Connecting Biodiversity and Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: Report of the Second Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has, as its three objectives, the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources. Efforts towards the achievement of these objectives are, however, coming under threat from one of the world’s other major environmental, social and economic challenges…climate change.
Climate change is threatening individual species such as the King Protea in South Africa and the polar bear in the Arctic. Climate change is also threatening entire ecosystems such as the cloud forests of South America and the coral reefs of South-east Asia. Climate change will affect where species live, when they move and how they interact.
Where species and ecosystems are well protected and healthy, natural adaptation may take place, as long as the rate of change is not too rapid and the scale of change is not too great. However, where climate change stacks as an additional threat upon other stresses such as pollution, overuse or invasive alien species, natural adaptive capacity may be exceeded. It is important, therefore, to ensure that climate change is not considered in isolation.
In fact, the links between biodiversity and climate change flow both ways. Biodiversity, and associated ecosystem services are the cornerstone of sustainable development. This relationship has long been recognized through the decisions of the Conference of Parties to the CBD and through the adoption of Millennium Development Goal number seven on environmental sustainability. Biodiversity also has a very important role to play in climate change mitigation and adaptation. The importance of this relationship is only now coming to light, spurred by decision IX/16 of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD.
The good management of ecosystems such as wetlands and forests, remains an effective mitigation option given the high sequestration potential of natural systems. The permanence of carbon sinks is also tied to the maintenance or enhancement of the resilience of ecosystems.
With regards to climate change adaptation, healthy, intact ecosystems have long provided critical ecosystem services, providing people with food and shelter, protecting communities from drought and floods, and building the basis of much of our traditional knowledge, innovations and practices. As climate change threatens food security, increases exposure to natural disasters and changes the very nature of the environment in which we live, these ecosystem services will become even more important and valued.
This document has been produced by a suite of world-renowned experts in the fields of biodiversity and climate change. It was welcomed by the fifth meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD and helps up to better understand how these two great challenges interact and how we can best work together to achieve our common goals. The scientific information contained in this report clearly demonstrates that the synergies among the three Rio Conventions are no longer an option but an urgent necessity. A joint work programme among the three Rio Conventions is an idea whose time has come.