By Joanna Kamal, Ambassador

Picture credit: UNA-UK

Considering October’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and endless news articles detailing the failings of international climate agreements, it is all too easy to get caught up in what we as a human race have failed to do with regards to climate change mitigation.

While it cannot be denied that there is yet much work to be done, it is also important to highlight what goals we are achieving, and the positives that have arisen from international aims such as the Sustainable Development Goals. To focus only on the negatives may serve to disillusion us — but there is much to be celebrated about what the Sustainable Development Goals have led to, and the future that they can provide.

So, what good things have come out of the SDGs? What have we achieved? We can look at SDGs 2 and 15, Zero Hunger and Life on Land, to partly answer our question.

How do the Zero Hunger and Life on Land SDGs interlink?

The Life on Land SDG came about as a response to a growing need to protect the environment from land degradation, drought and desertification. The aim of this SDG is to ‘conserve and restore the use of terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, drylands and mountains’ and to stop deforestation.

Picture credit: In Too Deep

All of us, humans and animals alike, are in some way reliant on the sustenance and conservation of this land for our very existence and well-being. Clearly then, it is incredibly important for us to make every effort to ensure that life on land is protected from the effects of climate change, not least because one of the reasons we are so reliant on land is through agriculture.

Taking care of life on land goes hand in hand with making sure the most vulnerable populations and people are not going hungry. With 35% of global food demand expected to increase by 2030, this no easy task, but through practices such as sustainable farming we can ensure that the land is protected and cared for while also ensuring that food production remains consistent in the long term and people are fed — a multi-pronged strategy which benefits us all.

The Importance of Bees

You might be thinking, ‘how do bees come into all this?’

These cute fuzzy creatures are an incredibly important part of sustaining and protecting life on land. In fact, three out of four crops in the entire world depend on bees to pollinate them and we depend on those crops to eat. Yet, bees are incredibly under threat — none more so than in the UK. This is because of the use of harmful pesticides used during farming that can disorientate and kill bees. We need to protect bees as an integral part of life on land and as an essential part of our food production systems.

Picture credit: Berkshire Co-op

One organisation which has played an important role in protecting the UK’s bees is Friends of the Earth. Friends of the Earth is an important international advocacy group which campaigns on a wide range of environmental issues and has proven to be incredibly effective in advocating for ‘the Bee Cause’, as they call it. Let’s look at what they have achieved with the help of their supporters:

· Regulations for less neonic pesticides in the UK and the EU

· National Pollinators Plan for Wales

· National Pollinator Strategy for England

· 10-year Pollinator strategy for Scotland

· Support for communities and people to create safe spaces for bees

· Bee Friendly accreditation scheme in Wales

· Provision of help for the government and researchers in collecting information on bees

These are huge steps in the protection of our bees and in the fulfilment of the international SDGs for Zero Hunger and Life on Land. While there is still much work to be done, at a time of the year that is often centred around reflection and gratefulness, it is important that we take the time to appreciate the progress that has been made, thanks to organisations like Friends of the Earth and countless others.

Sometimes we can focus on the bad things, especially in terms of climate change, but this is not always necessary — particularly not when such great advances have been made in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Big and small improvements alike are important to celebrate. We should continue to strive for even the smallest of changes and celebrate each one as incredibly instrumental in themselves. It is only when we make national changes that we can move towards global impacts.

After all, it is only with taking many steps towards sustainable development that we will be able to look back and realise the vital progress we have made.

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