A Practitioner in a Policy World: COP21

“Policy without practice is like a bike without wheels. It won’t go anywhere.”

Keith Jones, Environmental Practice Advisor for the National Trust and one of the Network founders, spent the week at COP21 as part of the International National Trust Organisation (INTO) delegation. INTO had a stand in the Observation area of the conference, and were there to help emphasise the importance of protecting heritage and culture in the face of climate change as well as the role they can play in mitigating its impact.

At a conference where people from all over the world and from many different cultural backgrounds had gathered together, there was a lot to learn about how culture and heritage are already being affected.

Amidst all the policy decisions, it was also about finding out where the practitioners fit in.


keith COP

©Keith Jones


Practical solutions

There were plenty of people there who were sharing practical solutions,many of which were hugely inspiring. One example close to home was  the Size of Wales charity. The charity has purchased an area of tropical rainforest equivalent to the size of Wales and is bringing Welsh people together to help sustain it as part of a national response to climate change. At the same time, the charity assists local people in sustainably managing the land.

The Energy Generation area was full of enthusiasm and innovation. These are the people that have the solutions from a technological and, evidently, a creative perspective.


 © Keith Jones

© Keith Jones


Day three of the conference was centred around farming, with talks from indigenous populations who depend on farming for their future and for whom climate change is one of the biggest threats to their livelihoods. Representatives from INTO spoke about the ways that traditional farming methods can act as practical solutions in terms of lowering environmental impacts. This is where heritage and culture comes in on a practical level-  sometimes a way forward can be found by looking backwards!

Facing the realities 

Keith attended a talk by Anote Tong, present of Kiribati and Enele Sopoaga, prime minister of Tuvalu, both island nations bearing the brunt of climate change. Even with a 1.5°C temperature increase these islands will mostly disappear as sea levels rise, leaving inhabitants with no choice but to migrate. These leaders are fighting for change so that other nation’s won’t have to go through the same. Powerful stuff!

A step in the right direction

For the first time the nations of the world committed to a target of limiting temperature increase to 2°C. But some communities are already faced with inevitable changes: the Pacific Islanders whose countries will be uninhabitable in the next decade, countries in Africa that have already exceeded 1.5°C  increase.

Even so, this is still a huge step forward in terms of an agreement between world leaders. The Economist describes it as an ‘unprecedented political recognition of the risks of climate change’.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change reviewstated that ‘The deal takes a significant step forward to reducing emissions. For the first time ever 195 countries, including the world’s largest emitters, have now committed to act together to combat climate change and be held equally accountable.’

credit: ConexiónCOP Agencia de noticias

credit: ConexiónCOP Agencia de noticias

Policy needs practice

Much of the conference was about policy, but this can’t go very far without practice. One of the most significant benefits of COP is that it also brings practitioners together to share innovation, ideas, approaches and learnings. It’s these things that will set the policy in motion and take it forward.

Read Keith’s full account on the NT Going Green blog

Banner photo credit: ConexiónCOP Agencia de noticias