The efforts of 'citizen scientists' and the private sector could play an important role in the future of our planet, according to Earthwatch Head of Climate Change Research Dr. Dan Bebber, speaking after the United Nations COP 16 Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico. At the two-week summit from 29 November to 10 December, delegates worked towards an international climate deal that commits all major economies to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate champions at work in Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire.
Dr. Bebber, who represented Earthwatch at the conference, said: "I think the best that can be said is that the UN process didn't die. Actual commitments were still pretty thin on the ground. The Green Climate Fund (to help poor countries adapt to climate change) people are attributing to Cancún was actually agreed in Copenhagen. There's a lot of work to do around where the $100 billion per year by 2020 will actually come from."
He added: "With the USA, Canada, Australia, China and India pretty much resigned to increasing emissions rates over the next few years, the chances of holding atmospheric greenhouse gases at relatively safe levels is slim. Governments alone will not be able to provide the solution. Any big changes will have to come from the bottom up. Hence the vital role that Earthwatch plays in engaging the public and business in environmental action."
Earthwatch had a substantial presence at the Cancún conference and was keen to make its voice heard. Five 'climate champions' from Earthwatch's partnership with HSBC joined Dr. Bebber at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The HSBC Climate Partnership is a five-year program on climate change to inspire action by individuals, businesses and governments. Climate champions undertake training at Earthwatch's regional climate centres where they work on climate change research projects.
At Cancun, the climate champions spoke with visitors to the conference about the work of the HSBC Climate Partnership, their role as 'citizen scientists' and the business sustainability projects they have led since returning from the field. Together with Dr. Bebber, they aimed to show people that science is something we all need to understand and get involved with.
Dr. Bebber added: "Both businesses and the public can get involved. There are so many environmental issues around the world that need solving."