Evolving the COPs into Something More Meaningful

Chris Searles/BioIntegrity
8 min readDec 19, 2023

Biosphere, Kinship, Wellth and Abundance as guide.

The “COPs” are the United Nation’s annual Conference of the “Parties” (parties = the world’s nations) on working together to avoid catastrophic, planetary climate chaos. Here are some thoughts on how to make it all make more sense in the years ahead.

Please study the values above.

CREDIT is due

It’s been about a week since they finished COP28, this year’s international climate conference, and to all the people who worked very very hard to make this year as meaningful as possible — thank you, job well done.

I agree there were at least two historic outcomes that are essential to moving the goals of the COPs forward.

Quick Context: This year’s conference was dominated by “the fossil fuel nations” and the fossil fuel industry, traditionally seen as murderous to indigenous peoples and environmental activists, as well as deadly to nature protections, human rights, resource efficiency, economic justice, climate science, renewable energy, gender inclusivity, and environmental and social justice reparations. With all of this in mind:

Historic Outcomes of COP28

#1) Language: Most significantly, they got the words & goals on biodiversity, ecosystems and human beings — right for now. That was not expected.

#2) Direction: Nearly 200 countries committing to “transition” away from fossil fuels, in this context, by 2050 means something.

These outcomes set a foundation for stronger outcomes at future COPs. Thanks again, everybody. (For more on COP28’s positive achievements, their wrapup page has beautiful graphics.)

REALITY, THO

We are 25 years behind… The goal was to cut emissions in half in six years. What we got was a vague intention to transition away from fossil fuels — no timeline, no roadmap.” (Bill McGuire, Professor Emeritus of Geophysical & Climate Hazards at University College London)

Bloomberg.com’s excellent wrap-up article is right, from the environment’s perspective: “COP28’s Success Marks Just a Tiny Upgrade on COP27”.

Why? This year’s conference, the first global stocktake (coming together to compare notes), looked at how much progress nations have made reducing greenhouse emissions — presumably by transitioning away from fossil fuels since the Paris Climate Agreement at COP20, eight years ago.

Metaphorically, this year’s agreement is kind of like saying “In order to eat we are going to put the food in our mouths and chew at some point in the next 25 years,” eight years after agreeing to eat immediately.

But even more off target than that, China & the USA produce +40% of global greenhouse emissions and are the #1 producers of coal and oil, respectively, in the world.

We are the fossil fuel nations. We keep deflecting that.

And, worse than being this far from reality on the whole mission of stopping climate change before it gets catastrophic, our culture. Developed World culture has us focused on fear and shame rather than on being good to ourselves, others, our civilization, and the Earth to solve the problems we share.

In light of what so many find “exciting” about the future, SPACE is not the final frontier: SELF and SOCIETY are — on this planet.

There is only one planetary life-support system. LIFE on Earth is what it’s about. How do you be the person you want to be? Getting to that world is the goal. It’s also an ongoing, collective effort.

THE POINT

We’re already in the 1.5C scenario. Our leaders, our scientists, the weather industry, do not seem to have noticed that the breakthrough goal agreed to at Paris in 2015 — “staying below 1.5”, was signed to avoid catastrophic damages which seem to have begun occurring around 2010.

These delegates kicking the can at COP28 to transition away from polluting and heating emissions 25 years from now when their grandkids are running things is disgusting and lame and totally terrifying for all eight billion of us this decade.

And unfortunately as i have been saying, against my own hopes and dreams: Clean Tech’s not much better at addressing its issues.

So what do we do? We go forward from here, with a better solution.

I think i’ve got the outlines of the most powerful solution.

It’s in biospheric truth:

THE WAY OUT (↑)

Forests, Agriculture, Ecosystem-Integrity, these are the way out, first and foremost. Why? These are the most important aspects of the life-support system everything is built on. Also: The science clearly shows that 10 strategies focused in these areas can get us out of the greenhouse gas crisis by removing more than 100% of the carbon emissions needed to avoid literal 1.5C warming this decade. Here are the 10 strategies in two groups:

  • 1–2) Implement the COP26 Glasgow Forests & Lands agreement, which would: End deforestation in 145 key countries and Restore 711 million acres of critical forest, peatland, and wetlands in those countries. Why forests and wet landscapes, first? This is our best strategy for restoring normal weather globally. (Searles, 2021, World Resources Institute, 2021)
  • 3–10) Improve the food system: i.e. eliminate emissions related to cattle feed, rice cultivation, food waste, agricultural waste, meat consumption, and nutrient and manure management, and radically improve soil carbon sequestration and biochar carbon sequestration. (Roe, et al, 2019).

Done.

  • Result: +100% of projected-emissions removed on time, rainfall cycles restored, biosphere strengthened, people fed, extreme weather reduced, Regenerative Agriculture actualized as an economy at scale, water cleaner. (Here’s the simple math. Here’s the cited science.) There are also additional natural strategies for absorbing greenhouse emissions, see “Additional drawdown opportunities” in this blog.

Seeing the forest and the trees.

Forests ARE the weather on land (science, more science, more science). Food is the effective point for resolving issues re: climate, biodiversity, poverty, economics, famine, destructive industry, human rights, and human identity. Ecosystems are our life-support system. Ecosystems are everything.

The better they are, the better we are.

The conservation community has been overly apologetic on Nature’s potential to stop climate change. Everyone in Conservation knows tree plantations are not a solution. The Media sensationalizes the conservationist’s humility and headlines “trees are bad for the environment.” Conservation MUST MAKE CLEAR: trees and forests are better than the eletricification of the planet, for God’s sake.

  • NATURE > TECHNOLOGY. We need to figure this out. Technology is not better than nature. Stopping future fossil fuel emissions does not restore water tables, temperate climate weather, outdoor food production, microbial life, soils, vegetative infrastructure, transpiration, biological productivity, pollinators, biodiversity. Only natural ecosystem protection, regrowth, enrichment and integrity restore those things, those essentials. Electrification is a good idea, but JUST LIKE FOSSIL FUELs it’s running the hottest furnaces on Earth, draining rivers, destroying ecosystems, ruining indigenous peoples’ lives, mining, creating ungodly waste, forecasting supply chain needs greater than what’s actually possible to provide on this planet, staking our future on profitability in an economics that profits according to its crafty packaging and delivery of exploitable resources: perception, people, fossils, minerals, gasses, other species, property, data.
  • Forests are multi-taskers. Done right, protecting / regrowing / enriching forests is our most effective primary solution for climate stability. It’s not the only solution, but it’s the first one because it matters most. Forest establishment is essentially how land-life came into being 100s of millions of years ago. Healthy forests move the majority of rain across continents, still today. That “bio-tech” already exists and we’re cutting it down. It must come first.
  • Improving the Food System is profitable, today, and it’s eight strategies (above) are 100% of the carbon solution this decade. Groups like PlantWithPurpose.org show how Agroforestry, Regenerative Agricultural practices and Savings Coops are already lifting around 1,000,000 people out of poverty, directly and indirectly — and growing every year.
  • All ecosystems are essential, but only TREES BRING RAIN. And trees remove and store the carbon. And trees keep landscape life alive in all the ways listed above. And trees make oxygen and cleanse our water. And they’re beautiful. And so much more.

I think we all want to keep living, and I think the Fossil Fuel lobby, the hardcore anti-environmentalists, the miners, the rich, the war makers, everyone except perhaps the Rapturists can get on board with living.

MORE MEANINGFUL COPs

So what does Living well take? For future COPs and for global society in general i think we need this kind of value set:

Where are we? Who are we? What do we each want?

My recommendations:

  1. Reform.
    Redefine Wealth to Wellth. What are the right values for humans individually and together this century and for the next 1,000 years? How well are you doing, is way more significant than how much you’re worth. The world must let wellth, not wealth, guide. That’s where we all want to go.
  2. Overhaul.
    Put Life-Support System, first, in the COPs. Start by moving clauses 55, 56, 61, and 63d of the new accord to the front of the next document. Those are great for now. EG, “Reduce climate impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity and acclerate the use of ecosystem-based adaptation and nature-based solutions.”
  3. Refocus.
    Refocus the whole “comittment” thing onto the BIG 4 POLLUTERS: CHINA, US, INDIA, and the EU, and the OPEC nations. These BIG 4 are responsible for more than 50% of global carbon emissions. They are the fossil fuel markets. They represent most-developed and most-developing economies. Change them, you change the world. We need to show our plans for transitioning jobs and daily life to net negative greenhouse emissions. Grow-back the climate and De-carbonize the economically-dominant immediately: that’s the right focus.
  4. Integration.
    Integrate leadership and learnings from the mamas, the Indigenous, the Poor, the local knowledge systems / knowledge keepers and care providers — as well as Business, Industry, Policy and Science. Our life-support system is just like us, it needs relationships, enrichment, and opportunities. It wants to thrive. It has many facets, needs, and colors. It seeks connection and unity. It is both fragile and strong, self-managing and capable of creating abundance. It is defined by its physicality and physical wellbeing. Our institutions must refound on those understandings.
  5. Direction.
    Protect, Regrow, Enrich the biointegrity we built $ and Civilization on. We are each indigenous to the Earth. We are each geniuses. Diversity is Reality. Success is Wellth.

To make the COPs more meaningful: We need a global culture seeking Wellth, rooted in Kinship and Biospheric Reality, with a vision for realizing an economics of inclusion, opportunity, generosity, and Abundance.

Then we can move forward on Energy, Transportation, Development, Technology, and all the rest in the right ways; guided by biospheric truth.

Together, our potential is unlimited.

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