‘Forever Adirondacks’ director attends COP26 summit

Forever Adirondacks Campaign Director Aaron Mair, a staff member of local environmental advocacy group Adirondack Council, traveled to Scotland over the weekend to participate in the 26th United Nations Conference of Parties on global climate change, or COP26.

At the conference, conservationists and world leaders will discuss ways to limit global greenhouse gas production, restore forests that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and devise ways to cope with an already-warmer, wilder climate.

Mair said he will talk with other participants about setting ambitious, realistic goals for carbon reduction and acting boldly to ensure that those plans produce results.

“I will share some good news regarding New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and explain how investments in Adirondack wilderness protection can be a model for similar actions around the world,” said Mair. “New York’s new law places us at the forefront of climate action in the United States. The Adirondack Forest Preserve is one of the greatest carbon-reduction tools in the world, absorbing carbon from the air and storing it in cool, wet forests and soils, and returning pure oxygen into the air. We need to preserve and expand it, while taking bold action to limit emissions.”

Mair added that he would be sharing the Adirondack Council’s vision for an Adirondack Green New Deal and Civilian Climate Corps strategies with fellow global not-for-profit organizations. He hopes to bring home collaborative ideas for the Adirondacks and New York.

Mair participated in the COP21 summit in Paris in 2015, representing the Sierra Club. He is a descendant of Scottish immigrants, so this year’s venue is special to him.

On May 6, President Joseph Biden established a national goal to conserve at least 30% of U.S. lands and freshwater and 30% percent of U.S. ocean areas by 2030, in an initiative commonly referred to as 30-by-30. In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report estimating that humanity has less than five years to act in order to stave off dire effects of climate disrupting impacts.

The Adirondack Park, established in 1892, was the first American park to consciously incorporate villages and hamlets, private lands and businesses into the park’s basic framework. It serves as a model for landscapes around the world where people strive to live in harmony with nature. New national parks around the world are now using this model. One of the most recent was South Downs National Park in England.

The Adirondack Park and Catskill Park are unique in the U.S. in that their forest preserves have been protected for more than a century by New York’s Constitution, which requires that the preserves remain “forever wild.” State officials may add new lands to the preserve, but may not remove them, log them or develop them in any way without a constitutional amendment. Amendments generally take three years or more and require approval from the state’s voters.

Consequently, New York retains more than 90% of all ancient (old growth) forest remaining in the northeastern U.S. and a growing collection of forests left alone for more than 100 years.

The only forest protected by a similar constitutional provision is an Adirondack Park-sized preserve (6 million acres) located in the Republic of Buryatia in Siberia, near Lake Baikal. It was established in the late 20th Century, using the Adirondack Park as a model.


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