Written by Anwen Rees, BCCIC Youth Delegate to UNFCCC SB-50
From solely a climate focus, biodiversity is essential for temperature and precipitation regulation and reducing impact from extreme weather events. Biodiversity has potential in increasing ecosystem capacity for carbon capture. In 2019, IPBES (The International Panel on Biodiversity Conservation) released a report that over one million species face extinction, with climate change as a primary cause.
Biodiversity and ecosystem-based approaches are one of the most important mechanisms to ensure sustainability and resilience in the earth’s future ecosystems. Ecosystem based approaches such as enhancing biodiversity are accessible for developing and rural communities and do not require large-scale involvement. As well, biodiverse areas are more resilient and hold less risk to degradation from extreme weather events, human use and are self renewing. Sixteen of the twenty biodiversity targets set at COP 15 for 2020 have been missed. However, biodiversity has become more popular and the topic is coming to the forefront of the climate action sphere. To ensure sustainability and resilience, climate action must fully integrate biodiversity. This involves interlinking systems to articulate the way forward.
Historically, global climate action has not considered biodiversity. In 2012, there was acknowledgement of biodiversity as a nature-based-solution for climate mitigation at COP. This was a dialogue shift away from biodiversity loss as a symptom, and biodiversity as a potential solution. In Warsaw 2013, there was dialogue about how carbon-centric afforestation strategies must be mindful of their impacts on biodiversity. However, there is still a divide between so- called “climate centric” (carbon focused) and “non-climate centric” (non carbon focused) solutions. At an IPBES lecture at SB50, Almut Arneth presented how the REDD+ program has implemented afforestation programs on biodiverse areas in order to increase carbon sequestration. However, this actually resulted in less carbon sequestration overall because the grassland’s exhibited both higher biodiversity and more sequestered more carbon than the forested area.
At an IPBES lecture at the SB50, a participant suggested that instead of focusing on the tradeoffs and dichotomy between carbon sequestration and biodiversity in climate change mitigation, we work toward both by shifting our language. She recommended emphasizing “ecosystem integrity” rather than land’s ability to either sequester carbon or conserve biodiversity. This shift in language and final integration of knowledge is essential to avoid action paralysis. There is limited time to act on irreversible climate impact. Therefore, a holistic approach of ensuring ecosystem integrity is an effective mechanism to ensure that we do not create new problems with narrowly focused “carbon based” solutions. Although carbon sequestration is easy to integrate with today’s economic system to create incentives, narrow focus is a band-aid solution that may create more long-term problems than it will solve.
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