Blog Crossroads | 28 Nov, 2023

We must unite our efforts to fight climate change and biodiversity loss

Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the most important challenges and risks for human societies. But as the chairs of IUCN's seven expert Commissions write, the window of opportunity to address them is closing rapidly.

The upcoming 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Dubai comes at a critical time. Against a rapidly closing window of opportunity, we must overcome two of the most significant challenges for human societies: climate change and biodiversity loss. They are inseparable, interdependent, and mutually reinforcing. Our current approaches fall short of what scientific evidence indicates is needed to address them.

This task is core to the mission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): to influence, encourage and assist societies worldwide to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

Solving the linked challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss demands bold and transformative efforts. Responsibility falls on us all.

As the seven elected Commission Chairs of the IUCN, we represent over 15,000 scientists, scholars, policy makers, economists, lawyers, and other experts who work on issues related to this mission. For the first time, we are writing collectively because COP28 represents not just an opportunity to assess our progress, but to issue a profound call to action. We must adopt a holistic approach that recognises the interdependence of the climate and biodiversity crises. (Read IUCN's position paper for COP28 here.)

Solving these linked challenges demands bold and transformative efforts firmly anchored in science and the principles of justice and equity. At the core of the necessary whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach is the recognition that the fate of our planet rests not only in the hands of governments and institutions but also in the actions of the private sector, individuals, and communities. Responsibility falls on us all.

Four key elements should guide debates at COP28 and beyond over how best to design and deploy innovative solutions to biodiversity loss and climate change.


These challenges require coherent, consistent, and integrated efforts on the part of governments at all levels, sectors, and systems; multilateral and bilateral institutions; communities; businesses; scientists and others to limit global warming to maximum 1.5oC, conserve and sustainably use biodiversity, and restore degraded ecosystems. Only by considering climate and biodiversity as parts of the same complex, systemic challenge— which also includes the actions, motivations, and aspirations of people—can we develop effective solutions that maximise benefits while minimizing risks.

Ecosystem Integrity

We must maintain, enhance, and restore ecosystem integrity. Sustaining healthy ecosystems is essential to halting biodiversity decline and species extinctions and to maintaining ecosystem services that underpin human well-being. Ambitious land- and ocean-based actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore ecosystems have co-benefits for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and biodiversity conservation objectives. Such efforts can help to contain temperature rise to 1.5oC, provided that such actions complement—and are not in lieu of—ambitious reductions of emissions from fossil fuels, industrial processes, and land-use change.


Addressing the biodiversity and climate crises will require systemic changes in the way we live, changes that can only be achieved through rapid and far-reaching actions across all sectors of a type, scale, and speed never before attempted. All actors, private and public, must begin the process of planning for transformative actions to protect biodiversity, rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change, and achieve sustainable development. Those actions must put society on the pathway to a positive vision of good quality of life in harmony with nature. Governments have a particular responsibility to adopt and enforce laws governing such transformations in ways that are equitable, just, and effective.


The window of opportunity to address climate change and biodiversity loss is still open, but it is closing rapidly. Achieving the goal of protecting 30 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial and marine areas by 2030—as adopted by the parties to the Global Biodiversity Convention in late 2022—will require significant expansion of protected areas in only seven years and will be almost impossible without greater collaboration across the international agreements on biodiversity, climate change, and desertification.

There are synergies across these agreements, as well as the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, that could facilitate simultaneously halting global biodiversity loss and mitigating and adapting to climate change. Cross-cutting issues, intersectoral policies, and regulatory frameworks are areas where strong synergies could contribute to transformative societal change.  

We cannot solve one problem by creating others.

While delegates at COP28 should recognise these synergies, they must also be alert to possible conflicts between biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation. In particular, they must ensure that the critical green energy transition does not come at the expense of biodiversity. For example, building solar facilities in fragile ecosystems or sensitive wildlife habitats or in forested areas could be disastrous for many ecosystems and species. Wind farms, hydropower dams, deep-sea mining for minerals to be used in batteries, and other energy infrastructure pose similar challenges. 

We cannot solve one problem by creating others. But careful siting of energy projects can greatly reduce the impact on biodiversity and still contribute to the green energy transition. 

Previous policies have largely tackled the problems of climate change and biodiversity loss independently. Policies that address synergies between mitigating biodiversity loss and climate change, while also considering their societal impacts, offer the opportunity to maximise co-benefits and help meet development aspirations for all. 

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is the chair of the IUCN Climate Crisis Commission. Sean Southey is the chair of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication. Angela Andrade is the chair of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management. Kristen Walker-Painemilla is the chair of the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy. Jon Paul Rodríguez is the chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. Christina Voigt is the chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law. Madhu Rao is the chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

Opinions expressed in posts featured on any Crossroads or other blogs and in related comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of IUCN or a consensus of its Member organisations.

IUCN moderates comments and reserves the right to remove posts that are deemed inappropriate, commercial in nature or unrelated to blog posts.

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User name: S. Karuppusamy
on Tue, 28 Nov 2023 by S. Karuppusamy (no verificado)

The blue planet of earth is to be restored for long term survival of present day species eventhough active speciation and enlarging biodiversity in the limited space of earth. Entire globe should be balanced Human-surival ecosystems with extant species. Entire human community should be protected the diversity for postrity.

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User name: Richard Kock
on Tue, 28 Nov 2023 by Richard Kock (no verificado)

I note the photograph used is of a degraded land used for agriculture, suffering climate drought effects. We cannot just link climate and biodiversity without considering agriculture and food systems. We need whole land use transformation if we are to solve this (i.e. centred on agriculture and lived human spaces) and a massive increase in carbon price to force a shift in energy systems. IUCN needs to join forces with UNEP and others to promote this change and just do better with the PAs!

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User name: Anónimo
on Tue, 28 Nov 2023 by Anónimo (no verificado)

The photo is of agriculture. This is where IUCN focus should be, on landscape recovery with new food systems and not protected areas. This with raised carbon price are the only feasible ways to stop climate trends.

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User name: Serge Michel Garcia
on Sat, 16 Dec 2023 by Serge Michel Garcia (no verificado)

I agree. The dramatic photo may intend to show the impact of climate but it may just be a "normal" field of grain (Sorgho?) after the crop. I agree also on the weak link with people in the message. Assuming they are taken care elsewhere by others would be a dangerous mistake. If this is not the case, proactive action is needed, supporting the GBF broader intent. Constrained to fight to survive, people will do it at the expense of Nature and "fortress conservation" will fail, again.

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User name: LUZ del Carmen Romero
on Wed, 29 Nov 2023 by LUZ del Carmen… (no verificado)


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User name: Sebahat K. Ozman-Sullivan and Gregory T. Sullivan
on Wed, 29 Nov 2023 by Sebahat K. Ozm… (no verificado)

Hello We know what the problems and solutions are. One of the major challenges is to convince the rich and powerful global elites through words and actions that they and they heirs are not immune to the effects of biodiversity loss and climate change, and that they must change their ways and the way the world operates to save themselves (and us). Please see… All the best G&S

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User name: emmaagro
on Tue, 02 Jan 2024 by emmaagro (no verificado)

issues related to this mission. For the first time, we are writing collectively because COP28 represents not just an opportunity to assess our progress, but to issue a profound call to action. We must adopt a holistic approach that recognises the interdependence of the climate and biodiversity crises. (Read IUCN's position paper for COP28 here.)
Solving these linked cha

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User name: Manuel Castrillo Durán
on Tue, 02 Jan 2024 by Manuel Castril… (no verificado)

The objectives are ideal, but we must be aware - and clear - that the reality of the diverse interests of certain groups or sectors will not voluntarily align with them. The structural change of the economic system will have a long road and that, if there is the will of the majority of actors. Furthermore, the adaptation of humans to new lower consumption patterns must go hand in hand with a deep understanding of nature and our relationship with it.

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