Thought leadership from around the globe

Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting: ‘The situation is urgent’

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The United Nations Secretary General, together with the Government of the United Arab Emirates, is hosting an important climate meeting that begins in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. This gathering of government ministers – together with leaders from the business, indigenous and civil society communities – has attracted little fanfare outside of the climate policy world – as it is seen merely as a preparatory meeting for the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit happening later in the year. But make no mistake, this meeting marks a critical milestone in the global struggle against climate change.

We can expect Secretary General António Guterres to deliver a set of challenging marching orders to the participants at the Emirates Palace in the search for solutions of a scale commensurate with the challenge of climate change. The situation is urgent. In many major economies, emissions continue to grow and time is running out for us to take the action needed to keep the rise in global temperature below 2 degrees – the goal set by the Paris Agreement.

Unfortunately, the current commitments that countries have made to reduce emissions will not achieve this goal and, in fact, are leading us to a world that will be at least 3 degrees warmer by the end of the century. On top of this, the finance that’s needed to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change has not yet come close to the US$100 billion a year promised by the developed world.

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How Scots can help nature hold back global warming

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Declaring a climate emergency is no small thing. Not only does it acknowledge the scale of the threat, it also calls us to arms, saying that a piecemeal approach of a little bit here, a little bit there is no longer sufficient.

Nothing could be truer when it comes to the massive shifts in investment needed. The Finance for Nature Summit hosted by the Scottish Government in Edinburgh last week was a timely response to the declaration of emergency, recognizing the critical role finance must play in driving the change and innovation needed to transition our economies to a post-fossil fuel future within a generation.

Roseanna Cunningham, the Climate Change Secretary, recently said that responding to this crisis means rewiring the nation’s psyche. And she’s right. Eliminating Scotland’s contribution to global warming by 2045, five years earlier than the rest of the UK, will be no easy feat. It will require big economic, social, political and financial shifts to rapidly and dramatically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases poured into the atmosphere. But, as the saying goes, nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. Scotland is showing the world what climate leadership looks like and many others need to follow +our lead.

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Nature can be an ally against climate change

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Canada is not a climate leader. Just ask the hundreds of thousands of young people who went on strike from school on March 15 to protest Canada’s lack of climate action, joining over one million youth in 128 countries across the world. Tens of thousands of youth marched in Montreal alone. And we have no intention of slowing down.

We have no choice. The bad-news reports are never-ending. It seems like new and ever more devastating details about the climate and ecological crises emerge each day. And we know that unless political leaders urgently recalibrate the scale of our response, young people will be locked into a future that is almost too terrifying to contemplate. Our demand is simple: We expect those in power to take the action needed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over that of the pre-industrial age — rather than the four degrees of warming we’re on track for. We expect action that follows science and enshrines justice.

Here’s the good news: natural climate solutions are cost-effective, scalable and available now. Protecting, restoring and managing natural systems can, together with urgent action on other fronts, significantly contribute to climate action. In fact, by enhancing the ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it, natural climate solutions like conserving, restoring and managing forests; improving agricultural practices; protecting peatlands and restoring wetlands have the potential to contribute to 33 per cent of Canada’s emission-reduction targets and provide one-third of the climate solutions needed by 2030 worldwide.

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What will we say to our grandchildren, as we dither over the solution to arrest climate change that lays before our eyes?

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If temperatures are allowed to rise past 1.5ºC, island countries like ours will be in grave danger, with some facing the grim prospect of being wiped off the map by rising seas. The climate impacts will affect millions of people around the world, in both developed and developing nations.

We also now know that it is already too late to keep warming to 1.5ºC by reducing global emissions alone. If we hope to meet the 1.5-degree target and save our countries from devastating impacts, we must find ways to actively remove from the air a large amount of carbon dioxide that has already been emitted.

There are a number of ideas that involve human-engineered technology. These are still in the early stages of development, and we need to continue to explore their ultimate potential. But there is a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere right now. It is to use what are called “natural” or “nature-based” climate solutions.

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