Cooperation not confrontation
BREXIT, Donald Trump, extremism in France and Germany, ISIS, civil war in Syria: today’s world looks seriously dangerous and damaged. The voices calling for cooperation, toleration and fraternity are drowned out by strident nationalism, fundamentalism and sheer greed—demands that find easy acceptance on the front pages of our populist newspapers. However, in the face of all that gloom, Agromenes has been buoyed by a group of recent achievements that give us hope that some things are well and truly on the mend.
The first is, of course, the Paris agreement on Climate Change. That was entirely unprecedented, as 195 countries gave real and tangible commitments to act together to avert catastrophic warming. The fact that there’s every sign of further advance this month in Marrakech shows just how strongly entrenched the process now is. But even that doesn’t stand alone because, only six weeks ago, the world agreed to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCS), the gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning that themselves contribute strongly to climate change. Put these together with the first tentative deal on aircraft emissions, and we begin to see the emergence of a pattern of global cooperation that has never been experienced before.
These are agreements that were almost unthinkable even five years ago and yet they’re about to be joined by two other initiatives that take the world’s ability to protect itself into areas that seemed even more impossible. The damage done to the world’s oceans by pollution and over-fishing has been well recorded and widely deplored, but there seemed no real chance of effective action. The high seas are owned by no one and territorial waters are jealously guarded by each nation state. Until recently, less than 1% of the oceans were protected and continued degradation seemed inevitable. Then, on September 15, the British government unilaterally declared its intention to protect four million square kilometres of sea. That’s an area greater than the Indian subcontinent.
In a sense, it’s the last great contribution of the British Empire because it makes use of the territorial waters around the islands that are still dependent territories. First, St Helena and Pitcairn, then Ascension and Tristan da Cunha will be the centres of huge protected seas that will become part of a Blue Belt involving 14 island sites. Suddenly, the dream of reviving and renewing the oceans looks as if it could become a reality.
In parallel, on dry land comes the other remarkable British contribution. On November 15, Her Majesty will launch The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy. This is an initiative inspired by the charity Cool Earth, working with the Royal Commonwealth Society and the Commonwealth Forestry Association. It brings together and extends the efforts of 52 countries to increase the forest cover of the Commonwealth and thereby contribute to the fight against climate change and increase the opportunities for forest people to live and profit from their environment in a sustainable way. By linking with hugely successful projects in Peru and the Congo, the Commonwealth will begin to provide the mechanism for recovering the world’s forests that mankind has so ruthlessly exploited.
At the eleventh hour, we may just have found a way to save our forests and protect our seas before it’s too late. Not that the good news excuses us from trying to salvage all that we can from Brexit nor from working for peace in the Middle East. It does, however, give us hope that this fractured world of ours still has the capacity to cooperate in the face of disaster and thus recover from the greed and exploitation that has endangered the planet that gives us life.
‘We may just have found a way to save our forests and protect our trees before it’s too late
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