Earth Day hopes for COP26

To mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year, we asked 17 world renowned scientists, guardians, leaders, pioneers, activists, adventurers and ambassadors, to their hopes for COP26's long anticipated outcome. By Charlotte Owen-Burge | April 22, 2021


Nemonte Nenquimo, co-founder of the Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance. First female president of the Waorani organisation of Pastaza province, Ecuador

We need to take action. We need to take real and urgent actions to ensure a healthy future for everyone. Indigenous peoples, who are on the frontlines of the battle to protect nature, need direct support. We are putting our lives on the line to protect our forest, our way of life and our planet from destruction. We are facing new threats each day. World leaders, organizations and civil society need to back us in our struggles and support the Indigenous movement and organizations leading solutions to this crisis. Only by working together can we create real change and protect nature and our survival on this planet. We need to unite in the struggle because the fight is not only up to Indigenous peoples but for all of humanity. My hope is for everyone to become conscious of our responsibility to take care of our planet, and to unite in defense of life! Together, we can create real change from the ground up.


Mary Robinson, President of Ireland (1990 to 1997). UN high commissioner for human rights (1997 to 2002). Member of the Elders. President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice

My greatest hope is that we will know that the curve is bending to a sustainable future of less than 1.5°C above warming. The biggest emitters will have made ambitious commitments to cut emissions by more than 50% in their NDCs, climate finance of over UDS$100 billion a year will have been committed, and a direct link will have been made with protecting 30% of global land and oceans in restoring biodiversity and adopting nature-based solutions. The language will have changed from ‘build back better’ after COVID-19 to ‘building forward with equality, justice and sustainability, leaving no-one behind’.


Dr Katharine Wilkinson, climate author, strategist, teacher. Co-founder of The All We Can Save Project

If we want to get to good, wise outcomes, let’s be intentional about inputs. The root meaning of the word “conference” is the act of consulting together. When I think ahead to COP26, my greatest hope is that it will be more radically inclusive than any of the 25 COPs prior: that women’s and feminist voices, Global South voices, youth voices, and all voices for justice are not just present but at the forefront. It is not only fair to centre those with the most at risk and at stake, but a growing body of research shows it’s more effective for climate outcomes. Countries are parties to the UNFCCC, but all human beings are parties to a just and liveable future.


Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad. Member of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee

I am not sending this message to future generations, but to the current one. According to scientists, we have 10 years left to act. 10 years is less than a generation. 10 years, so that in a century or two, our great grandchildren will still be able to marvel at the magnificent landscapes of the Sahel, its animals, its trees. 10 years to find a sustainable way of life that will allow each man, each woman on this planet to think of the seven generations to come, and to decide to leave them a planet in harmony between humanity and nature.


Sacha Dench, Ambassador for Migratory Species, Convention on Migratory Species of the UN. CEO, Conservation Without Borders

I hope we all show up, whether in person or in spirit, with the aim of acting, collaborating, sharing challenges and ideas. Not just to be seen to be there. That we chose to face the challenges of climate change, as adventurers might face a mountain, an ocean, a journey that has never been done before; as an exciting opportunity, as a mission to rally a team around, bring people of broad skills together, a chance to innovate.

I’d really like to see companies, particularly the bigger ones, being inspired and brave enough not only to put changemakers at the top, but to support them through the challenges that are to come. More importantly, I want to see companies recognize and start to use their powers as employers, investors, advertisers…the real mass influencers that have the power to choose our future. They are the ones who can choose to shift our economies into hyperdrive on climate action before it is too late, or not.


Dr Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, American environmental scientist, known for her activism in environmental justice and urban sustainability, for which she was named a Champion of Change by the White House in 2014. Assistant professor of environmental and health sciences at Spelman College

As we celebrate Earth Day and inch closer to COP26, I am encouraged that the United States has re-joined the Paris Agreement and is taking steps to demonstrate bold leadership in addressing the climate crisis. I am hopeful that this international gathering of nations focused on climate solutions will yield immediate and actionable strategies and policies that centre communities on the frontlines of climate change – those hurt first and worst. In doing so, advancing equity, human rights, and climate justice can be elevated as the necessary action is taken to address the greatest challenge of our time.


Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC (2010-2016). Co-founder of Global Optimism

COP26 should be a better version of what we built for Paris, in part because we have six more years of experience under our belts, but also because the moment needs it. We have more granularity in the science, and we’re much better apprised of the urgency with which the transformation needs to take place. This is absolutely the moment to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and double down on our efforts to reduce emissions and regenerate nature – as individuals, as companies, as nations and collectively. The reason is simple: we have to do this. Failure is not an option.


Aili Keskitalo, President of the Norwegian Sámi Parliament, which acts as an institution of cultural autonomy for the indigenous Sámi people

My hope for COP26 is that climate mitigation policies should not be another burden disproportionately carried by Indigenous peoples, like climate change is. I look to COP26 to champion climate justice.




Rachel Kyte, Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Climate advisor for the UN secretary-general

Our broken relationship with nature lies at the heart of the compound crises of COVID and climate change. Our recklessness, embedded in our economic systems, has also failed billions of people. This Earth Day, we will find new and more ways to work together to heal the planet. In so doing, we will reconnect with nature, and nature will help us to heal ourselves. We should then install a politics brave enough to interpret the science wisely for now and future generations so that every day is Earth Day.


Dr Maria Neira, Director of the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) department of environment, climate change and health

A healthy and green recovery, this is my hope. As we celebrate Earth Day, I hope we can all take a moment to reflect on the difficult year we’ve had, and to look at the months and years ahead with hope and determination for a healthy recovery. WHO prescribes a green and healthy recovery from COVID-19 to every government. That also means the renewal of the most important health agreement of our time, the Paris Agreement!



Anoka Abeyrathne, Environmental Lead for the Royal Commonwealth Society, co-founder of mangrove conservation social enterprise, Growin’ Money

My greatest hope is for governments and corporates to agree on mutually beneficial ways to subsidize costs for sustainable and renewable energy, production and materials to ensure circularity. These need to have strong divisions for accountability. With strong carbon taxes and pollution taxes, countries can truly become sustainable while motivating corporations to be eco-friendly and human-friendly too!



Mindy Lubber, CEO and President, Ceres

As we celebrate this unique Earth Day and turn our urgent focus to COP26, my greatest hope is that together we will forge a true path to a more equitable, just and sustainable economy. For three decades, we’ve been working to move capital markets’ leaders to transform the economy. We are seeing change every day with the largest investors and financial institutions stepping up and setting net zero targets. This is a great start. In the lead up to November, we hope to see greater ambition in the year ahead and swift implementation of robust climate action plans and transformational shifts of capital.



Mariama Djambony Badji, co-founder and CEO of DNA SARL. Young Leader for the SDGs designated by the United Nations

I deeply hope that these meetings will result in profound systems change that will address the needs of the vulnerable in climate change financing. And the policies on reducing greenhouse gas emissions should not only be well written, but also well applied for the well-being of our planet.



Dr Tara Shine, environmental scientist, author and co-facilitator of the Structured Expert Dialogue under the UNFCCC.

My hope for COP26 is that it leads to greater solidarity in the response to climate change around the world. As we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, global problems need a multilateral response that is ambitious, urgent, inclusive and fair. Only by working together, north and south, rich and poor, governments and companies, people and communities can we create the societal change needed to reduce emissions, increase resilience and deliver climate justice for all. Making this change happen is one of the greatest opportunities we have ever had – and we can’t waste it.

Juliet Davenport, CEO and Founder, Good Energy

UN climate summits can often appear dry and even dull affairs. But the issues couldn’t be further from being dry and dull. The real-world implications of what does or doesn’t get agreed in Glasgow will have a lasting impact.

I know behind the scenes there will be a huge amount of work going on with tensions running high, and there is increasing pressure from world populations to act. What I hope is that countries will be able to resist the classic “nation centric” approach and be able to see the world as a whole. We will all be better off if they can.


Dr Emma Camp, Marine Biologist, University of technology Sydney. Young Leader for the SDGs designated by the United Nations

My greatest hope is that all Parties can agree on the importance of aligning financial flows and mechanisms that incentivize and prioritize climate action. We need to move away from the mindset that going “green” is bad for the economy, and instead see it as an opportunity for innovation that can provoke new revenue streams.


Kate Williams, CEO, 1% for the planet

One of 1% for the Planet’s core values is “Think big. Act now.” I believe that we need to bring this value to life globally – boldly envisioning a thriving future for planet and people, and courageously making the very real changes that need to happen to get there. We have a new level of consensus among individuals, businesses, investors, and governments. We can do this.


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