Image credit: Deb Nystrom [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Mitigating climate change and halting the destruction of the natural world are two issues that are innately interconnected. Many of the drivers, challenges and solutions are one and the same, and they must be addressed together.

The focus of the international community in recent years has been disproportionally focused on climate change, but among the chief reasons for limiting carbon emissions is the catastrophic effect that warming will have on Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystems on which we fundamentally depend for our health, wealth and happiness.

As many as five billion people, particularly in Africa and South Asia, are likely to face shortages of food and clean water in the coming decades if nature continues to decline on its current trajectory. Reducing our emissions will be a pyrrhic victory if natural systems break down regardless.

Understanding the innate connections between the nature and climate agendas allows us to identify areas where we can create value across economies, society and the natural world with a single smart intervention.

For example, ecosystem and landscape restoration can mitigate climate change, provide jobs, slow migration, promote food and water security and provide huge benefits for nature and biodiversity. This recognition is especially relevant for policy makers, who are able to enact smart legislation with natural, social and economic benefits with a single policy.

This approach has been recognized by the United Nations who, when launching the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration state that the “restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded land between now and 2030 could generate USD 9 trillion in ecosystem services and take an additional 13-26 gigatons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere,” while offering “unparalleled opportunity for job creation, food security & combatting climate change.”

The destruction of nature on the other hand undermines our actions to address climate change, for instance by turning forests, Arctic permafrost other landscapes from carbon sinks into sources of emissions through landscape degradation.

During the 2020 ‘Super Year’ for nature and climate, world leaders will meet around the word to agree on a post 2020 biodiversity framework, to measure global progress against the UN SDGs, and to determine ambitious and updated nationally determined contributions in accordance with the Paris Climate Accord. These meetings must be fundamentally interconnected and conversations, outcomes and commitments must be aligned if we are to achieve the transformative change that we need to halt warming at 1.5°C, to reverse the degradation of the natural world, and to ensure our continued success and the viability of the global economy.

Recognizing this prerequisite for success, we have partnered with Climate Action a staple presence at the UN’s climate change negotiations for the last decade, to ensure that nature’s voice is represented at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meetings taking place next month in Madrid.

Our Deputy Director Martin Lok will moderate a panel on the importance of connecting the climate and nature COPs in 2020, and the need to understand the value of nature if we are to achieve the SDGs and move towards sustainable economic models, mitigate climate change and build more equitable societies.

The panel will include:

  • Erik Grigoryan, Minister for Environment, Armenia
  • Ola Elvestuen, Minister of Climate and the Environment, Norway
  • Simon Buckle, Head of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Water Division, OECD
  • Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, Director at Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations

You can find out more and register for the Sustainable Innovation Forum here.