Editorial: Climate Meets…Biodiversity

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According to the 2019 Sustainable Leaders Survey experts see climate risk and biodiversity loss as society’s most urgent challenges. Our survey with GlobeScan on Evaluating Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals finds that Life on Land, alongside Climate Action, are the SDGs seen as most urgent but on which the least progress is being made.

Biodiversity is rising up the agenda. Media coverage of the recent IPBES report on species loss is just one example of this. As observed in our last Radar on Energy & Climate momentum is also building on the adoption of natural climate solutions – the potential for restored forests, peatlands, coastal habitats particularly mangroves and salt marshes to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. This is drawing attention from a range of actors for its potential for positive feedback loops.

However, we are not yet at a tipping point, that some would say we have reached on climate. Biodiversity is a new term (adopted by scientists in the 1980s) and lacks cultural traction.  Even ‘nature’ is not a universal concept (Meet our Network: Jon Hutton, Luc Hoffmann Institute). An article in The Anthropocene highlights the concern of scientists and conservationists relying on a term that many people don’t understand.

It seems strange that, despite the success, complexities and nuances, of our language systems, the terminology distances us from the very land that provides our food and resources, regulates our climate and is so essential to our well-being. That said, in some respects, biodiversity can be easier for people to act on than climate. Impacts are more local and in many parts of the world very visible. Meaningful action can be taken, even if just small, through local community initiatives (In Focus: Internet of Elephants & Citizen Engagement).

At the global level, it is less straightforward. We urgently need an equivalent Paris Agreement for biodiversity – a simple set of targets for action on nature that everyone – business, governments, NGOs and CSOs alike can aim for. And that is the challenge for the UN’s Convention of Biological Diversity COP event in China next year. The New Deal for Nature and Humanity proposed by WWF earlier this year sets out just one set of ambitious proposals for no loss of natural spaces or extinctions as well as better managing ecological impacts of production and consumption.

As with climate, action by governments, business, investors, innovators, civil society and communities is needed.  The corporate sector is stepping up and business momentum is building (Corporate Sector Approaches: Biodiversity Risks and Opportunities). The recently launched Business for Nature Coalition aims to provide a united business voice at the CBD negotiations in 2010 (Business Engagement: Towards a Global Public-Private Deal for Nature?). Investors – so critical for the deployment of capital to sustainable activities are starting to quantify biodiversity risk as they have done for climate (Investors: Measurement of Biodiversity Impact & Risk).

But also, as with climate, so much more needs to be done. Now is the time for the international community to come together and put its combined weight behind one set of ambitious proposals that can inspire and guide action from the global to the local level.