Tackle Biodiversity Loss, Climate Change Together for A Better Tomorrow

Over 37,000 alien species have been introduced by humans around the world and the threat posed by these invasive alien species are underappreciated, according to a groundbreaking report by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Biodiversity loss and climate change, both driven by human activities will never be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together, according to a group of leading biodiversity and climate experts.

The experts’ came out with the message during a four-day virtual workshop by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).   This is the first-ever collaboration between these two intergovernmental bodies.

The experts viewed that previous policies largely tackled biodiversity loss and climate change independently. They opined that addressing the synergies between mitigating biodiversity loss and climate change, while considering their social impacts, offers the opportunity to maximize benefits and meet global development goals.

Scientific Steering Committee of Experts co-chair Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner pointed out that human caused climate change was increasingly threatening nature. He cautioned; “the warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions.”

Portner noted that a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but required transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions.

In the study, the authors warn of narrowly focused actions to combat climate change directly and indirectly harming nature and vice-versa. However, they talk of many measures that exist for making significant positive contributions in both areas.

  • Stopping the loss and degradation of carbon- and species-rich ecosystems on land and in the ocean; This includes forests, wetlands, peatlands, grasslands and savannahs, coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes, kelp forests and seagrass meadows, deep water and polar blue carbon habitats.
  • Restoring carbon- and species-rich ecosystems’ The Study points out that restoration is among the cheapest and quickest nature-based climate mitigation measures. This enhances resilience of biodiversity in the face of climate change, with many other benefits such as flood regulation, coastal protection, enhanced water quality, reduced soil erosion and ensuring pollination. The study showed that ecosystem restoration also created jobs and income, especially when taking into consideration the needs and access rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
  • Increasing sustainable agricultural and forestry practices; This helps in enhancing biodiversity, improving capacity to adapt to climate change, increasing carbon storage and reducing emissions. The measures adopted can be diversification of planted crop and forest species, agro forestry and agro ecology. Soil conservation and reduction of fertilizer use also helps in.
  • Enhancing and better-targeting conservation actions, coordinated with and supported by strong climate adaptation and innovation; The study says that protected areas represent about 15 per cent of land and 7.5 per cent of ocean. Positive outcomes are expected from substantially increasing intact and effectively protected areas.
  • The study says that the options to improve positive impacts of protected areas include better management and enforcement, greater resourcing, and improved distribution with increased inter-connectivity between these areas. The report also calls for conservation measures beyond protected areas, including migration corridors and planning for shifting climates, as well as better integration of people with nature to assure equity of access and use of nature’s contributions to people.
  • Eliminating subsidies harmful to biodiversity, over fertilization and over fishing. Individual consumption patterns can be changed, including reducing loss and waste, and shifting diets, especially in rich countries, toward more plant-based options.
  • Planting bio energy crops in mono-cultures over large land areas. Such crops are detrimental to ecosystems when deployed at very large scales. It reduces nature’s contributions to people and impeding achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals. In small scales, dedicated bio-energy crops for electricity production or fuels may provide co-benefits for climate adaptation and biodiversity.
  • Planting trees in ecosystems not historically been forests and reforestation with mono-cultures – especially with exotic tree species. This helps in climate mitigation but is often damaging to biodiversity and food production. They may displace local people through competition for land.
  • Increasing irrigation capacity. A common response to adapt agricultural systems to drought that often leads to water conflicts, dam building and long-term soil degradation from salinization.

The report points out that various options for mitigating and adapting to climate change exists. However, these can have large negative environmental and social impacts – such as interference with migratory species and habitat fragmentation, the report added.

The authors maintain that nature offers effective ways to help mitigate climate change. Nevertheless, these solutions can only be effective if they are built on ambitious reductions in all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

IPBES Chair Ana María Hernández Salgar pointed out that land and ocean are already doing a lot – absorbing almost 50 per cent of Carbon dioxide from human emissions. However, nature cannot do everything, she added.

“Transformative change in all parts of society and our economy is needed to stabilize our climate, stop biodiversity loss and chart a path to the sustainable future we want. This will also require us to address both crises together, in complementary ways,” said IPCC chair Dr. Hoesung Lee.

“Climate change and biodiversity loss combine to threaten society – often magnifying and accelerating each other. By focusing on synergies and trade-offs between biodiversity protection and climate change mitigation and adaptation, this workshop advanced the debate on how to maximize benefits to people and the planet. It also represented an important step in collaboration between our two communities,” he said.


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