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Post-COP26: fighting the climate crisis!

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference concluded on November 12 with weak decisions in a number of important areas, including adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance.

However, the text contains important components for countries to increase their short-term climate ambitions and implement binding climate policies.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, WWF Global Lead on Climate and Energy, says "We must recognize that progress has been made.  Countries now have new opportunities to do what they know they need to do to avoid climate catastrophe. But unless they move quickly and decisively towards implementation and show substantial results, they will continue to have their credibility questioned."

How can we make the Glasgow pledge to end deforestation by 2030 a reality?

Forest protection, conservation and restoration, also known as nature-based solutions (NBS), are very important if the world wants to fight global warming. Despite well-intentioned efforts, forest loss continues. In Madagascar, we are rapidly losing forests that matter for their carbon but also for their precious biodiversity.

In Glasgow, more than 141 leaders announced that they would end deforestation by 2030. The real challenge is how to turn this commitment into reality.

First, implementation will depend on local communities having secure and clear rights to the land and to other benefits of NBS, such as carbon revenues. In practice, the implementers of these programs are governments who are the legal owners (often inherited from colonial regimes) of many forests. In a large part of Africa, the local communities' traditional claims to land and forests are not recognized by governments, which means that there is a risk that the benefits of forest conservation, such as carbon revenues, will not reach the forest communities. 

Second, it is not enough to recognize local land rights. It will be necessary to make it attractive for local communities to maintain the forest. This requires adequate and long-term financing of local livelihoods such as the transition to more productive and sustainable agricultural techniques and market access. But this is not easy and requires real investment.  

The history of conservation is filled with incompatibility between the stated goal and the funding allocated to it. The end result is usually failure and local communities often bear the costs. 

It is those people on the edge of the forest holding an axe who have the greatest influence on what happens. We can have endless discussions in places like Glasgow, but unless these people who make decisions about how they farm are properly empowered, and their rights are formally recognized, I have doubts that a nature-based solution is really possible.
Dr Sarobidy Rakotonarivo,
Socio-Economist of the Environment, ESSA-Forests, University of Antananarivo
*This article does not necessarily reflect the perspective of ESSA-Forets or the University of Antananarivo 

Malagasy youth more than confident in the fight against climate change

The COP26, although having had a mixed result, should not be seen as an end in itself but as the triggering of a new mentality in the minds of young people. We intend to make a restitution to the Malagasy youth in order to make them aware of the current situation and the meager solutions that are available to us. We understood that the beautiful speeches and the promises did not guarantee a global agreement with concrete impacts on the daily life of the populations. Of course, we will follow with great attention the fulfillment of the few commitments that have been made by the governments. But we will not wait to act, our survival depends on it. 

The frightening trajectory of global warming will condemn our generation to live through terrifying and disastrous times. 

The next COP will be held in Egypt and will be African. Pan-African youth networks are already excited for its preparations. We will not tolerate a new COP that does not take into consideration the problems of young people from vulnerable countries facing the effects of climate change. 

The COP26 was imperfect but confronts us with the reality: the young generation wants to take its destiny in hand and can no longer afford to put it between those of a generation that has fully contributed to the current situation. The Malagasy youth is aware of this and is starting to act. As young leaders, our role is to inform, inspire and be catalysts for change in our societies. 
Max Fontaine
Malagasy youth representative at COP26 and Founder of the social enterprise Bôndy 

How can researchers contribute to the integration of nature-based solutions into climate change policy strategies?

There has been so much relevant research on this topic. The social sciences, looking at the realities of implementing these nature-based solutions such as forest conservation or restoration, are part of it.  

The challenge is to ensure that this research is used to inform policy and practice on climate change. There is a gap that we have not been able to bridge so far, despite the rhetoric and the presence of researchers at COP26. 

This gap is partly due to the fact that researchers are primarily motivated by publishing scientific papers, rather than making information available in forms that are useful to policymakers. On the other hand, policy makers are always pressed for time, and often do not take the time to consult research results. 

So how can we ensure that research contributes to the integration of effective and equitable forest-based solutions into policy strategies?

I believe that both donors and researchers need to be more engaged in activities related to creating positive impact from research in a country as rich in biodiversity but as poor as Madagascar.  

I am currently working on a project that was funded specifically to create impacts from a research project on the role of international payments for environmental services on poverty reduction in Madagascar. Among other things, we produced a film to communicate our research findings in an innovative way and used that film to engage policymakers. We even brought some high-level policymakers to a remote village on the edge of the forest so they could interact directly with forest communities and see firsthand the challenges of implementing these nature-based solutions on the ground. 

As researchers, we need to think about what our research means if it is not used by policy makers and benefits both local communities and nature.
Dr Sarobidy Rakotonarivo,
Socio-Economist of the Environment, ESSA-Forests, University of Antananarivo