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We’re at COP28 to save the whale, save the world

Ed is WDC's head of intergovernmental engagement. He meets with world leaders to increase protection and reduce harm to whales and dolphins, for their sake and our own.

We can't save the world without saving the ocean, and we can't save the ocean without saving whales. That’s why over the next two weeks, we’ll be in Dubai at COP28, the biggest climate event of the year, ensuring that the ocean’s vital role in fighting the climate crisis is at the heart of discussions, and that all our non-human climate allies, including whales and dolphins, are starting to be integrated into governments’ climate strategies and commitments.

What is COP?

Every year since 1995, world leaders gather at these meetings called COPs, or conferences of the parties, which are organised by the United Nations to try to reduce the ways humans are affecting the Earth's climate. Back in 2015, the world committed to the Paris Agreement - an ambitious pact outlining objectives to restrict global temperature increases to 1.5°C - to avert the most severe consequences of climate change on both society and nature. This year marks the inaugural 'global stocktake' where progress towards the Paris Agreement will be comprehensively evaluated. Things don’t look optimistic.

Planet Earth globe

What's it got to do with WDC?

The climate crisis and the loss of nature threaten our very existence, and while governments are focused on reducing our carbon emissions, one vital key to solving the problem is consistently overlooked - the ocean. Without it, Earth would be a massive 35°C (95°F) hotter than it is now – making life impossible for the vast majority of living creatures – including us. Within the ocean’s depths are our enormous, magnificent allies in this battle – whales. Through our Climate Giants Project, we’re uncovering the incredible roles whales and dolphins play in ecosystems, particularly their contribution to carbon capture and storage. They are our crucial allies in this battle, so we desperately need to take care of them, so they can take care of us.

Whale carcasses sustain around 200 species
Whales help the ocean produce more oxygen and absorb more carbon than all of Earth's forests

Whales and dolphins play pivotal role in an ecosystem that keeps every living creature on Earth alive. It's vital we protect them.

But there’s an issue. Having already absorbed approximately 90% of the excess heat generated by the carbon emissions we have produced, the ocean is changing, and whales and dolphins are suffering. Melting sea ice, harmful algae blooms, shifts in marine life distribution, and exacerbated extreme weather events are just some of the issues threatening their future, and the ocean can’t keep helping us at this rate forever.

Whales and dolphins are facing the terrible consequences of the climate crisis we’ve caused. In the Arctic, species like bowhead whales, narwhals, and belugas rely on sea ice as it offers the necessary habitat for their prey species to flourish. With the sea ice shrinking every year, they must travel further to locate their food, consuming more energy and suffering due to insufficient nourishment. Meanwhile, in the Amazon, river dolphins have died in huge numbers this year because extreme temperatures and severe droughts trapped them in rivers and lakes where water temperatures reached an unbearable 39°C.

Narwhal in Canadian Arctic
Amazon river dolphins in Brazil died after extreme temperatures and drought in their home waters

Despite being our climate allies, whale and dolphin protection is not happening in big enough ways, and not nearly quickly enough.

Save the whale, save the world

The recovery of whale populations is crucial. So at COP28, we will be launching our new report to throw a spotlight on how these human-caused changes in the ocean are affecting whales and dolphins.

We need governments around the world, especially richer nations who have been far more responsible for climate change over time, to understand that ocean action is climate action, and that by making the ocean a safer place, we stand a much better chance of achieving our climate goals. We need our leaders to commit to deeper and faster targets to stop pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We need to prioritise the restoration of ecosystems and ensure that they’re thriving with abundant populations of marine life. We need governments to protect huge areas of the ocean and ensure that as little human activity takes place as possible, so that whales and dolphins and all the other life they support and affect can be safe and free.

Humpback whale and calf
Restoring whale and dolphin populations can undo some of the damage we’ve caused.

What about our other climate allies?

It’s vital we protect whales and dolphins, but our ask goes further than this. We need to restore balance to the natural world, and that doesn't just mean protecting habitats; we must restore the constituent parts of systems. That means restoring populations of wild animals so they too can carry out their important roles within the carbon cycle of their ecosystems. A rainforest can't function without jaguars, toucans, monkeys and anteaters. An ocean can't function without whales, dolphins, fish and corals. We need governments to embed all our non-human climate heroes into their climate plans and commitments if we want to heal our planet.

Jaguar
Chimpanzee

Species must be protected for their own sake, but they must also be conserved for the roles they play in their ecosystems and the ways they contribute to our shared planet’s health

We’ve got backup

We’ll be building on our already established networks at COP28, holding events, and leveraging our connections to press for more robust commitments that mandate countries to protect the waters they hold responsibility for, and transition to systems aligned with nature. Our CEO, Chris Butler-Stroud, and esteemed marine biologist Sylvia Earle, alongside Focused on Nature - a group founded by long-time WDC supporter Prince Hussain Aga Khan - will speak at a significant panel event. The discussion will emphasise the ocean's importance and the critical role whales and dolphins play in resolving the climate crisis. It's an unprecedented platform for us to advocate for them

Ed Goodall at UN Ocean conf
I will be at COP28 to share our important message: save the whale, save the world.

We are immensely grateful for your support because it enables us to participate at the highest levels where crucial planetary decisions are made. Please spread the word to your friends, family, and everyone you know: saving the world means saving the ocean, and saving the ocean means saving whales and dolphins.

Ed Goodall and Julia Pix holding 'Save the whale, save the world' banners outside DEFRA
We will keep urging governments to protect whales and dolphins, for their sake, and our own.

Please help us today with a donation

If you are able to help, every gift, whether large or small, will help us win our battle against the climate crisis.