Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss Are A Single Problem

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – Earth is in the throes of multiple environmental crises, with climate change and the loss of biodiversity the most pressing. The urgency to confront the two challenges has been marked by policies that tackle the issues separately. Now, a report by a team of scientists has warned that success on either front is hinged on a combined approach to the dual crises. It is the result of the first collaboration between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

“This has the potential to be game-changing both in terms of the way research is done and to highlight the synergies between these topics. Oftentimes, because we work in silos, we tend to forget that there is such a strong interconnection between these systems and clearly between climate and biodiversity,” co-author ShobhaMaharaj told IPS. Maharaj is a lead author on the small islands chapter of the IPPC’s 6th Assessment Report on the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change and 1 of 50 leading climate and biodiversity scientists who met virtually in December 2020, to explore the complex connections between the two fields. Their workshop report was presented to the media on Thursday.

Among its arguments for addressing global warming and species loss simultaneously is evidence of some narrowly-focused climate fixes that inadvertently accelerate the extinction of plant and animal species. According to the report, the scientific community has been working on synergies, or actions to protect biodiversity that contribute to climate change mitigation. “There are some measures that people have been taking that are considered to be climate mitigation, but when done on a large scale can be harmful,” Maharaj said. For example, if you plant trees on a savannah grassland this can harm an entire ecosystem. We always need to step back and look at the big picture and this is becoming more integrated into the current dialogue between climate change and biodiversity, so it is definitely headed in the right direction.”

Maharaj says the findings can be instructive for regions like the Caribbean, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. While the area boasts endemic species, rich land and marine ecosystems, for some countries limited land for economic development results in natural habitat degradation and deforestation, which is exacerbated by climate change. “Something as simple as the development of a regional protected area, rather than each island having its own protected area would go a long way in terms of highlighting, developing and growing the synergies and dealing with the trade-offs between biodiversity and climate change,” she told IPS.

The IPPC’s 6th Assessment Report on the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change calls for an increase in sustainable agriculture and forestry, better-targeted conservation actions. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS The peer-reviewed report comes ahead of two major climate meetings this year; the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, known as COP15, in October and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November. Co-Chair of the IPBES-IPCC Scientific Steering Committee, Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner said a sustainable future for people and nature remains attainable, but requires ‘rapid and far-reaching’ action.

“Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature – such as moving away from the conception of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits,” he said. The report lists measures to combat both climate change and biodiversity loss.

It cites ecosystems restoration as one of the cheapest and fastest nature-based climate mitigation solutions. Mangrove restoration, in particular, meets multiple global biodiversity and climate goals. It also calls for an increase in sustainable agriculture and forestry, better-targeted conservation actions and an end to subsidies that support activities that are detrimental to biodiversity such as deforestation and over-fishing. But it warned that just as climate change and biodiversity are inseparable, nature-based climate mitigation measures can only succeed alongside ambitious reductions in human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

“Land and ocean are already doing a lot, absorbing almost 50 percent of carbon dioxide from human emissions, but nature cannot do everything,” said Ana María Hernández Salgar, Chair of IPBES. The 2019 Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the first of its kind in a decade, stated that the rate of global change in nature in the last half-century was unprecedented in history. It warned that the ruthless demand for earth’s resources had resulted in one million plant and animal species facing extinction within decades, with implications for public health.

Meanwhile, a recent World Meteorological Organisation ‘State of the Global Climate Report,’ found that concentrations of the major greenhouse gases increased, despite a temporary reduction in emissions in 2020, due to COVID-19 containment measures. The report also noted that 2020 was one of the 3 warmest years on record. This week’s IPBES-IPCC Co-Sponsored Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Climate Change underscores that action is needed on both the climate change and biodiversity front – but going forward, must be addressed as 2 parts of 1 problem.

Youth Demand Action on Nature, Following IUCN’s First-Ever Global Youth Summit

On the occasion of World Environment Day, 5 June 2021, IPS features and opinion editorials focusing on Environment and Youth. Theunn reproduces the voices by youth at the UN Youth Summit on Environment

Following almost two weeks of talks on issues such as climate change, innovation, marine conservation and social justice, thousands of young people from across the globe concluded the first-ever International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN)One Nature One Future Global Youth Summit with a list of demands for action on nature.Under three umbrella themes of diversity, accessibility and intersectionality, they are calling on countries and corporations to invest the required resources to redress environmental racism and climate injustice, create green jobs, engage communities for biodiversity protection, safeguard the ocean, realise gender equality for climate change mitigation and empower underrepresented voices in environmental policymaking.

“Young people talk about these key demands that they have and most of the time, they are criticised for always saying ‘I want this,’ and are told ‘but you’re not even sure you know what you can do,’” Global South Focal Point for the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) SwethaStotraBhashyam told IPS. “So we linked our demands to our own actions through our ‘Your Promise, Our Future’ campaign and are showing world leaders what we are doing for the world and then asking them what they are going to do for us and our future.”

Bhashyam is one of the young people dedicated to climate and conservation action. A zoologist who once studied rare species from the field in India, she told IPS that while she hoped to someday return to wildlife studies and research, her skills in advocacy and rallying young people are urgently needed. Through her work with GYBN, the youth constituency recognised under the Convention on Biological Diversity, she stated proudly that the network has truly become ‘grassroots,’ with 46 national chapters. She said the IUCN Global Youth Summit, which took place from Apr. 5 to 16,gave youth networks like hers an unprecedented platform to reach tens of thousands of the world’s youth.

“The Summit was able to create spaces for young people to voice their opinions. We in the biodiversity space have these spaces, but cannot reach the numbers that IUCN can. IUCN not only reached a larger subset of youth, but gave us an open space to talk about critical issues,” she said. “They even let us write a blog about it on their main IUCN page. It’s called IUCN Crossroads. They tried to ensure that the voice of young people was really mainstream in those two weeks.”

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, JayathmaWickramanayake, told IPS that the Summit achieved an important goal of bringing institutions and political conversations closer to young people. During her tenure, Wickramanayake has advocated for a common set of principles for youth engagement within the UN system, based on rights, safety and adequate financing. She said it is important for institutions to open their doors to meaningful engagement with young people.“I remember in 8th or 9th grade in one of our biology classes, we were taught about endangered animal species. We learned about this organisation called IUCN, which works on biodiversity. In my head, this was a big organisation that was out of my reach as a young person.

“But having the opportunity to attend the IUCN Summit, even virtually, engage with its officials and engage with other young people, really gave me and perhaps gave other young people a sense of belonging and a sense of taking us closer to institutions trying to achieve the same goals as we are as youth advocates.”The Youth Envoy said the Summit was timely for young people, allowing them to meet virtually following a particularly difficult year and during a pandemic that has cost them jobs, education opportunities and raised anxieties.

“Youth activists felt that the momentum we had created from years of campaigning, protesting and striking school would be diluted because of this uncertainty and postponement of big negotiations. In order to keep the momentum high and maintain the pressure on institutions and governments, summits like this one are extremely important,” Wickramanayake said.Global Youth Summit speakers during live sessions and intergenerational dialogues. Courtesy: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Other outcomes of the Global Youth Summit included calls to:

  • advance food sovereignty for marginalised communities, which included recommendations to promote climate-smart farming techniques through direct access to funding for marginalised communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme events,
  • motivate creative responses to the climate emergency, and
  • engineer sustainable futures through citizen science, which included recommendations to develop accessible education materials that promote the idea that everyone can participate in data collection and scientific knowledge creation.

The event was billed as not just a summit, but an experience. There were a number of sessions live streamed over the two weeks, including on youth engagement in conservation governance, a live story slam event, yoga as well as a session on how to start up and scale up a sustainable lifestyle business. There were also various networking sessions.Diana Garlytska of Lithuania represented Coalition WILD, as the co-chair of the youth-led organisation, which works to create lasting youth leadership for the planet.

She told IPS the Summit was a “very powerful and immersive experience”. “I am impressed at how knowledgeable the young people of different ages were. Many spoke about recycling projects and entrepreneurship activities from their own experiences. Others shared ideas on how to use different art forms for communicating climate emergencies. Somehow, the conversation I most vividly remember was on how to disclose environmental issues in theatrical performances. I’m taking that with me as food for thought,” Garlytska said.For Emmanuel Sindikubwabo of Rwanda’s reforestation and youth environmental education organisation We Do GREEN, the Summit provided excellent networking opportunities.

“I truly believe that youth around the world are better connected because of the Summit. It’s scary because so much is going wrong because of the pandemic, but exciting because there was this invitation to collaborate. There is a lot of youth action taking place already. We need to do better at showcasing and supporting it,” he told IPS.Sindikubwabo said he is ready to implement what he learned at the Summit. “The IUCN Global Youth Summit has provided my team and I at We Do GREEN new insight and perspective from the global youth community that will be useful to redefine our programming in Rwanda….as the world faces the triple-crises; climate, nature and poverty, we made a lot of new connections that will make a significant positive change in our communities and nation in the near future.”

The Global Youth Summit took place less than six months before the IUCN World Conservation Congress, scheduled forSep. 3 to 11. Its outcomes will be presented at the Congress.Reflecting on the just-concluded event, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth is hoping to see more of these events. “I would like to see that this becomes the norm. This was IUCN’s first youth summit, which is great and I hope that it will not be the last, that it will just be a beginning of a longer conversation and more sustainable conversation with young people on IUCN… its work, its strategies, policies and negotiations,” Wickramanayake said.

(Picture & Caption By IPS: The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, JayathmaWickramanayake, told IPS that the Summit achieved an important goal of bringing institutions and political conversations closer to young people. Clockwise from top left: JayathmaWickramanayake, SwethaStotraBhashyam, Emmanuel Sindikubwabo, DianaGarlytska. Courtesy: International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Youth Demand Action on Nature, Following IUCN’s First-Ever Global Youth Summit

Following almost two weeks of talks on issues such as climate change, innovation, marine conservation and social justice, thousands of young people from across the globe concluded the first-ever International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) One Nature One Future Global Youth Summit with a list of demands for action on nature.

Under three umbrella themes of diversity, accessibility and intersectionality, they are calling on countries and corporations to invest the required resources to redress environmental racism and climate injustice, create green jobs, engage communities for biodiversity protection, safeguard the ocean, realise gender equality for climate change mitigation and empower underrepresented voices in environmental policymaking.

“Young people talk about these key demands that they have and most of the time, they are criticised for always saying ‘I want this,’ and are told ‘but you’re not even sure you know what you can do,’” Global South Focal Point for the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) Swetha Stotra Bhashyam told IPS. “So we linked our demands to our own actions through our ‘Your Promise, Our Future’ campaign and are showing world leaders what we are doing for the world and then asking them what they are going to do for us and our future.”

Bhashyam is one of the young people dedicated to climate and conservation action. A zoologist who once studied rare species from the field in India, she told IPS that while she hoped to someday return to wildlife studies and research, her skills in advocacy and rallying young people are urgently needed. Through her work with GYBN, the youth constituency recognised under the Convention on Biological Diversity, she stated proudly that the network has truly become ‘grassroots,’ with 46 national chapters. She said the IUCN Global Youth Summit, which took place from Apr. 5 to 16,  gave youth networks like hers an unprecedented platform to reach tens of thousands of the world’s youth.

“The Summit was able to create spaces for young people to voice their opinions. We in the biodiversity space have these spaces, but cannot reach the numbers that IUCN can. IUCN not only reached a larger subset of youth, but gave us an open space to talk about critical issues,” she said. “They even let us write a blog about it on their main IUCN page. It’s called IUCN Crossroads. They tried to ensure that the voice of young people was really mainstream in those two weeks.”

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, told IPS that the Summit achieved an important goal of bringing institutions and political conversations closer to young people. During her tenure, Wickramanayake has advocated for a common set of principles for youth engagement within the UN system, based on rights, safety and adequate financing. She said it is important for institutions to open their doors to meaningful engagement with young people.

“I remember in 8th or 9th grade in one of our biology classes, we were taught about endangered animal species. We learned about this organisation called IUCN, which works on biodiversity. In my head, this was a big organisation that was out of my reach as a young person.

“But having the opportunity to attend the IUCN Summit, even virtually, engage with its officials and engage with other young people, really gave me and perhaps gave other young people a sense of belonging and a sense of taking us closer to institutions trying to achieve the same goals as we are as youth advocates.”

The Youth Envoy said the Summit was timely for young people, allowing them to meet virtually following a particularly difficult year and during a pandemic that has cost them jobs, education opportunities and raised anxieties.

“Youth activists felt that the momentum we had created from years of campaigning, protesting and striking school would be diluted because of this uncertainty and postponement of big negotiations. In order to keep the momentum high and maintain the pressure on institutions and governments, summits like this one are extremely important,” Wickramanayake said.

Global Youth Summit speakers during live sessions and intergenerational dialogues. Courtesy: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Other outcomes of the Global Youth Summit included calls to:

  • advance food sovereignty for marginalised communities, which included recommendations to promote climate-smart farming techniques through direct access to funding for marginalised communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme events,
  • motivate creative responses to the climate emergency, and
  • engineer sustainable futures through citizen science, which included recommendations to develop accessible education materials that promote the idea that everyone can participate in data collection and scientific knowledge creation.

The event was billed as not just a summit, but an experience. There were a number of sessions live streamed over the two weeks, including on youth engagement in conservation governance, a live story slam event, yoga as well as a session on how to start up and scale up a sustainable lifestyle business. There were also various networking sessions.

Diana Garlytska of Lithuania represented Coalition WILD, as the co-chair of the youth-led organisation, which works to create lasting youth leadership for the planet.

She told IPS the Summit was a “very powerful and immersive experience”.

“I am impressed at how knowledgeable the young people of different ages were. Many spoke about recycling projects and entrepreneurship activities from their own experiences. Others shared ideas on how to use different art forms for communicating climate emergencies. Somehow, the conversation I most vividly remember was on how to disclose environmental issues in theatrical performances. I’m taking that with me as food for thought,” Garlytska said.

For Emmanuel Sindikubwabo of Rwanda’s reforestation and youth environmental education organisation We Do GREEN, the Summit provided excellent networking opportunities.

“I truly believe that youth around the world are better connected because of the Summit. It’s scary because so much is going wrong because of the pandemic, but exciting because there was this invitation to collaborate. There is a lot of youth action taking place already. We need to do better at showcasing and supporting it,” he told IPS.

Sindikubwabo said he is ready to implement what he learned at the Summit.

“The IUCN Global Youth Summit has provided my team and I at We Do GREEN new insight and perspective from the global youth community that will be useful to redefine our programming in Rwanda….as the world faces the triple-crises; climate, nature and poverty, we made a lot of new connections that will make a significant positive change in our communities and nation in the near future.”

The Global Youth Summit took place less than six months before the IUCN World Conservation Congress, scheduled forSep. 3 to 11. Its outcomes will be presented at the Congress.

Reflecting on the just-concluded event, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth is hoping to see more of these events.

“I would like to see that this becomes the norm. This was IUCN’s first youth summit, which is great and I hope that it will not be the last, that it will just be a beginning of a longer conversation and more sustainable conversation with young people on IUCN… its work, its strategies, policies and negotiations,” Wickramanayake said.

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