International Christian conservation network calls for all countries to include Nature-based Solutions for climate change in their national climate plans and to ensure that local communities are fully involved.
- National climate plans (or NDCs) fail to include nature-based solutions sufficiently
- Money pledged in the first week of COP26 to end deforestation is a fraction of what is needed
- Indigenous Peoples and local communities are largely excluded from global climate negotiations
- Mining threatens the pristine Atewa Forest in Ghana, with its globally threatened and endemic species, and with adverse consequences for local community in Ghana
Glasgow, 5 November 2021. Today, international Christian conservation network A Rocha publishes a special briefing paper on nature-based solutions (NbS), providing detailed recommendations to governments at COP26 on including nature-based solutions in their national climate plans, and ensuring that local communities are fully involved in planning.
This is the first time that nature-based solutions (NbS) will feature prominently in discussions at a major global climate summit, with a dedicated ‘Nature Day’ taking place at COP on Saturday 6 November. COP26 has firmly established the restoration of ecosystems and habitats at the heart of climate policy making, with forest restoration and financing of nature solutions featuring strongly in the first week of negotiations. However, at least 30 countries make no reference to them at all in their updated plans to address climate change (‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ or NDCs) which they are required to submit at this COP in compliance with the 2015 Paris Agreement. Many others have only weak reference to this major avenue of addressing both climate and biodiversity loss together.
At the same time, Indigenous Peoples and local communities are justifiably complaining that they have been excluded from the negotiation of agreements that are being made at COP, such as the new agreement to end deforestation by 2030.
A Rocha – a family of Christian nature conservation organizations in 22 countries – has published a briefing paper on NbS with detailed recommendations to governments at COP26, available at https://www.arocha.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Nature-based-Solutions-to-climate-change-A-Rocha-worldwide-family-position-October-2021.pdf
During the first week of COP26, the focus has been on support for forest conservation and restoration, and on finance for climate mitigation and adaptation. A new agreement on forests has been promised by over 100 countries in which the nations pledge to end deforestation by 2030 and invest finance for a future that will secure forests for people and wildlife. While countries have pledged before to end deforestation, this time the agreement comes with finance for safeguarding forests. Twelve donor countries have pledged over $12 billion and a further $7 billion will come from philanthropy. But the money pledged is a fraction of what is needed; the sum of money needed to restore degraded forests and savannah in Africa alone would total at least $350 million annually according to some recent estimates; without immediate action at scale the costs could escalate rapidly.
But it is not just the lack of finances that is of concern. Andy Atkins, CEO of A Rocha UK says: ‘Conservation cannot succeed through imposed, top-down approaches. To be long-lasting, Indigenous Peoples and local communities must be empowered to drive conservation and nature regeneration on their own lands. Yet all too often they are excluded from global negotiations. Agreements being made at COP26 will simply founder without the owners and custodians of the land being fully involved’. Governments will soon be negotiating targets for the conservation of nature at COP15 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Bryony Loveless, Policy Researcher at A Rocha International says “It is essential that governments give the same priority to tackling biodiversity loss as they do to addressing climate change – otherwise we will lose both fights”.
A live current example of pristine forest threatened with destruction is the Atewa Forest in Ghana. Local people are calling for the forest to be made a National Park, to secure the safety nets of community livelihood and well-being. Seth Appiah-Kubi, National Director of A Rocha Ghana (and present at COP26) is leading the campaign to save it. He explains “Atewa is threatened by the proposed development of a major bauxite mine. Currently, Atewa is not just home to an incredible diversity of wildlife, including many threatened species (some of which occur nowhere else) but also provides fresh water to over 5 million people from rivers that rise in, and are fed by, the rainforest. Our government must listen to local people and call off the mining plans. Signing agreements to end deforestation by 2030 is meaningless if it proceeds with its destructive plans”.
Andy Lester, Head of Conservation at A Rocha UK, said “Nature-based Solutions are all about places like Atewa. This amazing forest can only be saved by addressing community, conservation and climate needs simultaneously. Moreover, if we are serious about combating climate change, then governments need to realize that places like Atewa can no longer be cleared for purposes such as mining. To avoid catastrophic climate change, we still have to slash global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use and protect remaining forests.