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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.

When we say ‘nature’, what do we really mean?

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.

Listening to Indigenous Peoples when we talk about nature

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.

Small steps? We need giant strides.

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.

Watch this space…

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


The Importance of Grasslands Globally
Briefing Document

The Importance of Grasslands Globally

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.

Planting Plant Conservation at the Core of COP28 Climate Talks
Press Release

Planting Plant Conservation at the Core of COP28 Climate Talks

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.

We are Heading to Dubai for Global Climate Talks
BlogPerson wearing a hat smiling

We are Heading to Dubai for Global Climate Talks

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

Wild Plants and Fungi are at the Heart of Climate Crisis
Our PositionA Marbled White butterfly sitting on a clover in a meadow

Wild Plants and Fungi are at the Heart of Climate Crisis

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.