Responding to Climate Change 2010

30 October 2010 | Article

As the world’s attention turns to Cancún for the next round of climate change negotiations, we must make sure that biodiversity is part and parcel of the post-2012 regime, says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General.

Despite sluggish progress in establishing a new global climate change pact throughout the year, the challenge posed to humanity by climate change is as great and urgent as ever. As we are working towards a globally-binding deal, a good place to start is to promote confidence-building measures—from making deeper carbon cuts to building our resilience to a changing climate.

In this International Year of Biodiversity declared by the United Nations, there is a growing realization that the current climate and the biodiversity crises are interlinked; and therefore must be tackled as such.

Halting the loss and degradation of tropical forests is one of the most immediately accessible solutions to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and conserve biodiversity. In addition to their climate functions, forests harbour much of the planet’s wildlife, are the source of livelihoods for millions of poor and vulnerable people, and act as the water towers for the world’s major cities.

Arguably one of the areas under the UNFCCC where we have seen sustained progress in the last couple of years is REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) mechanism, whereby developed countries pay developing countries to conserve and restore their forests. Including conservation and sustainable management of forests in the future mechanism—known as REDD+–can further bring win-win solutions to address both climate change and biodiversity loss.

The key is to ensure that the benefits from these novel schemes reach and fully reward local communities, including indigenous peoples, who are custodians of these forests. Equity underpins success in protecting our biodiversity and climate, as evidenced by ongoing negotiations under both UNFCCC and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The year 2010 also saw the launch of a ground-breaking study titled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), which was in many ways inspired by the landmark Stern report on the economics of climate change.

TEEB examines the multi-trillion dollar benefits provided by nature that support our wellbeing, not least in terms of climate protection—from lessening the impacts of extreme weather events to storing much of the historic carbon in forests, wetlands and oceans.

Channeling international financial flows from both public and private sectors to mobilize investment in biodiversity and ecosystems—such as the REDD+ scheme or adaptation initiatives—emerges as a key priority if we are to continue enjoying these benefits into the future.

As we pin our hopes on Cancún to bring us closer to a global climate deal, IUCN continues to advocate for solutions that provide humankind with effective ways to cut carbon emissions, offer protection to the poorest and the most vulnerable from the worst impacts of climate change, and preserve life on our planet in all its diversity for generations to come.