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‘Nothing can change without putting nature at the heart’
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF-UK: “The world is watching what happens in Glasgow”
COP26

‘Nothing can change without putting nature at the heart’ 

It is impossible to tackle the climate crisis without reversing the loss of wildlife areas

As world leaders gather in Glasgow and start to negotiate over the future of the planet, our one shared home, enormous responsibility rests on their shoulders. It is a huge privilege too; they can deliver real change, but to do that they need to keep their promises.

Promises we’ve all heard many times before. Our leaders have promised to keep the climate as safe as possible, but the impacts of global warming are plain for all to see. This year alone there have
been hellish heat waves from Canada to Pakistan, devastating wildfires in California, Greece and Turkey and catastrophic flooding in Germany and China.

People and wildlife are suffering and it is often the most vulnerable who are affected the most. The UK Government must use its leadership of Cop26 to make sure the average global temperature rise is limited to 1.5 degrees.

That’s because when it comes to the climate, every fraction of a degree matters. With 1.5°C of warming 70 per cent of the world’s tropical coral reefs will be lost by 2050, but at 2°C virtually all will be gone.

With an increase of 2°C three times as many people will be exposed to extreme heatwaves across the globe compared to 1.5°C. We know this can only be achieved by rapid and deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. Leaders have promised to stop increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, reaching net zero in the UK by 2050 at the latest. Now they must make good on their word. This isn’t an impossible task; we’ve already seen record-breaking periods without coal power and a rise in renewables around
the world. But it needs us all to pull together.

Business can help by making it loud and clear that a 1.5°C pathway is the only option and publishing credible plans to align to it and to achieve net zero by 2050 at the latest. Finance should flow towards projects that will create a greener future and better jobs and away from dirty industries harming our planet.

At the same time, leaders must deliver the financial support necessary to help those people and places
hit hardest by climate change cope and build resilience. I have seen for myself the impacts of droughts and the devastating subsequent food crises on communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

None of this change can be achieved without putting nature at the heart of Cop26. Nature absorbs and stores carbon and plays a key role in how places and communities adapt to climate change. We cannot tackle the climate crisis without reversing its loss.

From creating local wildlife areas to restoring vast rainforests such as the Amazon, we must work to maximise the potential of nature. Our leaders have promised to protect nature in the past but it’s now time to invest in massively scaled-up efforts to restore it on land, freshwater and in the oceans.

We could look back on 2021 as a turning point which paved the way for a more secure future for people and wildlife with greenhouse gas emissions reduced and habitats beginning to thrive again.

The world is watching what happens in Glasgow and leaders must not let this crucial opportunity for action sail away. We won’t forget who steps up to the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced. And we won’t forget who shrinks from the test.

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