Climate report forces paradigm-shifting nature deal

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Puffer Pond Assabet River

NWR Photo credit Jay Beeler

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2022 report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability is essential for Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), who are negotiating a global program for nature conservation. The report is expected to compel the parties to adopt bold and game-changing targets for the protection of ecosystems and wildlife to give them and us the best chance of surviving the climate and natural crises.

The scientists who wrote the IPCC report gave us a clear message: Now is the time to have courage and make a real break with the status quo. It’s time to take transformative action. The world’s ecosystems and wildlife need us to fight for their future, so they can in turn continue to provide us with the natural building blocks we need to survive. They need us to come up with solutions, and there’s not a moment to lose.

The IPCC report paints a difficult picture, paving the way for humanity’s possible demise. It almost sounds whimsical. But as the report makes clear, the real fantasy is to believe that we can manage somehow. Or, that if we try hard enough, we’ll get an “A” for effort; everything will go well because what matters is to give the best of yourself. Such feelings are not based on reality and ultimately jeopardize the well-being of millions of people. This dynamic plays out in real time during CBD negotiations, where Parties often focus on what is “comfortable” rather than what is “necessary”.

Focusing on what is “comfortable” is a recipe for disaster and must stop. When policy makers talk about what is comfortable, they often mean what maintains the status quo and does not run counter to powerful interests vested in that status quo. Ecosystems and species are criticized from all sides, their health declining as habitat is lost, plants and animals are removed from the wild for human use, and pollution poisons the environment. All living beings, including humans, suffer and will suffer more if we do not build a new relationship with nature. Without radical systemic changes to address ecosystem health and biodiversity loss, we will lose hundreds of thousands of species and jeopardize the natural life support systems we depend on for life as we live. know it, things like clean air, clean water, food security, flood control and disease regulation. Add climate change to the mix and the situation worsens exponentially.

Just as glaciers have carved valleys and lakes into massive mountains around the world, the climate change that is melting our remaining glaciers is forging a path of destruction across ecosystems, species and human society. Some ecosystems are already reaching the limits of their adaptive capacity and others will follow. According to the report, “many natural systems are approaching the hard limits of their natural adaptive capacity and other systems will reach limits as global warming increases. Ecosystems already meeting or exceeding strict adaptation limits include some warm-water coral reefs, some coastal wetlands, some rainforests, and some polar and mountain ecosystems. This is terrible for ecosystems and species, but also for humans: “Above the global warming level of 1.5°C, some ecosystem-based adaptation measures will lose their effectiveness in providing benefits to humans because these ecosystems will reach strict adaptation limits. It is a scientific discourse on the inability of these ecosystems to continue to produce the natural life support systems that local communities depend on, such as clean water, food security and flood control.

We must do all we can to prevent species and ecosystems from reaching these limits by reducing as much stress as possible. Just as healthy humans are better able to cope with surgery than sick people, healthy species and ecosystems will be better able to cope with the dramatic effects of the climate crisis. Thus, it is extremely important to reduce or eliminate existing stressors that undermine the health of ecosystems and species.

Stop converting natural areas to other uses, so no more deforestation to plant crops to feed livestock so wealthy elites can have even more steak. We must end the rampant harvesting of plants and animals from the wild, which is destroying forests, destroying fisheries and putting humans at risk of further pandemics as we catch nature’s latest trend and send it into the whole world. And we must considerably reduce pollution of all kinds and the spread of invasive species. If we reduce these stressors, we will help strengthen food and societal security for everyone on the planet.

The need to protect nature is specifically identified in the report, which states the following:

Building biodiversity resilience and supporting ecosystem integrity can maintain benefits for people, including livelihoods, human health and well-being, and the provision of food, fiber and water, while contributing to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation. The protection and restoration of ecosystems are essential to maintain and strengthen the resilience of the biosphere.

This is what makes negotiations on a comprehensive plan for nature conservation so important. If Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity do what is necessary, they will adopt goals and targets for conservation action that will break with today’s failed paradigms and set us on a new path. So, for example, they must adopt a goal of protecting at least 30% of the world’s land, inland waters and oceans from industrial and environmentally harmful activities by 2030. Protecting more areas from destructive activities will give them a better chance to adapt. to climate change and be resilient to climate shocks.

The IPCC report specifically calls for protecting more areas: “Recent analyses, drawing on a range of data sources, suggest that maintaining the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services globally depends on effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30% to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas, including currently near-natural ecosystems.

And Parties should commit to ending human-caused extinctions. Some extinctions are built in, but others are choice extinctions as for-profit corporations consciously destroy remaining habitat and strip wild plants and animals to sell to the highest bidder while governments look the other way or, more often subsidize these activities and other environmental damage. . We have the power to stop this and the foresight to be better stewards of nature.

We will know later this year whether the global community will embark on a course of doing what is necessary as opposed to what is acceptable to entrenched private interests. Parties to the CBD will adopt a framework for nature conservation this summer. Until then, we must push them to adapt their framework to the reality of climate change impacts and vulnerabilities detailed in the IPCC report. Our next opportunity is during a negotiation session which will take place in Geneva in March. NRDC will be there, pushing for a bold, paradigm-shifting deal. You can add your voice to the cause:

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