Are We Eco-wakening?

An Eco-wakening is a global report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund to measure global awareness, engagement and action for nature, and reveal growing support for sustainable business in both developed and developing countries.

Nature is estimated to be worth around $44 trillion to the global economy, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than half the global GDP.  The report concludes that many consumers believe brands bear as much responsibility for positive change as governments and businesses must commit to protecting nature and natural systems. Momentum has been building for some time around brand purpose – a reason to exist beyond making money and it’s no longer acceptable or smart to ignore sustainability in business.

Things have changed and the business case is clear. WEF points out that while economic development is still the priority for most countries, we also realize that for cheap products today, we may pay a very high price tomorrow as nature loss and climate breakdown really bite. For many people, and especially those living in emerging economies and supplying global value chains, eco-wakening is driven by personal experience of the devastating impacts of fires, floods, droughts and COVID-19.  Companies can commit to protecting nature and natural systems, including by setting science-based targets for nature and ambitious greenhouse-gas emissions reductions. They can deliver on these commitments by protecting nature and natural systems in the landscapes where they operate, or from which they source commodities, by using tools and approaches such as the Accountability Framework, and through reshaping markets. And they can call for an ambitious Paris-style global agreement for nature that helps secure a nature-positive world by 2030.

VIEW the full Eco-wakening Report HERE and the key points below:

1. The natural world is under threat. Scientists warn that 1 million species, out of an estimated total of 8 million, face extinction – many within decades. This decline is putting the future of the planet and everyone on it at risk. 

2. The covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest global health threat of the past century. Since January 2020, it has disrupted all aspects of daily life, causing untold physical, mental and economic damage and resulting in millions of deaths. Nature plays a key role in the origins and prevention of pandemics. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Science – Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) shows that the same human activities that are driving biodiversity loss are also driving pandemic risk. 

3. Our impact on the environment – whether through land use, agriculture, or illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade – results in increased contact between animals, pathogens and people, paving the way for future pandemics. Better conservation of protected areas could reduce contact between wildlife, livestock and people, thereby reducing pandemic risk.

4. Time is running out, and action to prevent fatal nature loss is urgently needed. 

5. Do people care? Given the scale of the problem, it would be easy to assume that ordinary people are turning away, not only believing that biodiversity loss is not a priority, but also that nothing can be done.  We find the opposite. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world are concerned, and that this number is growing. 

6. The most dramatic growth in engagement and awareness has occurred in Asia, most notably India (190%), Pakistan (88%) and Indonesia (53%). People all over the world care about nature, and that trend is growing – especially in emerging markets. This shift in public sentiment reflects a hard reality, as people in emerging markets are most likely to experience the devastating impact of the loss of nature. 

7. The number of nature-loss conversations has grown, as seen in the 65% increase in Twitter mentions since 2016. Nature-loss and biodiversity issues are gaining more traction online than ever before, with the number of Twitter mentions increasing most in emerging markets. Major influencers around the world – including political figures, celebrities and religious leaders – are using their platforms to amplify nature issues, with messages reaching a combined audience of almost 1bn people worldwide. 

8. Consumers are changing their behaviour, with searches for sustainable goods increasing globally by 71% since 2016. Corporations are responding, particularly in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical, fashion and food sectors. 

9. Public demand for action is rapidly growing through protests, petitions and campaign donations. Between 2016 and 2018, global news media coverage of nature-based protests grew by a steady 7%. Between 2018 and 2019, however, coverage jumped by a whopping 103%, driven by protest movements such as Extinction Rebellion.

It’s NOW or Never to Cut Emissions

Earth Day 2022 takes place after two consecutive dire reports published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These reports drew on the work of thousands of scientists and took seven years to compile and be approved by the world’s governments.

The second part of the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report in March focused on the latest evidence on the distressing impacts of climate change. It details how the alarming “rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt”.

The third and final part of the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report this April forewarns that greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2025 and must be nearly halved this decade to give the world a chance of limiting future heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The stark conclusion is that we are putting our “livable future” and those of future generations in grave peril. Our chances are narrowing according to the science, with only thirty months left before global greenhouse gas emissions must peak and drastically start to fall, a reversal that will require “immediate and deep” cuts in emissions everywhere. Or else, we will miss the chance to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Climate action in a distracted world needs focus and courage to be bold. With increasing global risks, the next few years are critical, these dire warnings ‘are being ignored’ and actions are delayed amid war and economic turmoil. The world is failing to make the changes needed and strengthened policies and actions from governments, businesses and individuals to avert the worst devastations of climate breakdown.

“It’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C,” according to Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London and co-chair of the working group behind the report. He cautions, “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres reprimanded, “The world is on a ‘fast track to climate disaster. Some government and business leaders are saying one thing – but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic.”

Importantly, the report also tells us we have the tools we need to reach our goals and we already know what to do:

– Coal must be effectively phased out if the world is to stay within 1.5C, and currently planned new fossil fuel infrastructure would cause the world to exceed 1.5C.

– Methane emissions must be reduced by a third.

– Growing forests and preserving soils will be necessary, but tree-planting cannot do enough to compensate for continued emissions for fossil fuels.

– Investment in the shift to a low-carbon world is about six times lower than it needs to be.

– All sectors of the global economy, from energy and transport to buildings and food, must change dramatically and rapidly, and new technologies including hydrogen fuel and carbon capture and storage will be needed.

The Earth Day movement was founded in 1970 and fifty-two years later, the actions needed to preserve and protect our health, our families, and our livelihoods are distressingly overdue. We know we are the problem. We are also the solution and we are at a tipping point for transformational change.

It must be NOW!

Go (Re)Wild in the Country

There’s a Greek proverb that tells us, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” If this phrase holds true, Scotland’s Sutherland region will be steeped in shady greatness around 100 years from now but – incredible biological breakthrough aside – the man responsible for the transformation sadly won’t be around to see it. 

Paul Lister, the not-so-old owner of Alladale Wilderness Reserve in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, has overseen the planting of one million native trees across Alladale’s 23,000 acres since he bought the former hunting estate in 2003. Long before ‘rewilding’ was widely adopted as a key strategy for combatting climate change, Paul had a vision to revitalise this overgrazed, tree-depleted region of the UK and return it to its former glory: a completely intact ecosystem, providing a sanctuary for wildlife and an escape for nature lovers. 

Paul Lister, Owner of the Alladale Wilderness Reserve

Arriving in Inverness on a sunny July afternoon, we drive 90 minutes north and enter Alladale’s almost mystical realm: a quintessential Victorian Scottish lodge, surrounded by landscapes that make spirits soar. Once covered by the ancient Caledonian Forest, which formed at the end of the last Ice Age, Scotland is known as a land of extreme wilderness, although those rugged landscapes we know and love today are mainly the making of man. Once roamed by large predators including wolves, lynx and bears, just patchwork remnants of the ancient forest now remains, as vast areas have been felled for agriculture or construction, and continue to be overgrazed by sheep and deer.

Establishing The European Nature Trust (TENT) in 2000 to support conservation, restore biodiversity and rewild areas across Europe, Paul has been at the forefront of the environmental movement for many years. Guests at Alladale have a unique opportunity, not just to enjoy a stay at a stylish Scottish retreat, but to learn about TENT’s projects first-hand, and walk through landscapes that are actively contributing to a brighter, greener future. 

A committed member of the NOW Force for Good Alliance, many of Alladale’s goals and actions align with United Nations Development Goals, not just through the extensive rewilding and peat restoration projects which will help to absorb carbon, but through wildlife conservation and breeding programmes that will help to increase native biodiversity, engage local communities, and bring economic benefits to the region in the form of ecotourism. 

After lunch on the terrace accompanied by a traditional Scottish piper, we join a 4WD safari around Alladale with passionate Reserve Manager, Innes MacNeill. The Reserve offers opportunities to spot golden eagles, otters, pine martens, red squirrels, hares and water voles, along with the shaggy, horned cattle, which stamp their iconic signature on my photographs of the Highland hills. A tree-lined path leads to a vast enclosure, home to some elusive and precious predators which are luckily basking in the sun. Incredibly rare and beautiful Scottish wildcats are being bred at Alladale as part of the Saving Wildcats programme – a European partnership project supervised by the Royal Zoological Society Scotland (RZSS), which aims to release 20 wildcats a year into the Highlands. But Paul’s vision for rebalancing Alladale’s ecosystem gets even wilder. He earned the nickname of “The Wolfman” after revealing a long-term plan to reintroduce wolves to the Reserve: an idea welcomed by many, but contested by some.  

Scottish Wildcat

As we’ve learned from the experience in the USA’s Yellowstone National Park, the introduction of apex predators like wolves can radically transform landscapes, bringing populations of prey animals like deer naturally under control, allowing native flora and fauna to flourish. Across Scotland – and in Alladale – large numbers of red deer are now annually culled, as fences and human development have impeded their natural migration routes to find food, leading to starvation in winter, and overgrazing in warmer months.  

Eurasian Lynx may be reintroduced before wolves are welcomed back, but in the meantime, Alladale’s wilderness is still regularly brought to life with a HOWL: a Highland Outdoor and Wilderness Learning programme, which offers workshops and escapes for local children, helping to establish an early connection to nature, and inspire the conservationists and visionaries of tomorrow.  

With two breathtaking valleys to explore, along with woodlands, rivers and heather-clad moors, Alladale is a haven for hikers and cyclists, and the Reserve’s team can also arrange clay pigeon shooting, horse riding, whisky tasting and golf. Innes leads us on a hike to the river, where wild salmon jump, flashing their scales in the sunlight, and we drive out to see the remote Deanich Lodge, a rustic self-catering retreat for 18, and two cosy catered lodges, the three-bedroom Eagle’s Crag and two-bedroom Ghillies rest, which accommodate 10 and four with mesmerising views of Glen Alladale. 

Back at Alladale Lodge, the Reserve’s chef, Natasha, serves local venison for the carnivores, and an amazing curry of seasonal vegetables grown in Alladale’s new extensive aquaponic gardens for vegetarians, including me. Around the large communal table, wine and conversation flows, as guests engage in lively debates about wildlife spotted during the day, bracing swims in the river, and the conservation projects at play. 

That night, I wake at 3 AM in my upstairs bedroom at the Lodge, and look out of my window onto the wild. A red deer is softly grazing below, its lofty antlers lit under the dusky all-night light of a Scottish summer, and outlined by the thicket of trees beyond. Earlier on our drive, Innes had called Paul, “a man on a mission with a vision.” As the deer turns its head towards me before vanishing, dreamlike, from view, Alladale’s vision becomes clear: through the window lies a future where a wild and balanced world is a reality, not a dream.

Climate Action in a Distracted World

In the last decade, the warning alerts from global scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has grown louder in intensity each year around the world. We are now fully aware of the growing threat of climate change and the risks to human wellbeing and the health of our planet.

By August 2021, the first part of the IPCC’s sixth assessment report – The Physical Science Basis was described by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres as code red for humanity”.  

It was followed by The Final Warning Bellalarming report warning from the Climate Crisis Advisory Group that net negative (Climate Positive (also known as Carbon Negative)) – rather than net zero – strategies are urgently required and current global emissions targets to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050 is “too little too late”.  It is likely that global temperatures will exceed 1.5°C as soon as 2030, taking the world into a zone of dangerous climate change. Net Zero by 2050 is too late.

This week, the second part of IPCC’s 6th assessment report – Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was released with a more ominous warning that the world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F).  The report reveals that insufficient efforts to reduce the risks of human-induced climate change are causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world. It warns that even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible, that risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements. Natural and human systems will be pushed beyond their ability to adapt.

We have all the tools we need to make a just zero carbon world and the will to create that world is growing by the day.  The evidence of climate change is indisputable and we have the renewable energy technology to live sustainably.  The pressures on the world economy are equally unrelenting with the Covid-19 pandemic exposing cracks in the system, but we have the economic incentive for action on climate change and a green economy can be good for both. Clean Growth is already making a compelling contribution to our economy, driving global ambition to tackle climate change. 

Multilateralism is working.  While the COP 26 negotiations held in Glasgow in late 2021 may have fallen short of what is so urgently needed to avoid 1.5°C, there is reason for radical hope. There is ‘hope in hell’ if we act NOW.  Loss and Damage Reparations, the compensation needed for the damage climate change is already causing, was formally acknowledged by the Glasgow Climate Pact for the first time by the majority of countries. Glasgow accelerated the projected temperature rise down to just 2.4°C with ambition to come back in Sharm el-Sheikh for COP 27 this year with more ambitious targets, this time based on what countries plan to get done by 2030, not by 2050. The IPCC’s 6th assessment report – Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability will help significantly for Sharm el-Sheikh, plus the Convention on Biological Diversity to take place in Kunming in China this April will bring the prospect of two disconnected science-policy processes (climate change and biodiversity) together. 

There are many distractions and excuses to delay action.  The pandemic complicated our lives and businesses, and we are living in a more dangerous world where a vicious cycle of distrust is led by a growing lack of faith in the media and governments. Putin’s war to bring Ukraine to heel has alarmed many countries, knowing that an isolated tyrant raging at Western sanctions against his regime is capable of just about anything, even starting a nuclear war. 

Whatever new order might emerge, it is the responsibility of country leaders to prepare for it.  For businesses, societal leadership is now a core function and stakeholders expect businesses to lead, increase ambitions and actions to help preserve our most important assets – people and nature. They want and expect brands to ’Be The Good in the World’.

The threat of disastrous climate change must unite everyone in alarm of the consequences of reaching 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels or higher this decade. It  is no longer a problem that for many seems far-off and far away.  It is now near our doorstep or already there, and more delays to be Climate Positive (also known as Carbon Negative) will secure a dire future for all.  

Are natural and human systems pushed beyond their ability to adapt?

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment report- Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (AR6) details how climate change has “caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people”.

This is the second part of the IPCC’s AR6 focused on the latest evidence on the distressing impacts of climate change.  It details how the alarming “rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt”.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

Researchers who contributed to the report shared what they think are the most important insights with Carbon Brief:

“The science is unequivocal: any further delay will miss the brief window we have to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.” Prof Hans-Otto Poertner

“Effectiveness of most adaptation responses decreases drastically at global warming levels of 1.5C to 2C, showing that mitigation and adaptation efforts have to go hand in hand.” Dr Aditi Mukherji

“Climate change doesn’t affect people and environments equally around the world; it’s often the poorest people who are least able to adapt.” Prof Lindsay Stringer

“These new findings emphasise the narrowing window of opportunity for adaptation and mitigation actions to take place.” Dr Marie-Fanny Racault 

“For the first time, the IPCC notes that climate change is already contributing to humanitarian crises.” Prof Maarten van Aalst

“The development of the concept of ‘climate-resilient development’ is the most exciting part of the report.” Dr Lisa Schipper 

“The report indicates that involving marginalised and vulnerable groups in inclusive planning processes and drawing on Indigenous and local knowledge are other approaches that support effective adaptation.”  Prof Rachel Bezner Kerr

“Our report contains a lot of bad news, but also offers encouragement and motivation to step up our responses to climate change.” Prof Richard Betts

“The report finds that very high risks emerge in all reasons for concern over the range 1.2 to 4.5C global average warming.” Prof Rachel Warren

“A major take home message from the report is the urgent need to take action in order to achieve a sustainable and climate-resilient future. We can’t wait, we can’t postpone it, the costs of inaction are too great and we are not on track.” Dr Carol Franco 

“The future is in our hands. The adaptation, mitigation, and development choices we make will determine all of our futures.” Prof Kristie Ebi

“We may not be able to stop the worst impacts of climate change and prevent the severe damage to key systems, but with adequate financing of adaptation and resilience, many systems and the most vulnerable can be afforded some protection.” Prof David Viner

“This report gives long overdue recognition to the importance of Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge for more effective and culturally-appropriate climate adaptation.”  Dr Ruth Morgan 

“The linkages between climate change induced water insecurity and migration and conflicts are, in a first, assessed in this report.” Dr Martina Angela Caretta

“[The report] includes, for the first time, specific analyses of risks to biodiversity hotspots and to the terrestrial biodiversity of small islands.  Dr Jeff Price

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), as well as additional materials and information, are available at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2/

Adopt a Coral

Adopt A Coral

What’s not a rock but looks like one? What’s not a plant but an animal rooted to the seafloor?  It’s coral! 

This unique animal is a precious creature, home to a vast diversity of irreplaceable wildlife that provide an important ecosystem for life underwater. As healthy corals grow and expand, reefs take on one of three major characteristic structures — fringing, barrier or atoll – with vibrant colors and a striking level of biodiversity. The world’s coral reef ecosystem supports many food chains with its primary producers – plankton and algae – feeding small sea creatures that feed bigger ones and a vital source of food and income for millions of people.  Coral reefs also work to protect coastal areas by reducing the power of the waves that hit the coast.

Man-made climate emergencies are changing the ocean and dramatically affecting coral reef ecosystems through sea level rise, changes to the frequency and intensity of tropical storms, and altered ocean circulation patterns. Coral reefs are under stress around the world by changes in temperature, light, or nutrients, and they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white. Corals have been known to recover if the stress-caused bleaching is not severe, but if the algae loss is prolonged and the stress continues, the coral eventually dies. 

ADOPT-A-CORAL

Reefscapers began their coral restoration efforts in 2000 as a response to the devastating coral bleaching event in the Maldives in 1998.  In partnership with Four Seasons at Kuda Huraa, in the North Male Atoll, Reefscapers pioneered an innovative man-made coral frame structure produced in Fulhadhoo, South Maalhosmadulhu Atoll to support local communities. Coral fragments are grown from wild colonies and “outplanted” onto new frames, creating a genetic replica of the colony the fragment was taken from.  Brilliant!

Reefscapers and Four Seasons properties in the Maldives encourage guests to   sponsor a coral frame during their stay.  They receive an individual frame number and participate in the building of their frame.  Sponsors are able to view photos of their frame in a public facing website updated every 6 months by coral biologists who collect a vast amount of data utilizing an Artificial Intelligence program developed at Landaa.    

Since the Reefscaper program began, they have placed over 500,000 fragments of coral back on to the Maldivian reefs.  In the last 3 years, they have been responsible for an increase of over 700 liters of outplanted coral, which has translated to over 2300 liters of natural growth of outplanted corals.  

ADOPT-A-CORAL sponsorship by individuals and companies will support SDG 14 – LIFE BELOW WATER – to help conserve the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

A FORCE FOR GOOD

What travelers want today are experiences that connect us deeply to the natural world, rich cultures, beautiful communities, and most importantly, ourselves. They want to stay in places they can trust, operated by those who understand that this is the true definition of luxury, and it is not new or a trend, it is a commitment from the heart to ensure the wellbeing of people and the planet.  

Four Seasons Resorts in the Maldives is a leading example in this new era of sustainable travel. In partnership with the NOW Force for Good Alliance, the team is seriously committed to doing more to advance sustainability in all its forms with accountability and transparency.  Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru is the first of 3 properties to implement the rigorous EarthCheck Certified programme with annual independent audit. 

It’s Marine Discovery Centre is led by a team of passionate marine biologists.  Guests experience once-in-a-lifetime encounters with a variety of marine creatures while learning about life and habitat, as well as participate in some of the resort’s inspiring conservation projects.  The Reefscapers program offers guests a unique opportunity to participate in the building of coral reefs, and for the lucky ones, have a delightful and unforgettable underwater birthday party!

PIONEERING CORAL REEF RESTORATION

Reefscapers restoration efforts aim to encourage the coral’s resistant genetic trait to create hardy coral colonies which can survive bleaching events. They are selected for transplant to coral frames supported by long-term photo-monitoring and maintenance. A relatively new technique for coral restoration, sexual reproduction is the mixing of different genetic strains which can only be achieved by collecting eggs and sperm from different colonies, fertilising them and then aiding their development in aquariums before allowing them to “settle” on small sections of reef rubble.  The settled larvae then form a new coral colony and are a mix of the different genetics from the initially sampled colonies to encourage the “strong” genes to survive.  

Difficulties abound with this innovative technique with the infrequent nature of coral spawning (in some locations it only occurs once a year) requiring very specific environmental conditions based on sea surface temperature, weather patterns, the lunar cycle and the maturity of a colony; and the complicated process of fertilisation, developing the larvae and then settlement techniques.  Once established, it can allow a restoration program to increase coral cover by fragmentation and add new genetic strains to the reef in large numbers to resist the bleaching events and protect the diversity of species.  

Reefscapers recruited the first marine biologists in the Maldives (2008), implementing marine conservation projects to educate, understand, and improve the marine environment. Their programs range from guest excursions to beach erosion control, to the management of marine education centres. They also established the first sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation centre in the Maldives (2011), successfully treating and re-releasing hundreds of rescue turtles over 10 years.

The destructive 2016 coral bleaching event was widely reported in the Maldives where around 70% of its coral cover was lost due to elevated water temperatures.  Without restoration, there would only be 30% cover when the next bleaching event happens, resulting in calamitous extinction of some species. 

INCREASING CLIMATE CRISIS ON CORAL REEFS

The  Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) 2020 Report highlights the devastating impact of accelerating climate crisis on coral reefs. 275 million people directly depend on reefs for their livelihoods and sustenance, and the loss of functions from coral reefs compounds the vulnerabilities of those who are already greatly exposed to climate change impacts, in particular the populations of small island developing states. These irreplaceable coral species have also been the source of vital medicines used to treat cancer, Alzheimer’s and bacterial infections, among many other conditions.  

Tourism will suffer, a crucial part of the economy for many small countries with reefs. Worldwide, reef tourism is estimated to be worth US$9.6 billion. 

Failure to act now to protect these precious corals will cause environmental ruin and with it a catastrophic human tragedy. The IPCC predicts that 99% of corals will be lost under 2°C of global heating. Pollution and unsustainable fishing present further threats. A combination of immediate action on greenhouse gas emissions, an end to destructive fishing practices and effective protection for 30% of the world’s oceans is urgently needed, says EJF.   Urgent action in line with the Paris Agreement to restrict temperature rise to 1.5°C is the first vital step, says the report. A full transition to zero carbon by all major industrialised economies is needed by 2030, or better, transition to Climate Positive (also known as Carbon Negative) at speed

March 3rd is World Wildlife Day and our huge support is vital, not just for this day, but everyday. 

Top