Before the COP26 summit which is being held in the UK from the 31st October to the 12th November, the UK have announced a new plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions. The main concentration being increased funding into the transportation industry aimed at transforming toward electrical vehicles. Whether this will be a considerable change in the right direction or just another empty promise is obviously yet to be determined.
Earlier in the year the UK had plans to open a new coal mine which is quite contradictory to the COP26 summit that they are hosting this year. As the agenda of government and business is always difficult to determine without direct involvement in these areas, hopefully we can see more urgency and action from the COP26 summit being held at the end of this month.
‘Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter‘ – http://www.worldwildlife.org
Illegal deforestation and the consequences of global warming continue to destroy our planet, making biodiversity harder to find on Earth. The natural world is interconnected through millions of complex relationships which depend upon lots of different species. With less biodiverse landscapes these relationships become unstable, creating mass extinction events such as the one we are currently witnessing. However, rewilding projects strive to amend this issue by recreating natural and biodiverse landscapes to help stabilise what we have destroyed. Below I have outlined some of the characteristics that create a biodiverse landscape.
Genetic diversity This focuses on the variety of different genetic material within a species population. Greater genetic diversity means a population will have an easier time adapting to environmental issues. This characteristic, like others, being essential for endangered species and conservation efforts. Although, some argue that due to the unpredictable climate, species cannot adapt fast enough to keep up with the environmental pressures.
Ecosystem diversity This is essentially the different biomes across the planet which hold specific climates with species directly related to that climate. For example, a tropical climate might hold more insects and exotic plants compared to a colder climate such as Antarctica.
Species diversity This is the variety of different species found in the area which is being researched or maintained. This can range from a species of bird to a certain species of tree. Establishing a balance is key to maintaining a biodiverse landscape, without this the ecosystem becomes unstable. For example, palm oil plantations in Indonesia are detrimental to the local ecosystem as they only consist of one species of tree which creates an imbalance of species diversity.
Functional diversity Can be summarised as the biological and chemical processes needed for the survival of species and ecosystems. For example, the nitrogen cycle or the carbon cycle.
Some of the most biodiverse places on Earth will share all these characteristics to varying degree. Unfortunately, due to the state of the natural world caused by human behaviour over the last two centuries these rich natural environments are declining at unprecedented rates. Therefore, It is important we understand what is meant by biodiversity and why it is needed if we are to aim at repairing the natural world.
This landmark court case, which took place in the Netherlands, came to the conclusion that the oil company Shell had to cut their CO2 emissions in half by 2030.
The main reason why this is so phenomenal is due to the fact that this is the first instance of a company being legally mandated to the environmental policies of the Paris Agreement.
‘The environmental group brought the case to court in 2019, alongside six other bodies and more than 17,000 Dutch citizens’ – BBC News
Although this only applies in the Netherlands, there is hope that this will now encourage more countries to legally hold big oil and gas companies responsible for their harmful environmental practices.
Marine protected areas or no-take zones are areas designated by government where no extractive activity is allowed by law. Such activity includes hunting, fishing, logging, mining and drilling. These zones do not just apply to areas of water on certain oceans but also to bodies of water on land such as certain lakes or rivers. Unfortunately, these zones are often rare as sporting or commercial fishing often make up a large percentage of industry for coastal areas. No-take zones are often used to protect the spawning grounds for different marine life to prevent population extinction and conserve wildlife.
Due to current issues such as overfishing, the surreal amount of plastic in the ocean and decaying coral reefs; the importance of these protected areas are becoming more necessary as we progress through the 21st century. Therefore, it is integral that the benefits of these zones are understood so that we can increase their use and help protect marine life from further degradation.
One of the major benefits of marine protected areas is obviously the increase in population size for all marine life. With nature allowed to reinstate itself, a healthy ecosystem is allowed to reform for the most part. These pockets of sustainable life help repair an ocean which is currently being riddled with plastic and overfished.
Some may feel that this is a considerable loss for the fishing industry or unfair to isolated fishing villages with no other source of livelihood. However, this is not the case at all. In time, as the population sizes grow in these marine protected areas, spill over occurs where different populations of marine life start to migrate. Therefore, allowing the continued fishing of these different species in the non-protected areas whilst also allowing a sustainable area to thrive.
Currently, only 2.7% of the ocean globally is protected. Protected areas are sporadically increasing however, with areas such as the Great Barrier Reef to smaller areas consisting in and around the United Kingdom. An atlas overview of the different areas can be found here.
In summary, as information on climate change continues to spread, one thing that is certain is that we need to start living more cooperatively with nature because if we continue to progress destructively without thought for other life then this will ultimately be the very thing which stops our progression altogether.
Spreading the message and having the best intentions is a start but without action no important change can happen in the limited window we have left. There are many different ways different companies take action on climate change, some as a case of greenwashing, but others have more honest intentions.
As well as companies, nations also have a responsibility to the environment, Climate Action Tracker helps track each country and determines whether it is on track with the 2015 Paris Agreement. Furthermore, I have picked out some interesting companies that are directly linked to conservation and climate action.
They take action on environmental harm and climate change in a multitude of different ways, one of those being boulder drops into the ocean. By dropping large boulders into the ocean, this creates a barrier from industrial fishing ships, as a result protecting marine life and ecosystems.
Currently scheduled to hold many forums and summits throughout the year tackling the key issues surrounding climate change. Also, they raise the questions on what action can be taken against these issues and the most efficient ways to achieve these actions.
Rewilding Britain are actively involved in rewilding and conservation by supporting landowners, publishing research and petitions for policy change. They are a small company which only started five years ago but provide a lot in terms of information and action.
Conservation international focus primarily on the conservation of wild areas and restoring biodiversity to deprived areas of land. Their goals include reducing carbon in the atmosphere, secure ecosystems which act as carbon traps, ensure all mangroves are protected and protecting rainforests. They work in countries such as Kenya, Peru, Bolivia and Colombia.
Making your home more sustainable can be achieved in various ways and can introduce some interesting and exciting new ideas. Below are some practical ideas as well as some experimental prototypes.
Sustainable heating systems: Switching from a gas boiler can improve the sustainability of your home and in some cases save you money. If you would like more detailed information then check the hyperlink above. Three alternative heating systems I found from the website were the electrical resistance heating, biomass boilers and ground source heat pumps.
Sustainable water systems: Again, for more in-depth information follow the hyperlink in the title. One important point I found from the website was that two central branches for sustainable water involve introducing water-efficient devices and/or using alternative water sources to supply the household.
Tesla solar panelroofing: This involves replacing typical roof tiles with roof tiles that are also solar panels. Efficient as they maximise the space a roof can capture solar energy whilst demonstrating a modern style.
Solar panel windows: A new innovative design that replaces normal windows with clear solar panel windows. This idea is still in its infancy and being tested but could prove to be a valuable investment. Given time for transition, with enough buildings installing solar windows this could alleviate our dependence on fossil fuels for energy usage.
Growing your ownfood: This is a fun and relatively easy way to reduce your dependence on supermarkets, all it takes is a little patience and saves a little money. Plastic used by supermarkets creates a lot of waste and vegetables tend to always be packaged in plastic wrapping. If you’re growing food indoors, growing near a window seal is beneficial or using artificial lights. Regardless of where you decide to grow your plants, there are sustainable techniques to growing food that are universal. Different techniques involve composting green waste, saving seeds from vegetables and mulching. Growing your own food whether in little pots by your window or in big planters in the garden is a simple solution toward being more sustainable.
Hopefully this post offers some insight on how to make your home more sustainable, given you an activity to do during lockdown or at the very least been an interesting read.
Whilst forests play an important part in maintaining habitats and provide carbon traps, bees help pollinate the food we eat as well as the trees and plants that make up forests. We rely on them to maintain a biodiverse landscape as well as pollinate 90% of food worldwide.
We are experiencing a global decline in bee diversity and population which is a serious issue as they pollinate a large percentage of our food supply. The reasons for this loss can vary depending of geographical location. Generally, bee population decline is due to the use of pesticides, such as the ones recently allowed in the UK. Climate change also disrupts bee populations from unstable plant diversity and unpredictable weather patterns. Finally, monoculture such as palm oil plantations presents a lack of biodiversity and commercial development both impact bee populations and their chances of survival.
There are many different ways the bee population can be restored. For example, the National Wildlife Federation has comprised a list of six different solutions:
Plant natives – These are accustom to your local ecosystem, provide bees with sustainable food and do not require fertilizer.
New garden areas – Add new garden beds and encourage others to plant more flowers.
Organic – Refrain from using insecticides and chemicals in your garden.
Water – Place shallow pools of water in your garden for bees and other pollinators to thrive.
Nesting places – Create nesting places in your garden to increase the likelihood of the bee population increasing.
Responsibility – Raise awareness of the issue and inspire others to follow the same list of resolutions.
Others suggest planting bee friendly plants to adhere more to their needs or even going further and advocating for bee protection at different levels of government.
‘Slowing down and even reversing habitat destruction and land-conversion to intensive uses, implementation of environmentally friendly schemes in agricultural and urban settings, and programs to flower our world are urgently required. Bees cannot wait’ – Zattara, E. Aizen, M. (2021)
No matter what we decide to do in resolving this growing issue, it is undoubtedly vital that bees and other pollinators populations increase otherwise our food security and biodiversity of the planet will severely suffer.
Scientists Warning Europe (SWE) have written a letter to UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, urging him to cut the carbon neutral target by 20 years to 2030. The letter was backed by 20 renowned scientists, involving people affiliated with UNFCC and the IPCC. Demonstrating that more is needed in these desperate times in order to prevent the worse case scenarios from happening in the coming years.
Sustainable forest management can be defined as ‘outcomes that are socially just, ecologically sound and economically viable – the three pillars of sustainability‘. Each pillar is needed in order for a forests to thrive, if one of these pillars is missing a forest cannot be protected.
Depending on the type of forest that is being managed, such as a rainforest or a boreal forest, the management of that forest will vary. Management needs to be specific to the type of ecosystem that the forest resides, tailor to the legal framework and socio-cultural aspects depending on what nation the forest is found in. Although, there are objective requirements that all forests should include.
Climate change can present many uncertainties when managing forests, therefore a forest should be adapting to promote resilience against the threat of droughts, damage from pests, diseases and wild fire. One way this can be achieved is by practicing silviculture, which consists of controlling the structure and dynamics of a forest. In managing a forest one needs to take an adaptive approach as the climate is constantly changing. Additionally, aside from climate change other influences may include timber prices, land use change and recreational use. There are often extreme conditions one may have to plan for as well, such as extreme drought or rainfall, these are conditions that may need individual and adaptive plans for these issues.
‘Adaptive management is an iterative process in which it is important to test new systems and ideas and judge how these perform under extreme climatic conditions’ – Climate change: impacts and adaptation in England’s woodlands
It is important to focus on why and how a forest needs to be managed but also on the adaptive measures that need to be facilitated in order to prevent these issues from destroying forests.
Current research suggest that the adaptation of forests must be tailored to local communities. This is important as adaptations strategies vary among geographical location and the type of forest present.
Some strategies involve planting drought-resistant trees to provide food security and reduce erosion. Other strategies invest in forest genetic research and breeding programmes. This improves forestry growth rates and resilience to disease. Alternatively, focusing on restoring biodiversity can increase the resilience of an ecosystem and restore habitat loss.
Local adaptation methods may involve maintaining the quality of water surrounding a forest. In dry regions, sourcing scarce water sources can help maintain a forest by providing healthy sustenance. Another local strategy may be encouraging the increase of rare species of a certain tree to make the population more abundant. This can help particularly if that certain species is a valuable asset to the local community. However, local strategies has its limitations as local information is rarely documented and often preserved for a few members of the community. Also, a globalised market can impact the infrastructure of a local self-sufficient rural community.
In summary, adapting forests for climate change cannot be solved with one over-arching solution. Each forest, depending on region, will need to have specific adaptation strategies specific to that region. As climate change is a complex issue with unpredictable outcomes, adapting for a worst case scenario may be as complex as the issue itself. Therefore, in order to enable sustainable strategies which maintain the health of a forest, it is important to plan and put systems in place to better enable these adaptive strategies.
The Bank of England has been criticised for funding carbon-intensive companies during the pandemic. The Environmental Audit Committee has stated that companies should disclose their climate related activities when receiving funding.
Many of the 230 companies which have received funding are said to produce a lot of carbon emissions. Since June 2020, it has been estimated that 56% of Covid funding has been allocated to high carbon sectors.