What are our hopes for COP 26?

The warnings from nature come thick and fast. The storm that brought down trees in The Byes two weeks ago, flooding, heatwaves, droughts and forest fires, these are all abnormal conditions. Global warming is continuing to destroy large parts of our living world. COP 26 is when we need to see action by the UK spelled out.

There are two main factors generating carbon emissions into the atmosphere, one is burning fossil fuels, this accounts for about 75% of all emissions and the other is land management and food production. In simple terms the best way of thinking about a solution to the climate emergency is BURNING must come DOWN, BIOMASS needs to go UP.

Most of the material being burnt in fires stem from fossil fuels. These fuels are gas, coal, oil, petrol and diesel. This is sequestered carbon from millennia of dead organisms. By burning fossil fuels, we are undoing millions of years’ worth of biological activity. All organisms contain carbon and biomass is the combined mass of all living things. The more organisms alive or stored in the ground when dead, the greater the carbon storage.

What can we hope for from COP 26? Simon Jupp, our MP, has stated that the government is going to lead at COP 26 with natural based solutions. He said: “I agree that restoring nature is crucial and the Prime Minister has committed to protecting 30 per cent of the UK’s land by 2030 and will be making nature a key focus of COP26. As well as this, the Environment Bill has been amended in the House of Lords to require a historic, new legally binding target on species abundance for 2030 with the aim of halting the decline of nature in England.”

At first these words sound promising, but I have some concerns. The first is the need to ‘protect’. The UK is very near the bottom of the league table for biodiversity, we are one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, 189th out of 218. Halting the decline is hardly sufficient when we have so little left.

However, I would like to highlight four nature-based solutions that would benefit the UK. Firstly, the use of Regenerative Agriculture in which soil nourishment with organic matter is central to agricultural practice. There are exciting examples showing how this method has turned loss making farms into healthy and profitable ecosystems. Secondly, is the recovery of the UK’s woodlands to include native trees and 19% coverage of the UK land area. This will significantly increase biomass and habitats. Thirdly, an increase of 40,000 kilometres of hedgerow that would mitigate approximately 3% of the UK’s greenhouse emissions. Fourthly, and most exciting, the creation of new National Parks, such as the Somerset Levels, and the regeneration of current National Parks, to regain the lost populations of our native wildlife.

Action and restructuring are what is needed. We will need to see dramatic proposals to measure up to the problem and they will need to be specific in order to ensure their implementation. At best, nature-based solutions can only achieve 25% of what is needed, so it is essential that fossil fuel reduction is also a major part of the way ahead. Our hope is for a greener, healthier and more balanced world, where nature is allowed to thrive alongside human beings.

The Sid Valley Biodiversity Group has a stand in the Parish Church for the Science Festival Cop 26 Sustainable Market Day on October 16 where we will be glad to discuss any of these issues and where you can make a pledge to reduce climate change.