With COP26 just around the corner, Rory Francis, Wildlife Trusts Wales Youth Engagement Officer tells us what it is and why it’s important.

With so much bad news about our environment, it’s hard to be optimistic. But there is still hope. The message in the recent International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was clear. If governments act together, they can cut greenhouse gas emissions and save the world.

You don’t need to look far to see evidence of climate change. This summer we’ve seen wildfires in eastern Canada, floods in Germany and then more wildfires in Turkey, Greece and Siberia. Not to mention floods and droughts closer to home in the UK too. The IPCC report confirmed what many of us already knew, human activity is changing our climate.

We have long known that the climate is changing, but we’ve seen very little done to stop it. Until one voice sparked a movement, Greta Thunberg.

“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” – Greta Thunberg

As Greta clearly states, we’re facing more than just a climate emergency, but a nature emergency too. The threat to wildlife at a global scale, is not always as dramatic, but it’s every bit as real. The State of Nature report in 2019 make clear that 73 species, from turtle doves to corn buntings, have already become extinct in Wales while a further 666 species are in danger of suffering the same fate.

What is COP26?

COP26 is the 2021 United Nations climate change conference, which this year will be held in Glasgow. Every year for the last three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits. At these summits, world leaders discuss what collective action is needed to tackle climate change. It’s called COP-26 because it’s the 26th “Conference of the Parties”,  to be held since the process was started at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

COP26 may be the most important, and urgent summit yet. With global temperatures hurtling towards 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the window for change is closing.

But what about nature?

It’s important to remember that nature is facing an uncertain future too. Similarly to COP26, the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Spring 2022 will bring together our global leaders to agree on targets to halt the loss of wildlife and start to restore species populations and habitats by 2030. They will agree on specific actions to achieve this, and will continuously monitor to ensure that it actually happens.


Young people are taking a stand

The Wildlife Trusts in Wales recognise that there are few greater threats to our future than the climate and nature crisis. That’s why the five Wildlife Trusts in Wales have come together to tackle these twin crises. But we’re not doing it alone.

Over the next three years, our youth climate change project, Stand for Nature Wales will work to empower and inspire young people to take action for wildlife in their local area in a bid to tackle climate change.

Young people in Wales are coming together to take climate action. Will you join them?

I have the wonderful role of giving young people a voice as part of the Our Bright Future programme, funded by National Lottery Community Fund. I support young people in Wales to make their voice heard across three specific asks.

Ask 1: More time spent learning in and about nature
Ask 2: Support to get into environmental jobs
Ask 3: Policy makers, employers, businesses, schools and charities to pay more attention to the needs of young people and the environment


Nature can help

In Wales we have unique opportunities to re-wet our uplands to hold back floodwaters and at the same time store carbon if we restore our peatlands. Urban trees could provide shade and absorb flash flooding. Find out more here.