuel production; otherwise, the outcomes of this COP may not be strong or ambitious enough to see us reach the 1.5°C goal in time.
Armed with the overwhelming scientific evidence about the critical role that wild plants and fungi can play in climate action, we’ll be speaking up at COP28 in person and online. We’ll be joining forces with partners from around the world to fight for urgent and ambitious action on nature and climate together.
For more than thirty years, Plantlife has spoken up for wild plants and fungi; making our voice heard at a global level has never been more important. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure that wild plants and fungi stay at the forefront of governments’ minds when making commitments for climate mitigation, adaptation, and building resilience.
We’re on a mission to raise awareness of how important wild plants and fungi are to life and to inspire more people to take action to help them thrive again and I hope you’ll follow our updates for how the meeting goes, here and on our social media channels!
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