COP28: Delegates must give wildlife a seat at the table

Gavin Bruce, Chief Executive at International Animal Rescue, makes the case for habitat protection and biodiversity restoration to be priorities in all talks taking place at the world’s leading climate summit. 

As COP28 gathers pace, the urgency of addressing climate change has never been more apparent. However, it is crucial to recognise that climate change is not a standalone issue; it is intricately linked to biodiversity loss and, ultimately, the health and wellbeing of humanity. It is important to understand the critical role that conserving wildlife, habitats, nature, and ecosystems plays in mitigating climate change and safeguarding our shared future.

At COP28, we are hopeful world leaders will comtogether, representing their countries, and step up their commitments to slow global heating. They will also consider the funding and adaptations needed to support the communities most affected. The central question arises: is it right that wildlife does not have a voice at the table where decisions impacting the entire planet are made? Wildlife must be given due representation in these discussions. Wildlife must have a seat at the table.

International Animal Rescue (IAR) is leading the charge to ‘Give Wildlife A Seat At The Table,’ mobilising 10,000 voices to implore world leaders to prioritise wildlife and biodiversity during the discussions. As we stand at a critical crossroads in climate change, we must recognise the inextricable link between nature and climate.

This connection has been overlooked for far too long. IAR’s COP28 campaign has gained support from prominent figures such as Joanna Lumley, Peter Egan, and Jo Brand, who are joining forces with the organisation to address the urgent need for wildlife representation. The campaign aims to push world leaders to seriously consider the planet’s wildlife and the biodiversity crisis during these discussions.

The toll on people and wildlife from climate change is not a distant threat; its impacts are already being felt across the globe, affecting both human populations and wildlife. Communities are already experiencing the adverse effects of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, flooding, droughts and severe storms. Similarly, the changes to global weather patterns due to climate change pose direct threats to ecosystems worldwide.

These changes disrupt habitats, pushing hundreds of thousands of species to the brink of extinction. As ecosystems unravel, the intricate web of biodiversity is compromised, affecting the delicate balance that sustains life on Earth. We are now at a critical moment. This urgency is underscored by a year of record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events across the planet. COP28 serves as an evaluation of the progress since the promises made in Paris at COP21 and how effective these commitments have been in limiting long-term temperature rise.

International Animal Rescue envisions a world where humans and animals thrive together in sustainable ecosystems. Conserving biodiversity is not just about protecting endangered species; it’s about preserving the intricate web of life that sustains our planet. Healthy ecosystems, thriving with diverse plant and animal species, act as a natural buffer against climate change

IAR’s conservation programme, IARconserves, embraces a holistic, one-health approach. By adopting community-centric, grass-roots strategies, the outcomes positively impact people, wildlife and the environment. Through IARconserves, we have improved the health and prosperity of forest edge communities; in turn, this has reduced the environmental impact of human activity. By conserving wildlife and their habitats, forests are protected, ensuring that millions of tonnes of carbon remain stored in the flora and deep peat below. 

The IARconserves strategies are pivotal in restoring and protecting precious ecosystems, contributing to animal protection and conservation, and recognises the critical role of nature and biodiversity in addressing global climate challenges. Forests and oceans store a huge amount of carbon and sequester greenhouse gases; they are crucial in the fight to mitigate climate change. Preserving these precious ecosystems has to be a priority.

By working collaboratively with communities and nature, we can find sustainable long-term solutions. These projects prevent biodiversity loss and contribute significantly to global climate solutions by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The emphasis on collaboration with nature aligns with the broader goal of protecting our planet and ensuring the wellbeing of both humans and wildlife.

IAR’s community mangrove restoration project in western Borneo is an excellent example of how IARconserves has a transformative impact on people, wildlife and the environment. Coastal farms in this region face threats from rising sea levels, storm surges and saltwater crop devastation. Failed harvests drive activities with a detrimental impact on nature and the environment: slash and burn, illegal logging, and wildlife trade.

As carbon sinks, mangroves play a pivotal role in combating climate change. Their dense root systems trap carbon, contributing to global efforts to reduce emissions. Additionally, mangroves act as natural barriers, shielding coastal communities from extreme weather events, saltwater ingress, and erosion. Desalination within mangrove forests reduces risks to crops, preserving livelihoods in vulnerable coastal farming communities.

These biodiversity hotspots support diverse marine life and provide essential habitats for various species, contributing to the overall health of ecosystems. Mangroves also fortify the entire coastal ecosystem, fostering sustainability and environmental wellbeing.

Our community-based mangrove restoration project showcases the impact of local engagement in mitigating climate change, strengthening resilience, fostering biodiversity, and contributing to global ecosystem health.

In advocating for wildlife representation, IAR recognises that COP28 is not just about nations and policies but the shared responsibility of safeguarding our planet for future generations. ‘Give Wildlife A Seat At The Table’ is a call to action for individuals worldwide to contribute to this shared responsibility. By supporting the petition, everyone can play a part in urging world leaders to prioritise wildlife and biodiversity during COP28 discussions.

The success of this campaign hinges on collective action – individuals, communities, and nations coming together to advocate for a more sustainable and inclusive approach to climate discussions. It is imperative that the international community recognises the link between climate change, biodiversity loss, and human health. Conservation efforts must be elevated on the global agenda, with a commitment to preserving wildlife, habitats, nature, and ecosystems. By doing so, we not only mitigate the impacts of climate change but also foster a world where both human and non-human inhabitants can thrive.

The need is palpable; the time for action is now. IAR is calling on world leaders to consider the planet’s wildlife and biodiversity during the coming days seriously. With a target of 10,000 signatures on the petition, the campaign aims to ensure that the voices of wildlife are heard in decisions that affect all of us – people, animals, forests, and the entirety of our interconnected ecosystems. You can add your name here.

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