COP26: The Narrow Path to a Healthy Future

The time the world has left to stay within a safe warming limit is rapidly running out. Hard decisions are at our doorstep, and next two weeks will be a harbinger of global cooperation and good will

Published on 1st November 2021

There is no doubt about who is responsible for the environmental mess we have made of our only home, planet Earth. Scientists are 99.9% sure that it is us – the human species. Logically therefore, we should be responsible for setting it right, for our own and the rest of the world’s benefit.

Delegations from countries around the world will meet over the next two weeks - the big emitters and the small, the ones who will bear the brunt of climate change, as well as those trying to find more carbon space for development and improving standards of living. The Glasgow climate conference comes at a very precarious time for our planet.

While things have been improving, we are quite a distance away from where we need to be – the global warming target limit of 1.5 degrees Centigrade set out in the Paris Agreement. We have also recently seen that many countries have exceeded the planetary boundaries for safe operation in terms of biodiversity loss. Addressing these interlinked issues is becoming increasingly difficult the longer we put off difficult actions.

“The pathway is extremely narrow,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, “We really don’t have much time left to shift course.”

"We have run out of excuses. It is time to do the right thing."

Abdulla Shahid

President of the U.N. General Assembly, and foreign minister of the Maldives, a nation of low-lying Indian Ocean islands

The Linnean Society’s vision is of a world where nature is understood, valued and protected. For this to happen, climate change and biodiversity conservation must be considered as deeply interconnected; solutions for one at the expense of the other will not help. Through our Linnean Future initiative, we are setting our own house in order, and leveraging the passion of our committed Fellowship for concrete actions.

Emission reduction targets should enable the world to reach Net Zero by 2050, but we also need clear plans that illustrate equitable pathways towards a lower emission world. Underpinned by secure solid climate finance that holds those responsible for occupying higher shares of carbon space while supporting those who will suffer the most, our trajectories must change. Protection and restoration of natural habitats have key roles to play in achieving sustainable pathways, addressing biodiversity loss cannot be an afterthought. Nature-based solutions, benefiting both people and planet, are imperative.

We face a crisis in which countries as well as businesses and individuals will need to step up and take responsibility.

We hope that COP26 can set us all on a path to global sustainability, where positive climate and biodiversity actions go hand-in-hand, and where we all play our part, however small, in creating a secure planetary future in which we can all share.

If you would like to join our Society in our vision of a healthy planet that is fair and equitable, then please become a member. You can apply to become a Fellow here.

Dr Sandra Knapp FLS, President of the Linnean Society