Cannot Tackle Current Crises Like Pandemics Without Addressing Nature
Ecosystems act as a buffer against disasters and the impacts of climate change while sustaining livelihoods.
Climate regulation, carbon sequestration, flood regulation, and food and water provision are among the many types of ecosystem services that biodiversity supports that can directly contribute to natural disaster risk management.
Degradation of healthy terrestrial and marine ecosystems is a driver of disaster risk and thus impacts a community’s capacity to respond to disasters, affecting the resilience of communities, livelihoods and even economies.
The outcomes from the biodiversity negotiations at COP15 are incredibly important to the work on resilience.
The successful adoption of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework would be a huge win for REAP and its members, many of whom are currently present at COP15 and are engaged in the negotiations.
An ambitious agreement would increase accountability and encourage them to take ownership and leadership in undertaking the implementation of the framework.
The Risk-informed Early Action Partnership’s (REAP) aim to make 1 billion people safer from disasters through early warning and early action can only be reached if all stakeholders across sectors work together, and actors from nature and biodiversity should definitely be part of this conversation.
There is a growing number of initiatives and efforts undertaken by many REAP members to embed nature restoration in resilience strategies, as evidence shows the benefits of nature-based solutions for long-term sustainable development strategies.
For example, UNEP in collaboration with Partners for Resilience is working on scaling up ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction in Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Indonesia and Uganda, through participatory ecosystem, integrated risk management, and inclusive risk governance.
FAO has implemented community-led forest-based solutions to build resilient agrifood systems against food crises and emergency situations.
UNDRR and its partners also launched the Making Cities Resilient Campaign, which supports local governments with policies and practices to embed nature-based solutions into urban planning.
WMO, FAO, IGAD and ICPAC has implemented the Agricultural Climate Resilience Enhancement Initiative (ACREI), which is funded by the Adaptation Fund
ACREI focuses on implementing adaptation strategies and measures that strengthens the resilience of vulnerable farming communities in the Horn of Africa to climate variability.
There is also a wealth of tools and guidance, such as UNDRR’s Nature-based solutions for disaster risk reduction, in support of the Sendai Framework.
UNEP and GIZ, together with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), developed the voluntary guidelines for effective implementation of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in 2019.
We need to address these crises in a holistic, integrated manner
Despite the intricately linked relationship between climate change, biodiversity and land degradation, there are separate conferences – UNFCCC, CBD, and UNCCD, the three Rio conventions established at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.
While the agendas can overlap, they tackle different issues and specialise in different topics, which also leads to having different Parties and organisations involved in the climate and biodiversity conferences.
Additionally, climate is one of the drivers of biodiversity loss, and biodiversity is just one of the solutions for climate change.
There are efforts to convene the three together, such as the Rio Conventions Pavilion at COP27 which hosted discussions on the interrelationships between climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation and desertification.
Target 8 of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework directly addresses the impact of climate change on biodiversity and the contribution to mitigation and adaptation through ecosystem-based approaches and nature-based solutions.
Of course, there is always room for more coordination and collaboration across the different sectors.
We need to address these crises in a holistic, integrated manner and encourage participation from all actors, from governments, indigenous communities, academia, private sector, international organisations and NGOs.
A net-positive world, where nature is at the centre
Nature has already provided us with natural storm protection, carbon sinks and climate regulating services – oceans, wetlands, forests, seagrass, and more. Restoring and conserving these ecosystems can only bring us a win-win situation.
The messaging should evoke a sense of urgency of action and go beyond net-zero – how about a net-positive world, where nature is at the centre? Part of the challenge with communicating the importance of biodiversity is the misconception that biodiversity loss will not directly affect many of us.
One might ask, why would the extinction of a certain species of plant somewhere far away affect us? But we cannot tackle the current crises we are facing without addressing nature – from pandemics, climate change to pollution.
We need to ensure that people see the value of nature, intrinsic as well as economic, and its significant role in achieving a resilient world.
The messaging, written in a language everyone can understand, should also include specific goals we need to achieve, whether we are on track with these goals, and how all us, states, NSAs, as well as individuals, can take action.
The messaging needs to raise awareness but also nudge a response and chart a clear path for action.
Delivering benefits for people, nature and the economy
A robust natural climate solution should check several boxes – it needs to ensure that it contributes to decarbonization, that it is led and driven by communities, that it protects and empowers people and that it protects and restores ecosystems and biodiversity.
In short, they should deliver benefits for people, nature and the economy simultaneously.
Before implementation, potential impacts assessment and cost-benefit analysis should be carried out, while during and after, there should be regular monitoring and assessments.
The project should also be backed by long-term financing, with support for community capacity-building. It should involve engagement from all relevant stakeholders and promote partnership and cooperation between these actors.