The case for climate optimism: WLT’s Catherine Barnard on the impact we can make in 2021 SEARCH NEWS


The Fridays for Future movement has inspired a generation of young people to get involved in climate action. Image: Mika Baumeister / Unsplash

In the second of a two-part series (you can read the first part here), World Land Trust (WLT) CEO Catherine Barnard continues examining 2021’s significance for the climate crisis, this time outlining how individuals and businesses can help this year – through specific actions to save the forests key to mitigating global warming.

We know more about climate change – and how to fight it – than ever before. Armed with the latest science and inspired by the impact our partners are having on the front lines of conservation, we have the ability to turn 2021 into a truly momentous year for climate action.

WLT staff and supporters have good reason to be buoyed by the success we achieved together over the last 12 months. This was the year when the total area of high-quality habitats directly saved by WLT supporters reached 2,222,247 acres (900,000 ha) and our Save the Chocó appeal raised nearly twice its initial £500,000 target. Supporters like you showed that nature need not stand alone in its time of need, and in spite of all the hardships, 2020 has renewed my optimism for our fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

The chance to save the last 2% of Ecuador’s Chocó Forest truly galvanised WLT supporters in 2020. Image: James Muchmore

If we are to mitigate climate change in the most effective way possible, the evidence is clear: saving tropical forests, some of the most important carbon sinks, is key to achieving the ambitious climate goals the world has committed to. We also know from the UN Environment Programme that to save the planet, fighting climate change and biodiversity loss at the same time is essential.

Let this integrated approach be our roadmap for 2021. Let us share positive stories of what is possible, and how nature-based solutions are critical for our future. By doing so, we can inform decision-making at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) – taking place in Glasgow this November – and beyond.

We’ve already shown that the work of WLT can have an incredible impact. In 2020, we offset 43,773 t CO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) through our Carbon Balanced programme – the equivalent of taking 20,754 average UK cars off the road for a year. Carbon Balanced projects like Nangaritza in Ecuador and Khe Nuoc Trong in Vietnam are evidence of the difference our supporters can make when they choose us to save carbon-rich and biodiversity-rich habitats.

The Red-shanked Douc is one of many endangered species that Khe Nuoc Trong protects. Image: Viet Nature

Climate change as a unifying force

Climate change affects us all, but too often we think of climate action as too big, too difficult, and someone else’s problem to solve. With COP26 scheduled for November – the biggest climate action event in years – all of us would do well to reassess our relationship with the environment in 2021.

What could you do before November to show your friends, relatives and colleagues how committed you are to healing our natural home? Whether it is schools, businesses, local councils, individuals, families – there is always scope for positive change. This could be your most sustainable year yet.

There are plenty of ways to make a difference as a WLT supporter:

  • You can set up an individual fundraising challenge, like 7-year-old Seb and 8-year-old Sam have done. They plan to raise £5,000 by running 202.1km in 30 days!
  • Your company could join our Carbon Balanced programme, just like Ella’s Kitchen did. The organic baby food company now helps protect 380 acres in Ecuador’s Nangaritza Valley.
  • If you’re looking for a simple change to make your business more sustainable, try opting for Carbon Balanced Paper instead of your usual supplier.
  • Birthday or anniversary on the horizon? You can give the gift of a healthy planet by making a donation on behalf of a loved one to our Buy an Acre or Plant a Tree programmes.
  • Need some more inspiration for how to save the planet through us? Check out this blog for a selection of last year’s fundraisers, including a sponsored birdwatch, a virtual Everest climb, and a charity haircut!
  • There are also lots of small personal actions that will make your day-to-day life more environmentally friendly. Many of these can in fact save you money, like reducing your carbon emissions by driving less and turning lights off when you’re not in the room.

In 2018, Camilla and Julian Read raised £10,000 by cycling 10,000 miles from the UK to New Zealand. Image: Camilla and Julian Read

With the right action, 2021 can be the year when climate change unites disparate interests. Who wouldn’t benefit from a clean and renewable energy revolution, a reduction in pollution, the preservation of wildlife and wilderness, and protection against the threat of pandemics? A greener future is a safer and more stable future for the whole planet.

There is still a real chance to create the groundswell of support needed to establish our ‘Global Safety Net’, a worldwide network of protected habitats that can stabilise the Earth’s climate. Events like COP26 that promise international collaboration are a huge source of optimism, but we must remember to hold our leaders accountable and judge them by their actions, not by their words.

We will continue fighting and we hope you will too – urgent action is needed, and with WLT you can play a part. Regardless of how large or small your contribution, you now have the opportunity to join countless others in building on the recent successes made possible by our supporters, creating revolutionary change as one of our shared home’s much-needed defenders.

Dr. Catherine Barnard
World Land Trust CEO

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