COP28 outcome is fertile ground for nature

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Dear Planetary Steward, Dear friend of the Global Commons Alliance,

The above quote is commentary from Johan Rockström on the outcome from Dubai delivered earlier today.  I chose to start this letter with his statement because this was, for many, the COP media dubbed as ‘Big Oil vs Science. Science showed up in force, thanks in large part to efforts from within our community, and the closing statements from Parties in the plenary were a reminder of just how important that has been. Without their voices, we would likely have had a far weaker outcome.

Still, the gavel came down on a compromise. The wins for future generations from this snapshot in time may be small, but the fact that a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels was included in the outcome text is significant and should be celebrated, particularly in light of the controversial context from which they sprung: a COP more steeped in the influence of OPEC and the fossil fuel lobby than any that have gone before.

There’s also a significant reflection of the need for integrated, multi-sectoral solutions which include nature and ecosystem restoration and management.  In particular the text “Further emphasizes the importance of conserving, protecting and restoring nature and ecosystems towards achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goal [ ….], while ensuring social and environmental safeguards, in line with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework”.

Let’s also remember that words on paper, no matter how significant, aren’t the only keys to change. There were many positive outcomes from this  COP, including on Loss and Damagemethane, and pivotal breakthroughs on freshwater, oceans and mangroves. Twenty one countries formally endorsed the Mangrove Breakthrough that aims to restore and protect 15 million hectares of mangroves globally by 2030 giving us a glimpse of what is still possible on the ground. Thirty-three countries signed up to the Freshwater Challenge, which aims to ensure 300,000 kilometers of degraded rivers and 350 million hectares of degraded wetlands are committed to restoration by 2030. Also, after 27 years of waiting, food system change is finally on the agenda too, integrated with nature, water and equity.  These are just a few parts of the vast and potentially transformative action agenda at play, which will contribute greatly to Earth’s resilience.

Let’s not forget that eight billion people are still on the frontlines of potentially catastrophic tipping points. The Small Island States, who said they’ve been failed by this process, vulnerable people already suffering the impacts of the hottest year on record, and ecosystems devastated through pollution, deforestation, drainage and land conversion, are right on the edge of those tipping points, which are not built into any climate models.

Only holistic action – across all sectors at all scales and grounded in social justice  – offers any foundation of hope that we can still move toward a safe and just world. That action is already happening and I heard about it in spades in the conference halls of Expo City. I was profoundly moved by the calls to action and stories I heard from young people, Indigenous peoples and local communities, about the coalitions they are forming and the action they’re taking in cities and across landscapes.  They all shared  beautiful visions and examples of change that show us a better world is possible. They demonstrated the power that comes from connecting traditional knowledge with cutting-edge science. There is determination and growing confidence to push action from the ground upwards and connect local successes to make a global difference.

Thank you to all who’ve worked so hard to drive forward against the most intense headwinds. We are gathering momentum. Now it’s time for a short rest ahead of another critical year of mobilization to safeguard the global commons.

With all my best wishes,


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