COP26 was seen by many as our last chance to avoid irreparable climate damage, says Dr Renuka Thakore, lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire.
Our world leaders made promises, including the consensus agreement to knuckle down on climate targets to keep average global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees a year. This was thought to be crucial if the world was to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, but only around 30 countries remained on target.
A year later, with a global economic crisis looming, adding to soaring energy costs and political conflicts worldwide, 200 leaders gathered in Egypt for the COP27 climate summit. Key priorities from the discussions included funding for ‘loss and damage’ for countries worst affected by climate impacts and a renewed focus on cutting emissions.
Following the conference, there are still many things that world leaders need to prioritise if we are to tackle the climate crisis.
Why we should be prioritising life sciences
Living things must be at the centre of our decision-making when considering the planet – whether that’s plants, animals, or humans. The drive for sustainability must be underpinned by multiple disciplines within life sciences, from anthropology, ecology and zoology to neuroscience and microbiology.
We must study the interwoven links between the living and non-living world. Assessing nature’s cycles, such as food chains, water, and natural gas cycles, and how these depend on living ecosystems will help us to understand their impact on global warming and their role in limiting it to 1.5 degrees.
Increasing global warming and degrading environmental capital will impact the health of living things. To move forward sustainably, the life sciences sector must work with health science to focus on the discovery, treatment and preservation of animals and humans in association with managing the planet’s health.
Collaboration is key
Climate conversations should consider the security of basic human needs such as food, water, and land. We must think in the long term. This means replenishing the soil, preventing failing crops, and growing resilient climate crops that withstand changing conditions. Reversing soil degradation is a global concern, as soil health is a universal asset for every living thing. The way forward is to scale regenerative agriculture to create positive outcomes for farmers, nature, and the climate.
Large-scale action to protect our collective future will require community engagement and international measuring and monitoring. Speaking to those who know the local land must be included in development programmes. Engaging all stakeholders in decision-making for the public good is necessary to lessen climate inequalities. For example, climate hotspots such as the Maldives or areas of food insecurity in Africa are suffering some of the worst effects of climate change. We must accelerate action in these areas.
As we have seen in COP27 and previous climate summits, managing climate change is not the responsibility of one individual or country. We need systematic change in all societal systems, across every industry and process. Everyone must be educated on how their own actions impact climate change.
One idea for creating wide-spread awareness and accountability to drive change is to create an open-source database to give everyone access to important information about solving the climate crisis.
Technologies such as the Global System Integrator (GSI) are helping researchers collaborate to collect environmental data. Scientists will need advanced skills to analyse and translate the research findings into policies that global leaders can take into action.
What comes next?
World leaders, individual governments, and local communities across the world must engage with each other to co-create solutions for long term and sustainable change. The race to Net Zero, while a daunting challenge, also poses an opportunity. It is a chance for the world to work collaboratively towards a common goal for the betterment of everyone.
If countries can work together, and stick to the agreements and made at COP27, there is still hope that we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change and create a sustainable future.
About the author
Renuka is the Founder of Global Sustainable Futures: Progress through Partnership Network and has been recognised with the Development Leadership: Governor Enrique Tomás Cresto Award 2022, and Global SDG’s Women Ambassador Award 2022.