CoP28 and Why it Matters to the Zoo and Aquarium Community

Posted: 15 December 2023

CoP28 is the 28th annual United Nations (UN) climate meeting which sees a large participation by governments as well as civil society, to discuss how to limit future climate change. This year, the summit took place in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), from 30 November to 12 December 2023.

Following the Paris Agreement in 2015, it was hoped that CoP28 would further endeavour to enable countries to limit long-term global temperature rises to 1.5C. This target is crucial to avoid the most damaging impact of climate change, according to the UN’s climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). At current levels, the world is on track for around 2.7C of warming by 2100 and as of now, long-term warming stands at an estimated 1.1C to 1.2C compared with pre-industrial times.

WAZA members have the potential to play a crucial role in working towards the goal of arresting climate change and working towards the goal of reducing their emissions. Pioneering examples of this work can be found in the WAZA Guide on Reducing, Measuring and Offsetting Carbon which includes case studies as well as a checklist of how zoos and aquariums can work towards reducing their carbon footprint. This year’s WAZA Environmental Sustainability Award winner Loro Parque is another key example of prioritising sustainability in our community. The institution has been focusing on reducing ecological impact, minimising waste and eliminating plastic, conserving water and energy, seeking eco-friendly products and adopting green energy.

WAZA has been working on promoting sustainable practices within the zoo and aquarium community through the publication of the WAZA Sustainability Strategy which may be found here. Through the Strategy, with its focus on Sustainable Development Goal 13, which focuses on Climate Action, there are opportunities for our members to act towards reducing their carbon footprint and adopting more sustainable practices.

As result of CoP28, nearly 200 countries have agreed to a deal that, for the first time, calls on all nations to transition away from fossil fuels to avert the worst effects of climate change. Although this agreement does not include an explicit commitment to phase out or phase down fossil fuels, but future CoPs should push for that direction. Thus, with the agreement, the world was still far off track from the 1.5C limit, and this outcome was not enough to correct that course.

An additional achievement was the finalisation of the Global Stocktake – an assessment of countries’ progress towards the Paris Agreement targets and the actions needed to correct the course to meet them, but which showed the world is well off-track in securing a 1.5°C world.

Biodiversity and climate change are intrinsically linked. Ecosystems (and the biodiversity they contain) are natural carbon sinks, providing nature-based solutions to climate change, and climate change adds an additional direct or indirect threat to survival of many species. While this CoP showed increased efforts in addressing them together, more work is needed.

While tackling climate and biodiversity together can be challenging, zoos and aquariums can play several roles. For instance, zoos and aquariums incorporate SDG12: Responsible consumption and production, both through their own procurement and through visitor and surrounding communities’ programmes encouraging pro environmental behaviours.

As we work towards achieving the WAZA vision of becoming a globally recognised and trusted leader in animal welfare and conservation, we endeavour to work do so in a manner that prioritises sustainability and the environment.

The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) is the global alliance of regional associations, national federations, zoos and aquariums, dedicated to the care and conservation of animals and their habitats around the world.

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