David Yarnold: Reflections on the Paris Climate Talks, National Audubon Society

The Moore Charitable Foundation and founder Louis Bacon have the distinct honor of working alongside future-facing conservation partners who champion solutions to our warming planet through research, collaboration, education, advocacy, policy change and outreach. Some had delegations in place for COP21, the 2015 Climate talks in Paris; all have significantly contributed to the body of knowledge that affected the conversations. Here, in a series of blog post Post Paris, we will present their reflections on the Climate Agreement as it relates to their field of work, the outlook for 2016 and beyond, and what we collectively need to do to turn words into action.

The following is a public statement that was issued by The Nation Audubon Society‘s President & CEO David Yarnold.

When 195 world leaders approved the global agreement to meet a science-based target for reducing greenhouse gasses, I thought: This is what the starting line looks like. In a big, messy process like COP21, getting started toward a common goal is the first hurdle and often the toughest. Nobody ever finished a marathon by starting at Mile 26 (well, Rosie Ruiz tried) and my view is that the reporting out of Paris didn’t give enough credit to the world leaders and their science and policy experts for just getting started. After all, this may well be the most significant environmental agreement in history.

Due to drought and development, Red-crowned Cranes are having trouble breeding in their native wetlands in Asia. The drought is believed to be a result of climate change. Photo: David Courtenay/Audubon Photography Awards

Due to drought and development, Red-crowned Cranes are having trouble breeding in their native wetlands in Asia. The drought is believed to be a result of climate change. Photo: David Courtenay/Audubon Photography Awards

Inventors and funders will have new confidence in their investments because the role of markets will be critical to weening the world off fossil fuels. Audubon’s members will have a new context for their efforts to protect the places birds need even while we’re all working to address the underlying causes of climate change.

Let me share a few backstories and to give you a sense of what the agreement means to Audubon’s climate initiative. For those of you who have been in this fight for a very long time— notably National Board members Terry Root and Susan Bell, as well as a number of Audubon staff— please accept our thanks for your leadership and perseverance.

Across America, Audubon’s members and leaders helped create demand for this agreement. We’ve worked on renewable energy standards from New York to Ohio to California; we brought the impact on birds into the public conversation just 14 months ago; chapter members from Bradenton, FL to Seattle have used our science to raise awareness about sea level rise. We’ve supported the idea of smart siting of wind power and transmission lines across the West through the online tools and peer-to-peer networking made possible by The Moore Charitable Foundation. Our Climate Initiative has proven what effective, centrist messaging looks like for Audubon members and their neighbors across the political spectrum. Nationally, we took the lead with our Green Group colleagues in saying to the current administration that “all of the above” wasn’t an energy policy that would bend the emissions curve downward. And, of course, we’re doing this work with like-minded partner organizations across the hemisphere, from the Garden Club of America to Calidris in Colombia.

In the lead up to the Paris talks, Audubon and BirdLife International published a report that summarized studies from across BirdLife’s 119 member countries. The Messengers showed that more than one-fifth of all bird species across the globe are threatened by climate change. We saw more than 220,000 visits online, and hard copies of The Messengers made their way into the hands of negotiators – including France’s President Hollande. Our #BirdsTellUs social media campaign was used nearly 10,000 times on Twitter, which is remarkable considering #EarthtoParis – the hashtag used by the broader environmental community – tallied about 60,000 uses. (As National Board member Jeff Goodby has urged us, #BirdsTellUs is so compelling that it has to live on – you’ll be seeing it a lot over the next year.)

And Audubon partnered with Aveda to create a petition — One Voice, One World — that beat all of our goals with more than 27,000 signatures representing 76 countries. Aveda shared the petition with heads of state just days before the crucial vote.

A little more than a year ago, Audubon made a big bet on its science and the leaders who carry the central message of our climate initiative: It’s a Bird Issue. A lot of people said that was gutsy. We just thought it’s what Audubon has always done, taking a stand for birds and ecosystems they need.

While the Paris agreement is the floor and not the ceiling of what’s needed or what’s possible, it refills our reservoirs of hope as we continue to build out our local, state, national and hemispheric efforts over the next five years.

Thanks to each of you who tell your friends that, while birds are truly amazing, they can’t vote and they don’t do land-use planning. That’s why, more than ever, you’re what hope looks like to a bird.

David Yarnold
President &

CEO, The National Audubon Society

To learn more visit Audubon.org/climate or contact Audubon’s climate initiative at climateaction@audubon.org.



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