The crisis is not imminent. The crisis is here. The recent infernos in Australia; the storms and floods in Brazil, Madagascar, Spain and the US; and the economic collapse in Somalia,
caused in part by a devastating cycle of droughts and floods, are not,
or not only, a vision of the future. They are signs of a current and
This is why several governments and parliaments, the UK’s among them,
have declared a climate emergency. But no one in government acts as if
it is real. They operate within the old world of incremental planning
for a disaster that has yet to arrive.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the reports of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the official body that began with such hope and promise of holding the government to account, but that now seems to have abandoned scientific realities in favour of political priorities.
Its latest report, on changing the UK’s land use, is so unambitious that, in some respects, it would take us backwards. For example, it calls for a 10% reduction in cattle and sheep numbers over the next 30 years. But it admits that over the past 20 years, their numbers have declined by 20%, so this would involve a slowing of the trend. Cultured meat and milk could replace these sectors almost entirely by 2050.
The world faces two existential crises, developing with terrifying
speed: climate breakdown and ecological breakdown. Neither is being
addressed with the urgency needed to prevent our life-support systems
from spiralling into collapse. We are writing to champion a thrilling
but neglected approach to averting climate chaos while defending the
living world: natural climate solutions. This means drawing carbon
dioxide out of the air by protecting and restoring ecosystems.
By defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands,
mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds and other crucial ecosystems,
large amounts of carbon can be removed from the air and stored. At the
same time, the protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help
minimise a sixth great extinction,
while enhancing local people’s resilience against climate disaster.
Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases,
one and the same. This potential has so far been largely overlooked.
We call on governments to support natural climate solutions with an
urgent programme of research, funding and political commitment. It is
essential that they work with the guidance and free, prior and informed
consent of indigenous people and other local communities.
This approach should not be used as a substitute for the rapid and comprehensive decarbonisation of industrial economies. A committed and well-funded programme to address all the causes of climate chaos, including natural climate solutions, could help us hold the heating of the planet below 1.5C. We ask that they are deployed with the urgency these crises demand.