The most important question we keep asking ourselves is why? Why biodiversity? Why habitat expansion? Why is biodiversity related to climate change?
The answers to climate resilience and sustainable futures are being developed by the earth's most passionate guardians right now, in real-time. These are unprecedented times, and we have an opportunity to change our planet's future if we act quickly enough.
Let's look at a snapshot of the science as we know it...
Sir David Attenborough
"It is our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not for us, but all life on Earth."
What is Biodiversity
Biodiversity in its broadest sense is the richness of life on Earth, meaning the diversity of all species that make up ecosystems.
Biodiversity is crucial to the proper functioning of all ecosystems so that they can provide humanity and the planet with the natural resilience needed to mitigate climate change.
The Planetary Boundaries
Introduced in 2009 by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the planetary boundaries define the environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate.
Biodiversity loss is at a tipping point.
“Biodiversity and genetic diversity are on a steady decline. The Living Planet Index determined an average decline of 68% in animal population sizes between 1970 and 2016” (WWF 2020)
“Estimates on the current species extinction rate range from tens to hundreds of times higher than the natural extinction rate” (IPBES 2019)
Habitat loss is probably the greatest threat to the variety of life on this planet today.
It is identified as a main threat to 85% of all species described in the IUCN's Red List (those species officially classified as "Threatened" and "Endangered").
Increasing food production is a major agent for the conversion of natural habitat into agricultural land.
Global protected areas form important Nature-based solutions and play a key role in preventing biodiversity loss; however, without further conservation measures they will not be sufficient to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Earth’s biosphere. For instance the current global protected area network, which contains 16% of terrestrial habitat and 7.4% of the oceans is estimated to only receive USD 24.3 billion annually – roughly one third of what it needs to be effectively managed.
Only 10% of existing protected areas are ‘structurally intact’.
At the 2022 UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) a landmark agreement was reached by almost all of the 196 Nations (96%) who are party to the UN CBD. The long-awaited 30x30 campaign was agreed to, which is a worldwide initiative for governments to designate 30% of Earth's land and ocean area as protected areas by 2030 as an urgent priority to build climate resilience. This will catalyse investment and national strategies into biodiversity protection.
In addition, it included the reduction of $500 billion in harmful subsidies and to cut food waste in half.
Nature Based Solutions as a tool to mitigate climate change
Defined as, “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”1 (IUCN 2016).
A major attraction of nature-based solutions as a strategy for climate change mitigation is that they can deliver multiple benefits. These benefits include retained and restored ecosystem services from forests, croplands, grazing lands, wetlands and other coastal ecosystems that support human health and well-being, as well as biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihood development. Well-designed nature-based solutions can also improve human resilience, helping people to face the challenging impacts of climate change. Nature-based solutions can increase our capacity to adapt to those impacts of climate change that will still be present in a net zero world, reduce exposure to climate-related risks such as flooding and lower the sensitivity of human communities to climate change and shocks, for example by diversifying income.
It is believed that nature-based solutions alone can sequester at least 5 GtCO2e per year by 2030 and 10 GtCO2e per year by 2050.
Global biodiversity conservation funding needs. (in US$ billions per year)
“The provision of finance to support biologically diverse ecosystems therefore ensures that the stock of natural capital and the services they provide are more resilient to shocks and changing physical environments – a necessity in the face of widespread impacts of climate change” (World Bank 2020).
Human activities are causing unprecedented and accelerating global loss of biodiversity. Widespread land conversion for infrastructure, agriculture and other development, and overexploitation of natural resources are being driven by political leaders’ prioritization of short-term economic gains and the inability of our economic systems and financial markets to appropriately value and protect our natural capital.
To slow and stop the global loss of biodiversity, we must fundamentally rethink our relationship with nature and transform our economic models and market systems. The policy and economic actions needed to achieve this require considerable political will, broad public support, and substantial investment. This will not happen overnight and, in the short to medium term, there is an urgent need to scale up finance for nature.
Biodiversity funding gap
Overall, only 3 per cent of all climate finance (for mitigation or adaptation) in 2017–2018 was directed towards agriculture, forests and other natural resource management, with a small proportion being appropriately classified as nature-based solutions.
The total global annual flow of funds toward biodiversity protection amounted to approximately US$ 124–143 billion per year against an estimated annual need of US$ 722–967 billion to halt the decline in global biodiversity between now and 2030. Taken together, these figures reveal a Biodiversity Financing Gap of US$ 598–824 billion per year.
Even with the additional effort from governments, if nature-based solutions are to deliver on their climate change mitigation promise, all sources of finance will be needed, from public to private, domestic to international. A substantial increase in private-sector investment is needed to complement public funding.