Panellists discussing the Paris climate deal and biodiversity
Cancun, Mexico: Tackling biodiversity loss and conservation on the African continent needs to be done in a holistic way-by incorporating climate change, biodiversity and conservation to safeguard environmental sustainability and eventually achieve sustainable development.
Experts at the ongoing UN biodiversity conference, taking place in Cancun, Mexico believe Africa needs to put in place effective measures which encourages strong linkages between the Paris Climate Agreement and efforts to address issues related to biodiversity, as well as conservation at the local and national levels.
“There is a strong linkage of the Paris Agreement and biodiversity, where countries in African national determined contributions (NDCs) are relaying on nature to mitigate or adapt to climate change. In many countries, there are many important measures that are being relying on in terms of planting trees, or restoring coral leaves as well as preserving watershed,” says Yann Laurans, the Programme Director of Biodiversity at Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI).
According to Laurans, these measures are meant to mitigate emissions and also help to adapt to climate change and therefore very relevant for biodiversity policy.
He notes that the link is not so much known to people and CBD community as it stands in the Paris Agreement.
He adds that such efforts also demands funding for African countries and other developing countries-hence innovative ways of raising such finance may need to involve the private sector and the national governments.
Laurans points out that African countries are leading the movement to nature based solutions in their NDCs.
“First thing to do is to gather people who work on issues related to biodiversity and others who are also engaged in working on climate change, which on many occasions are not the same people or organisations.
“The people who have drafted the NDCs with ministers in African countries are not necessarily aware of what happens in biodiversity and conservations. The most important thing is to try and have technical discussions on both biodiversity and climate change,” he states.
Pollinators and biodiversity
Pollination services ensure the production of crops. All farmers, especially family farmers and smallholders around the world, benefit from these services. Improving pollinator density and diversity has a direct positive impact on crop yields, consequently promoting food and nutrition security.
He mentions that there is growing part of food which depends hugely on pollinators and at the same time more threatened by the quality and condition of the ecosystem including insects and marbles which are more threatened.
“So we have this contradiction between food security that more is dependent on plants that need pollinators and on the other hand insecticide that tend to threatens these,” he explains.
Laurans therefore calls for pragmatic and bold measures to ensure pollinators abound to ensure sustainable food supply and raw materials.
REDD plus initiative
The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus (REDD+) being a climate change mitigation mechanism and conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancing forest carbon stocks can be seen a strong tool to promote biodiversity. There are numerous projects in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, among others and each is associated with challenges including evictions of local communities, land grabs, and prosecution of activists, etc.
The main touching point between climate change and biodiversity conventions over several years has been REDD+ which is also found in the Paris agreement. The CBD for years regard it as biodiversity friendly initiative and could be given the safeguard discussions surrounding it.
“REDD+ is an example of a topic that needs both worlds, the biodiversity world and climate change community at the international level where a lot of the debates are parallel and don’t talk to each other,” says Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers, an Associate Professor, International Biodiversity Governance at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University.
“Our side event was the only one that is trying to combine discussions on climate change and biodiversity at the CBD conference. But especially at the national and local levels, and actually at the landscape level, lots of thinking of REDD+ at the moment taking place is at the landscape level.
“So how can REDD+ be a trigger for sustainable land use at the landscape level, that’s where the real change should take place,” Visseren-Hamakers explains.
She states climate change and biodiversity policies can be used to trigger debates over sustainable land use-where parts of the landscape are protected areas, or for small scale agriculture, etc. which are relevant for biodiversity conservation and food security.
“That’s where within the landscape where all of these international debates are being done in parallel should come together and these debates are highly political because it is about different views on what kind of agriculture should take place in these landscape–should it be large scale monoculture food production for export market or small scale farmers that combine food production with growing of trees and other land uses,” she mentions.
Marcel Kok, Environment and Development Programme Leader and Senior Researcher at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) also said in the context of the theme of the conference-mainstreaming biodiversity, there is the need for African countries to undertake agricultural activities by incorporating biodiversity at every level to have more resilient agriculture.
“Climate in relation to agriculture needs to look at the opportunities to do different kinds of agriculture by bringing concerns of biodiversity and climate smart agriculture. In the end for Africa, needs to take into account different concerns in terms of climate and biodiversity to have more robust agriculture,” he adds.
He states that Investing land use policies by taking accounts people’s rights and resources are very important for biodiversity and land conservation.
Delegates across the world have convened at the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) conference of parties (COP13) in Mexico to take the steps needed to build a future of life in harmony with nature. The Conference focuses on mainstreaming biodiversity across relevant sectors, especially agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism, to contribute to the sustainable development goals, climate action, food security and other human development goals.
By Samuel Hinneh