Ahead of the UN climate conference, IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature – is calling for an agreement that recognises the role of nature in reducing carbon emissions and helping nations adapt to a changing climate.
While biodiversity and ecosystems are threatened by climate change, their conservation, restoration and sustainable management generate significant and practical nature-based solutions to climate change.
“As we desperately strive to find a viable response to climate change, we tend to overlook the fact that healthy nature can be a goldmine of cost-effective solutions to this challenge,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “Far from being merely a victim of climate change, healthy ecosystems can be a powerful ally, boosting our climate resilience, and helping us adapt to and mitigate the effects of a changing climate.
“Investing in nature-based solutions must be at the core of our fight against climate change, which is one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.”
Natural ecosystems such as forests, river basins and wetlands absorb and store carbon. Terrestrial ecosystems store almost three times the amount of carbon found in the atmosphere while healthy oceans absorb over 25% of annual carbon dioxide emissions.
Conserving, restoring and sustainably managing these ecosystems can generate nature-based solutions to climate change while providing other important economic, social and environmental benefits. Healthy ecosystems provide food and clean water and protect vulnerable communities against climate-related disasters. In the United States, for example, coastal wetlands offer US$ 23 billion worth of storm protection each year.
IUCN urges governments to adopt an agreement that is comprehensive in its coverage of greenhouse gas sources and sinks, that maintains the highest possible level of environmental integrity, respects gender equality and human rights, and catalyses more ambitious action on climate change by all actors across all sectors, particularly from the business community.
IUCN stresses the need to boost efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to invest in renewable technologies – including research and development – to decarbonise energy systems. It also emphasises the urgency to expand the use of renewable and other low-carbon sources of energy in a manner that improves human and ecosystem well-being.
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