Recap of COP 28 Achievements: Partnering with Nature for Climate Solutions

We are pleased to say that at COP28, the rewilding message really achieved traction: We must partner with nature. Animals are the unsung heroes of the carbon cycle, animating the carbon cycle one paw, wing, and fin at a time!

The Global Rewilding Alliance collaborated on 5 events with partners including

  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation
  • IFAW
  • The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
  • Re:Wild
  • Yale School of the Environment (YSE)
  • IUCN Species Survival Commission
  • The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
  • Birdlife International
  • Altyn Dala Conservation Initiative

*See below for links to these partner organisations

Our open letter with many Alliance Partners to the UNFCCC and IPCC called on them to recognise the role that wild animals, restored ecosystems and #rewilding can play in stabilising the global climate by drawing down vast amounts of carbon; we call this Animating the Carbon Cycle (ACC).

Animating the Carbon Cycle: A Call to Action for Climate

All of the above side events mentioned the key insight from our research published earlier this year that 9 species, or species groups – forest elephants, baleen whales, bison, sea otters, sharks, muskoxen, wildebeest, grey wolves, and marine fish – are immensely important for carbon drawdown, dramatically increasing the carbon sequestration potential of forests, grasslands, tundra and oceans!

Just these 9 species and species groups have the potential to capture more than 5.8 gigatonnes of carbon per year. It’s a big number, but what does it mean? Well, put it this way – it matches or surpasses each of the top 5 options identified by the IPCC for mitigating the climate crisis.

[IPCC: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the world’s official collection of scientists who review all the evidence and advise governments and the UN on the climate crisis and how to address it.]

These nine species possess the capacity to capture over 5.8 gigatonnes of carbon annually, surpassing each of the IPCC’s top five options for addressing the climate crisis.

Sea Otter
Musk Oxen
Ocean Fish
African Forest Elephant
Grey Wolf
American Bison

Bringing elephants into the room – why UNFCCC needs to put animals on the table

Watch the recording of the COP28 side event

Moving Beyond Fossil Fuels – Nature’s Central Role in Climate Stabilisation

The conference had its usual dramas and tensions, especially around fossil fuels and the sensible idea that as a most basic principle to slow down the climate emergency, we should stop pouring fuel on the climate fire by moving beyond our global addiction to these emblems of the linear, destructive, nature-killing economy.

In the words of the leader column in the Financial Times (FT):
“The outcome is very far from perfect. It is better than feared but less than needed. It bows too much to the forces of international diplomacy, and too little to the immovable realities of science. Yet the COP28 climate conference in Dubai has delivered a historic and unmistakable message that the global energy system must move away from the use of coal, oil and gas.”

For all the loud noise about fossil fuels, anyone thinking remotely systemically will realise that making the problem less bad is only half of the answer. Therefore it is great to see that there was a significant and growing recognition that, in addition to moving beyond fossil fuels, we also now need to draw down vast amounts of legacy carbon. In this, the central role that nature, nature restoration and rewilding can play in stabilising the climate has gained substantial attention and credibility. The official Joint Statement on Climate, Nature and People echoes many of the principles in the Global Rewilding Alliance’s founding document – our Global Charter for Rewilding the Earth.

Image of young person holding a banner at COP 28 about stopping fossil fuels

Future Outlook: Funding, Rewilding and Climate Solutions

There was also progress on mechanisms to fund nature restoration. As the FT continued:
“A long-sought climate loss and damage fund was approved as wealthy countries committed more than $400mn on day one in a move that has allowed the fund to get up and running. A $30bn UAE commitment for a separate climate finance fund that aims to mobilise $250bn in green investments by 2030 is also positive, as are the billions of dollars in climate finance pledges from the public and private sector.”

As H.E. Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28 said: “COP28 has delivered a global commitment to transition away from fossil fuels and conserve and restore nature in order to limit warming to 1.5 °C. It sets a clear path for Parties and the real economy to activate around these goals. COP28 has also demonstrated the importance of inclusivity. We are proud of the leadership of real economy actors from around the world – including Indigenous People, women, finance, business, cities and states, youth and civil society – who have built momentum for this outcome. I am committed to working tirelessly with all of them to support Parties to turn the declarations and outcomes here at COP28 into action, finance and solutions on the ground.”

Looking to the future, we must make sure that a substantial proportion of this funding flows towards rewilding, acting on this beacon of #rewildinghope . We need a global rewilding strategy to aid animals and whole ecosystems to help us in addressing climate change, restoring the environment, and making the world a better place for everyone.

The Global Rewilding Alliance Secretariat has drafted a longer-term plan on rewilding/Animating the Carbon Cycle, which we will now implement together with our partners at COP28, who helped us so well to put this on the climate radar as a necessary approach if we’re going to meet the 1.5 °C target.

By rewilding, we can address biodiversity loss and climate change simultaneously. This means that we need to support Indigenous peoples, who steward 80% of global biodiversity, and are at the frontline of turning hope into action.

People on stage at event at COP 28

Treating nature as an ally will help us prevent catastrophic climate change. Right now animals do not appear anywhere. We will continue to build the momentum behind this idea whose time has come with our many powerful partners.

The global climate policy community must engage with this powerful, practical, cost-effective idea.