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When COPs Converge: The Biodiversity And Climate Link

Kelli Barrett

Biodiversity and climate are intertwined in the physical realm though separate in the policy world. But during the ongoing climate COP in Lima, a diverse group of scientists and policymakers presented a declaration assessing current knowledge on connections between biodiversity vulnerabilities and climate change with the objective of increased integrated activity on the inter-linked issues.

10 December 2014 | LIMA | Peru | A key theme of the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that took place two months ago was integrating biodiversity targets into other parts of the United Nations development process.

That theme has found voice at several side events at the 20th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

INDCs and NBSAPs

The climate COP, COP 20, aims to define the rules for creating the building blocks of a new climate agreement to be finalized in Paris at the end of 2015. These building blocks called Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDC) should give each country the flexibility to develop its own climate strategy, but within a framework that makes it possible to compare strategies between countries.

COP 12 the biodiversity COP has building blocks as well. Called National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAP), they grew out of the United Nations General Assembly’s 2010 declaration that 2011-2020 is the Decade of Biodiversity. NBSAPs are supposed to be implemented by 2015, but just 26 out of 194 Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) have completed updated NBSAPs that reflect the Aichi Targets.

Slogans vs Substance

“The NBSAPs are the building blocks to the CBD’s Strategic Plan, says Susan Brown, Director of Global and Regional Policy at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). And because so few Parties have implemented effective plans that account for the Aichi Targets, making progress on them should be at the top of countries’ to-do list when it comes to biodiversity.

Brown lays out steps national governments should take in terms of implementing their plan. Efficient use of available funding is one. Parties at COP 12 agreed to double international financial flows by 2015 and maintain that level of funding through 2020 at least. Using this finance effectively for important activities like capacity building in developing countries is important. Governments need also to develop funding and resource mobilization strategies, Brown says, and then monitor, review and report on the implementation process of the NBSAPs.

The Climate Link

And as countries work out these NBSAPs over the next two years until the next COP, they should stay aware of the mounting evidence of linkages between climate and bioidversity. COP 20 addressed this issue with an event and declaration.

“Biodiversity is affected by climate change and in turn affects the carbon balance of ecosystems,” says Holm Tiessen, the Executive Director of the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI), a research organization that spearheaded the creation of this declaration presented to COP 20 President, Manuel Pulgar Vidal. The declaration called for integrative research on biodiversity and climate change noting connections between the two issues.

“The conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in our forests, mountains and oceans and the restoration of these ecosystems, can be an important part of the solution to the climate change problem,” says Peru’s vice-minister of Strategic Development of Natural Resources of the Ministry of Environment, Gabriel Quijandria Acosta. “To develop integrated policies for biodiversity and climate change we need to understand how biodiversity and the climate are changing and the effects of each on the other.”

The event presented on topics related to the two sector’s intertwined relationship. Biodiversity, for instance, can increase an ecosystem’s resilience against severe environmental changes like drought. And environmental changes like drought are having profound impacts on ecological regions impacting their biodiversity. Suggested solutions to challenges like these include community-based projects and carefully designed restoration and sustainable land-use activities. Coherent policy involvement from all levels of government is also an essential part of the solution, the presenters stressed.

Tiessen also stressed the importance of collaborative efforts-such as this event-that merge science and policy in order to truly understand all sides of these impacts and their relation to people.

This story includes portions of the CBD and IAI press release.
Kelli Barrett is a freelance writer and editorial assistant at Ecosystem Marketplace. She can be reached at kbarrett@ecosystemmarketplace.com.

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