The top four British environmental groups say Brexit is a “once in a generation opportunity” to change the direction of the huge decline in Britain’s wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, WWF UK and RSPB all say that the UK’s countryside is “key to our identity as a nation”. The charities urged the government to repeal the heavily criticised EU Common Agricultural Policy subsidy with a British subsidy that would pay farmers in the UK to maintain high environmental standards.
Farmers complain they haven’t been consulted
The National Farmers Union says its members understand exactly how important it is to ensure the environment remains protected, however it added that some organisations were making suggestions about agricultural policy without first speaking to stakeholders. For their part the four conservation groups issued a joint statement called a new policy for our countryside which said that Britain’s exit from the EU “will be one of the most defining events for farming and our environment in living memory”.
“[It] provides an unprecedented opportunity to revitalise our countryside in a way that balances the needs of everyone, for generations to come. Our vision is for a thriving, healthy countryside that delivers multiple benefits for society. As well as products such as food and timber, we need the natural environment to provide services like clean water and healthy soils, and the benefits to our wellbeing that contact with abundant and diverse nature brings. In turn, these services play a key role in supporting a prosperous rural economy.”
Long term future at stake
The groups argue that the long-term future of farming is at stake if the natural systems around which it is based are not replenished. Farmland covers over 75 per cent of the UK, farmers are in a unique position to help with ensuring the UK meets the challenge of restoring nature. The charities have also called for the creation of an independent commission which would be set up to develop policy as well as the drawing up of a 25-year plan.
The government needs to be brave
Steve Trotter director of The Wildlife Trusts in England says that wildlife is a critical part of what makes the countryside so special. He argues that the government needs to be brave and take a revolutionary approach to the way subsidies are used to deliver things that we require from a healthy countryside. This includes clean water, beautiful landscapes and nutritious food. He adds that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the government to develop policy to help reverse the huge decline in wildlife and we should not miss it.
If you are someone who believes there is no reason to worry about climate change because its effects won’t be felt for ages you would be dead wrong. It doesn’t matter what you care about, the fact of the matter is that the impact of climate change is being felt everywhere today. There is some good news though, there is still time to make enough of a difference so that it doesn’t get worse in the future. Here are five reasons why we should care about climate change.
1. Because snow leopards, turtles and polar bears are awesome
It should come as no surprise has big implications for animals all over the world. This means if you care about amazing species you should be concerned about climate change. A hotter planet means that animals will find it increasingly difficult to come by food. A world which doesn’t care about deforestation means animals will find it ever harder to survive. WWF places a lot of emphasis on climate change because so much of the natural world is affected by it – everything from wonderful species to stunning habitats such as the Amazon.
2. Because we all need access to clean water
Nearly ten per cent of the world’s population lack access to clean drinking water. We don’t think of water as being precious, but it has limited availability in many parts of the world. Climate change means this situation is only going to get worse. As the planet heats up the water cycle will be destabilised and this means some parts of the world will experience more frequent droughts whilst other parts will see more intense rainfall which will result in floods.
3. Because you need your coffee fix each morning
According to a recently released report on climate change from the United Nations, the world’s supply of coffee beans could shrink due to global warming. If this is not enough to worry you then we don’t know what is. Crops need specific climates to grow and thrive. If this changes then some crops will stop growing in areas where they previously used too.
4. Because coral reefs are amazing
Who didn’t love the film Finding Nemo? Climate change poses a huge threat to Nemo’s home. Warmer ocean temperatures will result in the bleaching of coral. This is a process whereby the coral loses all of its beautiful colour and ends up dying. This is terrible news for diving fans, not to mention the fish in the sea.
5. Because rainforests are incredible
One of the planet’s more precious habitats are the rainforests. These spectacular areas are often referred to as the Earth’s lungs. They are really amazing. Did you know that the Amazon serves as home to 1 in 10 of all of the planets species? This makes the rainforests both unique and irreplaceable. Deforestation is a major cause of climate change and is extremely bad news for rainforests.
At the end of last year, something truly incredible happened. As many as 190 countries agreed to a ground breaking deal to act against climate change. The countries of the world decided that it was important that global temperature rises should be kept to well below 2°C and in fact it is important that the temperature rise should be below 1.5°C. Currently when we add up all the commitments made by individual countries to reduce emissions, we are still not quite at the target but there are plenty of reasons why we should celebrate the agreement.
- The countries that signed the agreement have promised to fight against climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. This means that fossil fuels will start to be phased out as the world migrates to renewable energy and protects its forests.
- Over time the countries that participate will have to strengthen their promises and this means doing so in advance of 2020 when the agreement comes in to effect. In fact it is critical they do so if we are to keep the rise in temperature below 2°C.
- The agreement means that developing countries that are vulnerable to climate change will get the support they need.
So what now?
Make no mistake COP21 was a huge step in the fight to protect our planet from being ravaged by climate change. Now we have finished with negotiating a deal, WWF says it is time for action by all governments that participated in the deal. In many ways the UK is leading the way with its world leading Climate Change Act which made it the first country to commit to phasing out coal power. Whilst all of that is good news there is still much more to be done.
WWF hopes to see that there is real certainty that the UK and the rest of the world is heading towards a future that is based on renewable energy. It is possible that by 2050 the world will be able to derive 100 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources but in order to so we will need ambitious policy from our governments to get us there.
WWF is supporting scientists working in the polar region who are studying Adélie penguins in East Antarctica. The object of the exercise is to identify the areas of the Southern Ocean which act as important feeding grounds for the species. The researchers also hope to predict how the species might adapt to climate change. The results of the study will be used as evidence to support the case for a large scale Marine Protected Area of the coast of East Antarctica.
Data suggests some important trends
So far the study has collected three years of tracking data and Dr. Yan Ropert-Coudert who heads up the research project says there are some important trends that are emerging. Female Adélie penguins were tagged with GPS tracking devices whilst they were incubating their eggs. The following results were found. During the 2013/2014 austral summer, the breeding effort suffered from catastrophic failure with none of the chicks surviving from as many as 30,000 breeding pairs. There were a couple of factors responsible:
- During the beginning of the breeding season, the sea ice extent was unusually high.
- There were multiple days of rain which is extremely rare in what is one of the driest places on Earth (Antarctica is officially classified as a polar desert)
When penguins first hatch, their feathers are not yet waterproof so the unusual rainfall led them to die from hypothermia. The high extent of the sea ice meant that adult penguins were forced to travel much further to forage in the open sea. In some cases the distance was as much as 453 km. In previous seasons penguins were able to feed closer to shore and travelled just 335 km.
WWF making an important contribution
WWF is making an important contribution to conservation efforts whilst Dr. Ropert-Coudert and his team are enabling us to gain a better understanding of penguins and their habitat. WWF will continue to advocate for a network of Marine Protected Areas around the Southern Ocean to ensure that Adélie penguins in East Antarctica have their homes protected.
How can you help?
You can help WWF secure the future for this wonderful species. All you need to do is make a small donation to WWF’s ‘Ends of the Earth’ campaign and this will help the organisation ensure these amazing wild places are protected for both the Adelie penguin and other species that live there.
In 2009 WWF entered into a partnership with Sky which it hoped would end up protecting one billion trees in the Amazon rainforest. The endeavour was supported by thousands of Sky customers as well as members of the general public. As a result the project has managed to raise over £9 million which will be used to maintain the project area of Acre in Brazil. WWF has participated in a several conservation projects in Acre which aimed to help local people to earn a sustainable living from the rainforest without cutting down trees.
WWF’s work will continue
Whilst the partnership with Sky is coming to an end, WWF’s conservation work will continue. WWF plans to raise more money to support its vital work next year. The organisation has reaffirmed its commitment to ongoing work in Acre state as well as other areas of the Amazon, so that the rainforest continues to remain protected and valued for the long term.
“We’d like to thank Sky and their customers for joining us on this amazing six-year journey into the rainforest. Their generosity has made a real and lasting impact on the people and wildlife of the Amazon. Keeping the rainforest standing should matter to all of us, wherever we live. Globally, deforestation and forest degradation cause up to a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions and are robbing future generations of rich, beautiful natural resources. By joining WWF’s conservation expertise with Sky’s vision and with the commitment of the Acre state government, we have found ways to help keep deforestation at bay in this fragile part of the Amazon.”
You can help by adopting a jaguar
If you want to participate in helping WWF keep the Amazon rainforest safe, you can adopt a jaguar. If you already have a Sky Rainforest Rescue jaguar or acre adoption, the organisation will send you more information on how to keep the rainforest protected.
The world’s largest tropical rainforest conservation scheme is the Amazon Regional Protected Areas Programme also known ARPA. The scheme was launched by the Brazilian government back in 2002 in partnership with WFF and other conservation agencies. The goal was to take 60 million hectares of the rainforest in Brazil and turn it into a combination of strictly protected area and sustainable use.
The scheme is well funded
The scheme received some positive news recently when the government of Germany made the commitment to spend approximately US$ 33 million to finance the programme. A new presidential decree for ARPA also came into effect which brings the original 2002 decree up to date and formalises the scheme’s new goal of achieving complete financial sustainability for all the protected areas covered by ARPA in the next 25 years.
An innovative approach to conservation finance
The innovate approach to financing the conservation process was envisioned by WWF and its partner organisations just few years ago. The method involves a “transition fund” from which money will be given to Brazil over a period of time. The amount of financing the government will receive should be enough to cover the total amount it would cost to maintain the ARPA sites.
Many organisations helped
This has made possible because contributions are coming not just from WWF and Germany but a whole range of organisations. This includes the World Bank, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund, and the Linden Trust For Conservation. Without all these agencies coming together, the programme would never have gotten off the ground, and there is room for hope that one of the earth’s greatest natural resources, the Amazon rainforest will be kept safe for decades to come.
According to WWF, more than100 business were assessed to see whether they were transparent and provided enough information when it comes to their sustainable use of timber. The authors of the report found four companies which scored the maximum ratings for sustainable timber use. These include Carillion, Travis Perkins, Saint-Gobain and Mace. The three tree rating suggests that these companies have made a very public commitment to sustainable timber use and there is visible evidence which suggests that they have implemented policies to ensure that only a sustainable amount of timber is being used in their products.
Lots of companies improving
Some large UK supermarket chains did very well in the study including Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s, so did book publishers Macmillan as did Marks & Spencer. There were a number of brands that occupied the middle ground when it comes to transforming their supply chains which indicated their progress has been solid. These companies include Penguin Random House, Boots and IKEA. Whilst this is good news, most companies have a long way to go.
Awareness being raised
The rating systems took into account the various policies and practices of the companies in relation to their use of sustainably sourced timber and related products. The scoring process was able to increase the awareness of bad practices by the companies that were being studied as well as the problem of deforestation which produces habitat loss and is one of the causes behind climate change.
Consumers are concerned
According to the latest WWF-UK research, consumers are concerned with the kind of timber being used and whether it is being sourced from. However there is very little information available to consumers to ensure they know that they are buying products made from sustainable timber compared to fair trade chocolate and coffee for example.
Change is possible
The results of the study do suggest that change is in fact possible and many consumer product companies are moving forward when it comes to the use of sustainable timber. Some companies in fact are making lots of progress however it is behind the scenes and these companies should also make the effort to make consumers aware.
“Some of the companies who didn’t fare so well have engaged with WWF-UK since they were given their scores, to look at how they can improve their policy and communication around sustainable timber. As a result, we have decided to update the scores in the autumn to reflect immediate changes made by businesses.” Julia Young of WWF-UK’s forest team said
Environmental campaigners and those who depend on the Great Barrier Reef have received support from UNESCO. The agency recently declared that Australia must ensure the treasure must be protected from threats ranging from pollution and reckless industrialisation. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee says it will continue pressuring Australia to deliver on its promises to ensure the Great Barrier Reef is restored to health.
“This vote by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee demonstrates that green advocacy works: the Australian government is now effectively on probation over the protection of the Great Barrier Reef. For this amazing place to flourish again, governments and businesses alike have a crucial role to play. We will be watching progress and continue to protect this and other natural World Heritage sites,” said David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK.
Australia commits to improving the reef’s health
Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International says Australia has committed to ensure the health of the reef remains a priority over damaging activities such as dredging and dumping the spoil. He adds that UNESCO will maintain a close watch on the reef and whether its condition improves. The issue is of critical importance to over half a million WWF campaign supporters and the millions of people all over the world who are concerned by the industrial destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.
UNESCO expresses concern
The committee’s final decision on the reef expressed concern that wildlife populations and their habitats have experience a general decline and the overall outlook for the reef is poor. The committee highlighted the fact that there remains major long term threats such as climate change and water pollution which must be tackled.
Australia must live up to its promises
In its decision, the committee requested Australia to make sure all its commitments are rigorously implemented so that the reef’s current documented declines are halted. Australia is required to report back to UNESCO by December 2016 on its progress and then make a follow up report three years after that in order to demonstrate effective and sustained protection of the reef.
Major threats remain
WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman says the major threats to the Great Barrier Reef are climate change and water pollution. He adds that the organisation will work non-stop to ensure that the marine ecosystem is restored to health. The decision by the World Heritage committee will maintain the pressure on Australia to live up to its promises and achieve results. It is important to bring back the corals and marine life that depend on the reef.
Following the latest rhino count in Nepal, the country’s government has released very encouraging results. The good news is certainly a big boost to Nepal’s conservation efforts particularly at this difficult time, when the country is still dealing with the devastating earthquake which struck in April. The latest figures indicate Nepal’s rhino population has risen by 21 per cent during the last four years.
Nepal should be proud
According to the census, there are now 645 rhinos in the country compared with 534 when the last estimate took place in 2011. This means that there are now more rhinos in Nepal than at any other time since the 1950’s which is a huge achievement for the country and one that it should be rightly proud of. Anil Manandhar of WWF Nepal says that whilst these are difficult times for Nepal, it is stories such as these that offer a much needed ray of hope.
WWF provided support
WWF provided the financial and technical support that made the rhino count possible. Since the earthquake WWF staff in Nepal have been preoccupied with providing resources and support for the relief efforts and helping those that have been affected in the regions where they work. Nepal is also celebrating the fact that another 365 day period has passed without a single rhino being poached. This is the third time in five years that this has been achieved.
Hard work pays off
The results are a clear sign of both the commitment and hard work of the government of Nepal working side by side with WWF and other conservation groups and local communities to ensure that there is a bright future for this iconic species. The key to success has been modern patrolling technologies and constant vigilance because poaching threats are an ever present danger. Over the last year in Chitwan alone over 650 people have been arrested for involvement in wildlife crime.
The rhino count took place between April 11 and May 2 and was led by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Forests Department in collaboration with the National Trust for Nature and Conservation and WWF Nepal.
Recently it was confirmed by the National Institute for Space Research that the amount of deforestation in the Amazon touched 5,891 square kilometres between July 2012 and August 2013. That represents an increase of approximately 29 per cent compared to the previous year. The deforestation rate exceeded government forecasts by 1 per cent. The government forecast was made publicly available following pressure from non- governmental organisations and with figures like that, it is hardly surprising that many people are worried.
Will Deforestation Quicken?
WWF Brazil’s Marco Lentini says he wonders whether the announcement means that in the coming years there will be an increase in the deforestation rate in the Amazon rainforest. The most recent rate may have been caused by government regulation such as the new Forest Code. However Mr. Lentini says it is only possible to confirm this hypothesis when the preliminary rates for 2013 to 2014 are made available, which should occur following the Brazilian general election.
“The government talks about ‘efficiency’ in the fight against deforestation, with a 79% reduction since 2004’. But any deforestation – particularly illegal – is totally unacceptable and should be stopped immediately”, said Mr. Lentini.
There Are Huge Consequences
Aside from the loss of biodiversity, deforestation in the rainforest means that economies and communities that depend on the Amazon face an uncertain future. There are of course consequences for the climate as well which are caused by changes in the rainfall levels and increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Lentini says it is important to strengthen the mechanisms which are used to protect and value the rainforest such as the Forest Code. There is a need to monitor deforestation across all Brazilian biomes which also contain a wide range of biodiversity and are losing their vegetation cover without people noticing.
Government Should Implement Conservation Proposals
WWF-Brazil has made several proposals designed to encourage sustainable development and defend Brazil’s natural riches that were debated by the main candidates in the 2014 election. WWF has said there should be monitoring of deforestation on an annual basis as well as the implementation of prevention and control plans for each biome which would put a halt to illegal deforestation so that the target of zero vegetation loss is achieved. With support from the Dilma Roussef government it is hoped that much of the deforestation that is threatening the Amazon rain forest will soon be curtailed.