In the lead up to the world’s biggest climate change conference, COP26 in Glasgow, we are challenging members of Salix to walk 26 miles this August.
The Steps for Sustainability challenge is impactful for many reasons. First and foremost, it provides a chance for us to collectively raise money for the environment, we have chosen to support the Wildlife Trust charity1. This is a grassroots movement working to restore a third of the UK’s land and seas for nature by 2030. It has been increasing people’s awareness and understanding of the natural world and restoring our relationship with it. We hope staff will also feel the mental and physical benefits which result from regular walking or physical activity.
Additionally, opting for this mode of transportation will reduce our individual and collective carbon footprint. It is also our hope that this challenge sparks a conversation surrounding the importance of the COP26 summit and our personal and shared responsibility in reaching net zero by 2050.
What is COP26?
Glasgow will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) between the 31st of October to the 12th of November 2021. The purpose of this summit is to bring parties (governments, businesses and civil society) together to further action toward the goals set in the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Paris Agreement2 established in 2015 outlined the work required to limit global warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Across the world today, we see that extreme weather, such as floods to wildfires, is worsening and air pollution affects the health of millions of people daily.
The 1.5 degree target is important as every fractional increase in degree escalates the potential number of environmental tragedies putting livelihoods and lives at risk. For this reason, there is an urgency to act quickly to find resolutions now.
COP26 will be an opportunity for countries to showcase their national frameworks for reducing carbon emissions (Nationally Determined Contributors or NDCs) as promised in the Paris Agreement and to put these plans into motion.
1. Secure global net zero by 2050 and keep within 1.5 degrees of warming
In order to do so, it has been emphasised that countries should focus on phasing out the use of coal, encourage investment in renewables, curtail deforestation and speed up the switch to electric vehicles.
2. Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats
This goal emphasises the way in which countries must work together to enable those most affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences, put warning systems in place and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient.
Countries have been called to produce an ‘Adaption Communication’ which will outline how they are adapting to the impacts of climate change and where they require support. This hopes to foster greater collaboration and collective solutions.
3. Mobilise finance
Developed countries are asked to deliver on their promise to raise at least $100bn in climate finance per year. International financial institutions have been called to play their part and Salix are proud to be contributing to this mission on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). The UK is doubling their International Climate Finance commitment to at least 11.6 billion between 2021 and 20253 highlighting that the environment will be a key consideration when making financial decisions moving forward.
“Finance is essential to accelerating the transition to net zero and achieving the full ambition of the Paris Agreement”
Mark Carney, The Prime Minister’s finance adviser for COP26
4. Work together to deliver
The COP26 president Alok Sharma has highlighted that the only hope for success is collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society. The summit is a chance to turn promises and ambitions into actions and to finalise the Paris rulebook3.
"The epidemic has shown us how crucial it is to find agreement among nations if we are to solve such worldwide problems"
Sir David Attenborough (COP26 People’s advocate)
Steps for Sustainability: An opportunity for collaboration
This walking challenge represents the way in which collective effort is the best means to reach a goal and to spark a passion for progression. Choosing walking above public transportation for instance will lessen our carbon footprint and there are a multitude of other benefits to be experienced.
The physical health benefits
Walking is a simple but effective form of exercise and can help improve fitness, cardiac health and reduce the risks of chronic disease to name a few. If you have knee, ankle or back problems walking is a lower impact exercise compared to running. Studies have shown that a daily walk can lessen the risk of stroke in men and women, significantly improve blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.
The mental health benefits
Walking can also help our mental health. It can improve our self-perception, self-esteem, mood and sleep quality4.
A short burst of 10 minutes of brisk walking can significantly increase our mental alertness, energy and boost positivity. Researchers have found that participants felt more content, awake and calm after being physically active5 in comparison to their state following periods of inactivity.
Physical exercise can also effectively relieve stress6. Research has shown that employed adults who work to remain active are more likely to have lower stress rates compared to individuals who are less so. Moving our bodies in this way betters our ability to cope with life stressors and generally boosts our mood and positive outlook.
Walking among nature
Combining your walking route with a green space is a great way to improve your mental wellbeing. Research conducted by those in the scientific field of ecotherapy, which centres on therapy via outdoor activities in nature, shows a significant connection between the time that we spend in nature and the alleviation of stress.
One study by the University of Exeter found that people who spent two hours a week in green spaces, either all at once or over a number of walks, were more likely to report good health and psychological well-being7 than those who do not. These effects cut across occupations, ethnic groups and differing socioeconomic backgrounds. This study positively showcased that such results can be accomplished by a hopefully realistic (if able) target of only two hours.
Furthermore, the steps for sustainability challenge will enable members of Salix Finance, who are wanting and able to partake, to reap the rewards of regular walking. Better yet this experience will generate conversations surrounding our personal responsibility to reduce our carbon emissions and lead to the donation of funds to the Wildlife Trust.
Good luck to those who are walking, cycling, skating or scootering this challenge!
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