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Time to integrate global climate change and biodiversity science-policy agendas

October 21, 2021
News item image The study states the needs to be met for an integrated global approach to tackling the joint climate and biodiversity crises.

Pettorelli et al., 2021

A recent study in Journal of Applied Ecology, co-authoured by NbSI’s Prof Nathalie Seddon, reviews the current set of political and scientific propositions for jointly addressing the fundamentally connected threats posed by the climate and biodiversity crises, as a more integrated global approach is essential to tackle these two global challenges.

The use of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) is one pathway to achieving this cohesion, but current implementation includes uncertainties and difficulties, with ongoing limitations in evidence regarding outcomes for biodiversity. The study highlights options with the greatest potential for delivering biodiversity gains and identifies research priorities in applied ecology that must be addressed to improve the effectiveness of such options. The potential systemic barriers to progress environmental efforts that fully integrate the climate and biodiversity agendas are also explored, such as underfunding of global biodiversity conservation, and disparities between resources for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and those for biodiversity conservation.

Five key research areas are identified where a lack of cohesive information hinders the development of integrated biodiversity and climate solutions.

These areas include:

  • Increasing understanding of how climate change mitigation and adaptation approaches benefit biodiversity conservation.
  • Enhancing our ability to track and predict ecosystems on the move and/or facing collapse.
  • Improving our capacity to predict the impacts of climate change on the effectiveness of NbS.
  • Developing solutions that match the temporal, spatial and functional scale of the challenges.
  • Developing a comprehensive and practical framework for assessing, and mitigating against, the risks posed by the implementation of NbS.

The summits for biodiversity and climate change, COP15 and COP26, are a critical opportunity for developing policy frameworks that align targets across the nexus of biodiversity and climate change.

Policy actions include:

(a) addressing the substantial and chronic underfunding of global biodiversity conservation.
(b) removing financial incentives that negatively impact biodiversity and/or climate change.
(c) fully integrating the biodiversity and climate change agendas.
(d) agreeing on a monitoring framework that enables the standardised quantification and comparison of biodiversity gains associated with NbS across ecosystems and over time.
(e) rethinking environmental legislation to better support biodiversity conservation in times of rapid climatic change.

A cohesive, multi-pronged approach to conserving biodiversity is necessary, with broad joined-up thinking among scientific and practitioner communities involved in natural resource management to establish where and how NbS potential is best realised for addressing biodiversity and societal challenges.

Read the full policy direction paper ‘Time to integrate global climate change and biodiversity science-policy agendas’ in Journal of Applied Ecology.

See also the linked Royal Society briefing – ‘Biodiversity and climate change: interlinkages and policy options’.