Mother Nature, or “PachamamaAs they say in Latin America, took center stage as the key UN climate conference reached its midpoint.
Nature is essential to our survival: it provides the oxygen we need to breathe, regulates weather conditions, provides food and water for all living things, and is home to countless species of wildlife and the ecosystems they need to survive.
According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), human activity has disturbed nearly 75% of the earth’s surface and put some one million animal and plant species on the endangered species list.
We have overexploited nature’s resources, deforested land for agriculture and ranching, while climate change is now exacerbating this process faster than ever, increasing erosion and desertification.
The oceans have become polluted, which absorb about a third of our carbon emissions, meaning they lose the ability to be “climate change buffers”, according to the United Nations scientific agency, UNESCO.
It’s clear humanity is “a war against nature”, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has repeatedly stated in recent months, calling for greater action.
“We can’t keep pushing nature into a corner and expect it to live up to it. We want it to sequester carbon, provide buffers for heavy storms and mangroves, and be the lungs of the world.
“But when we play with nature, nature will send us these bills in the form of more intense storms, more fires, more heat waves and more droughts,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said on Saturday. , to UN News at COP26.
UN Costa Rica / Roberto Salazar
Call for nature-based solutions
To resolve climate change cannot happen without solving the challenge of biodiversity loss and degraded ecosystems, heard a high-level panel which included Ms Andersen.
She called for unity and cooperation to find the solutions needed to restore nature and fight climate change.
“The socio-economic transformations we need will only happen when we reset our relationship with nature, understanding that we can no longer invest in what harms our planet,” she said.
As countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a strong push for nature-based solutions to climate change, and in terms of helping economic recovery. These are initiatives that benefit nature and people, the head of UNEP told UN News.
“How can nature help us, and how can we help nature… There are two billion hectares of degraded land and we all need to eat. So the question is whether we are going to cut down virgin forests, or restore this land to a working landscape, ”she stressed.
Protect the original nature experts
No one knows more about how best to protect nature than the world’s indigenous peoples, who have been very active inside and outside the COP venue in Glasgow this week, working to influence the negotiations of all possible ways, including street protests.
“Indigenous culture teaches us to respect the rivers, lakes, plants, animals and spiritual beings that live in these places. You cannot solve the climate crisis without including indigenous peoples and without protecting their territoriesActivist Eloy Terena told UN News.
UN News also met at COP26 Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, who recalled that indigenous communities are really the experts to live in harmony with nature, one of the reasons fundamental for which their territories currently contain 80% of biodiversity.
“We are really using nature to solve all of our problems of food security, water or climate change and other services and we have done it in a way that does not destroy nature, so we have a lot to share with the ruling world and we need support to prevent governments from criminalizing us, protecting our territories, ”she stressed.
The international environmental activist said that while indigenous communities have strict laws and customs, to protect nature, states have conflicting laws.
“For example, in the Philippines we have an indigenous peoples rights law, but we also have the mining law and an investment agreement that pushes them to extract our resources,” she said.
Ms. Tauli-Corpuz explained that during the COP, indigenous representatives are evolving their strategy to influence some of the decisions that will be made by the end of the week, including Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which will set rules for carbon markets and other forms of international cooperation.
“The push is to really say that we cannot have market-based mechanisms if they violate the rights of indigenous peoples.”
UN News / Laura Quiñones
Life or death
Although ancestral communities contribute almost zero to climate change, they have become one of its most vulnerable victims.
Daniela Balaguera comes from the indigenous Arhuaco community in northern Colombia. An ancestral indigenous tribe that lives in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, an isolated mountain range separate from the Andes, which runs through the center of the country and serves as the source for 36 different rivers downstream.
“Our lands are meant to be sacred, they’re meant for environmental conservation, but they’re not really treated that way and that’s where we need to dig deeper. If these are protected areas, they must be given the guarantees and rights that have been recognized but that they are not exercising, ”she said.
For her, and many other activists who expressed their voice at the COP, climate change is a matter of life and death.
“We are threatened with the second extinction of our cultural practices, which is extremely worrying because it would be the second massacre, the second annihilation of our people,” she said.
UN News / Grace Barrett
Ms Balaguera’s concerns are echoed in the streets of Glasgow this Saturday, and in many other parts of the world such as London and Paris, where activists from all ages and all walks of life have called for a Global Day of Action.
Meanwhile, the COP hosts announced that 45 governments are pledging to take urgent action and invest to protect nature and shift to more sustainable modes of agriculture.
The new commitment aims to transform agriculture and food systems through policy reforms, research and innovation, to reduce emissions and protect nature, while securing food and jobs.
This includes taking advantage of $ 4 billion in new public sector investment in agricultural innovation, including the development of climate-resilient crops and regenerative solutions to improve soil health, thereby helping to make these techniques and resources affordable and accessible to hundreds of millions of farmers.
About a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land uses.
COP26 President Alok Sharma also announced on Saturday that the Glasgow Forest Declaration presented earlier this week, has now been signed by 130 countries, covering 93 percent of global forest cover.
He briefed journalists on the ongoing negotiations at COP26, informing them that many agreements have been reached, on topics such as gender, agriculture and national adaptation.