Last fall, two major international meetings on intertwined topics, biodiversity and climate change, occurred back-to-back.
Last fall, two major international meetings on intertwined topics, biodiversity and climate change, occurred back-to-back. In Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its 12th session adopted several decisions on climate change and biodiversity, including targets for restoring and conserving ecosystems as a safeguard against climate change impacts.
Crossing over the Pacific to Lima, Peru, a few weeks later, governments participated in the negotiations over climate change commitments at the 20th session of the UNFCCC COP. There, Parties discussed forests and their contribution to mitigation. At the margins, stakeholders converged and agreed on the Lima 2014 Declaration on Biodiversity and Climate Change, recognizing the critical role of biodiversity in enhancing resilience to environmental change.
It is encouraging that the linkages between climate change and biodiversity threats are increasingly being recognized. After all, there is clear evidence that the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change are intertwined, as are the objectives of the Rio Conventions. Furthermore, it is the world’s poor—more than 1.2 billion people live on less than US$1 a day—that are disproportionately affected by climate change, due to their high dependence on ecosystem goods and services for their livelihoods and subsistence. Thus, we cannot hope to address climate change, or sustainable development, without restoring and maintaining the natural ecosystems that enable us to cope with climate variability and extremes.
But we can do better than just recognize the linkages between climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development. We need to aim higher to implement change. Twenty years after the UNFCCC came into force, there is still a need to make a case for integrating forests, landscapes and ecosystems into the climate change debate.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is playing an active role in breaking down institutional and thematic silos and connecting the dots between biodiversity and climate change through its Biodiversity and Ecosystems Framework 2012-2020. Launched in Hyderabad, India, at CBD COP 11, the Framework reconceptualizes UNDP’s ecosystems and biodiversity work, advancing the post-2015 development agenda emerging after the Rio+20 Summit, with the aim of promoting inclusivity, resilience and sustainability, and supporting countries in implementing CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Targets.
UNDP’s signature programmes under the Framework include one on ‘Managing and rehabilitating ecosystems for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.’ This contributes to our overall objective of maintaining and enhancing the goods and services provided by biodiversity and ecosystems in order to: secure livelihoods, food, water and health; enhance resilience; conserve threatened species and their habitats; and increase carbon storage and sequestration. This involves supporting countries in integrating climate-related risks and opportunities into national development and poverty reduction strategies and plans—drawing on traditional knowledge as well as modern technologies—to protect the natural resource base and address the needs and livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups, including women and indigenous peoples.
One example is our investment in ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA), an approach that uses biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of a broader holistic adaptation strategy. UNDP’s support to countries in accessing finance and technical assistance for climate change adaptation includes exploring how to provide evidence-based knowledge on EbA and its effectiveness, in order to inform both practice and policy through lessons learned from the field. At CBD COP 12 in Pyeonchang, we highlighted how EbA can contribute to the post-2015 development agenda, drawing on examples from EbA in the Mountain Ecosystems Programme funded by the German Government and jointly implemented by UNDP, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At UNFCCC COP 20 in Lima, we showed how the same EbA Programme is assisting the Peruvian Government in applying innovative communication strategies and tools, to foster both active local participation in enhancing community resilience and adaptive management of the ecosystems that are vital for their livelihoods and well-being.
It is not only imperative to enhance the synergies among the Rio Conventions, but also among the biodiversity and climate change adaptation constituencies. As UNDP has learned from our extensive work on biodiversity and climate change, we must connect the thematic, technical and political dots in order to truly achieve a “win-win” and meet biodiversity, desertification, and climate change targets. With the Paris negotiations coming up this year, in which countries will establish a universal, binding climate agreement, there is no better time than now to place the role of healthy, resilient ecosystems in both adaptation and mitigation firmly within the climate change discussions.