Co­op­er­a­tion not con­fronta­tion

Country Life Every Week - - Letters To The Editor -

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

Fol­low @agromenes on Twit­ter

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