Another form of Green Deal, for “It has become clear that beyond 1.5°C, the biology of the planet becomes gravely threatened because ecosystems literally begin to unravel”

April 23, 2019

“It has become clear that beyond 1.5°C, the biology of the planet becomes gravely threatened because ecosystems literally begin to unravel,” authors write in a just released article in the journal Science Advances.  Co-authors are leading conservation scientists from research institutions, non-governmental organizations, major technological companies and conservation groups. 

Last October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the world needed to undergo a radical transition of its energy, transportation and agriculture systems to keep climate under a threshold of 1.5°C of warming.  The study posits that the carbon budget and the biodiversity budget are two sides of the same coin.  Our extractive economic system which also excludes so many is much broader than fossil fuel mining and use alone, it extends to land use and lack of indigenous land rights in our larger system.

“If the models are right and we need to stay below 1.5 degrees to keep the ecosystems from unraveling and for humanity to have a safe operating space in the future, we have no alternative than to put more land under conservation,” Dinerstein said. “If you want to save biodiversity we have to stay below 1.5, and to do that, we need 50 percent of the earth to be set aside.”

From Inside Climate News, April 2019

For years, experts in conservation and climate science have urgently pursued two parallel paths—one to interrupt a large-scale extinction event, the other to avert a runaway climate crisis.

Now, an international group of scientists is proposing a third way that marries the two in an ambitious plan they hope will save the species that make our planet so rich—including ourselves.

They set out their timetable in a paper released Friday in the journal Science Advances calling for a “Global Deal for Nature.” Its unified objective: protect the ecosystems to combat climate change; combat climate change to protect the ecosystems.

It aims to set aside 30 percent of the planet’s lands for various degrees of protection from development and destruction by 2030, with additional protections for another 20 percent. It also sets goals for conservation in oceans and freshwater ecosystems.

The plan overlays two timetables—a race to get to zero net emissions of greenhouse gases in the next few decades; and an effort to slow deforestation, poaching and other threats to species and ecosystems before it’s too late. It posits that the carbon budget and the biodiversity budget are two sides of the same coin, as habitat degradation represents a key emissions source.

As comprehensive as Noah’s Ark, the Global Deal for Nature attempts to protect every kind of ecosystem.

The study points to the eucalyptus forests of Australia and the rainforests of North America’s Pacific Northwest as two examples of ecosystems that are particularly good storehouses for carbon.

“We’ve made a mess of it for ourselves in terms of biodiversity and climate. We’re on two terrible trajectories,” said Eric Dinerstein, the lead author of the paper. “We’re living through the sixth great extinction crisis and a dramatic change in the earth’s climate, which threatens the future of humanity.”

“It’s really a hopeful vision that it’s achievable—that we can get ourselves out of this,” said Dinerstein, director of Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions at Resolve, a non-governmental organization involved in environmental issues. His coauthors are leading conservation scientists from research institutions, non-governmental organizations, major technological companies and conservation groups. Their work builds on an earlier study, from 2017, that identified ecoregions that must be protected to preserve biodiversity.

In the new paper, the authors write that “the nexus of climate and biodiversity science offer chilling scenarios” if the earth warms beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, a limit presented in the Paris climate agreement.

After that, they warn, there’s a “point of no return” looming—including large-scale coral bleaching events, massive tree mortality in coniferous forests, and infestations of ticks affecting reindeer, moose and other large, cold-climate species.

“It has become clear that beyond 1.5°C, the biology of the planet becomes gravely threatened because ecosystems literally begin to unravel,” they write.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the world needed to undergo a radical transition of its energy, transportation and agriculture systems to keep climate under a threshold of 1.5°C of warming.

To achieve that goal, the IPCC found that countries would have to cut global CO2 emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by around 2050. Failure to do so would result in dramatically increased risks to human civilization and life-sustaining ecosystems.

Slow Progress on UN’s Biodiversity Targets

Meanwhile, in another corner of the conservation and global policy world, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, a multilateral treaty that aims to preserve biodiversity, is edging closer to a deadline of its own.

Countries involved are working to achieve what’s called the Aichi Biodiversity Targets—a set of 20 targets that would identify the causes of biodiversity losses and then combat them to preserve species. The targets are supposed to be achieved by 2020, but progress has been slow.  (The targets are listed below this article).

“With all the focus on climate, the extinction crisis has been sidelined a little bit,” said Rod Taylor, the global director of forests at World Resources Institute. “Recognizing the overlap is pretty important.”  Taylor, who was not involved with the paper released Friday, said the plan is a good first step. “It’s putting something out here to trigger the debate,” he said. “Different countries will have different opinions on how to achieve it. It’s good to have something on the table.”

The authors’ goal is to have the plan adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity, and to have it taken into account by climate change negotiators when they meet in 2020 at the UN climate change conference in Beijing.

‘Cheapest, Fastest’ Climate Solution?

The IPCC’s report from last year showed that even a rapid transition away from fossil fuels won’t be enough to keep warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial times.  1 C of warming has already occurred and another .5-.6 C is stored in the oceans, meaning the carbon budget is exhausted right now — no further investment in anything fossil fuel based or dependent should occur.  Even then, the world needs to find ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and the best ways are natural.   

In the paper on Friday, the authors called the Global Deal for Nature “the cheapest and fastest alternative for addressing climate change.”

One of the goals in the Global Deal for Nature is to maximize carbon sequestration by natural ecosystems—relying on trees, soils and other carbon sinks to naturally extract carbon from the atmosphere.

The tundra and boreal biomes around the Arctic Circle are particularly good storehouses for carbon and would be protected and retained under the plan. So would forests with high carbon density, from the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest in the United States and Canada to the temperate eucalyptus forests in southeast Australia. The plan seeks “protection for these and other ‘high-biomass forests’ that are disproportionately important in climate mitigation.”

The benefits of those protections also extend to biodiversity, they write, as in the case of large tropical trees that store carbon and also rely on animals for seed dispersal.

The proposal’s other specific goals are to represent all native ecosystem types, to save species, to maintain ecological function and ecosystem services, and to address environmental change to maintain evolutionary processes and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The Global Deal for Nature proposal includes targets on the following issues: agricultural expansion, roads, dams, overfishing, wildlife trade, invasive species, plastics, toxins and ozone-depleting chemicals. For each, it includes a 2018 benchmark, a 2030 milestone and a target outcome for 2050.

“If the models are right and we need to stay below 1.5 degrees to keep the ecosystems from unraveling and for humanity to have a safe operating space in the future, we have no alternative than to put more land under conservation,” Dinerstein said. “If you want to save biodiversity we have to stay below 1.5, and to do that, we need 50 percent of the earth to be set aside.”

Sabrina Shankman is a reporter for InsideClimate News focusing on the Arctic. She joined ICN in the fall of 2013, after helping produce documentaries and interactives for the PBS show “Frontline” since 2010 with 2over10 Media. She is the author of the ICN book “Meltdown: Terror at the Top of the World,” and was named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists for that work. Shankman has a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

  • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
  • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
  • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
  • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

 

Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
Target 1
By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.
Target 2
By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.
Target 3
By 2020, at the latest, incentives, including subsidies, harmful to biodiversity are eliminated, phased out or reformed in order to minimize or avoid negative impacts, and positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are developed and applied, consistent and in harmony with the Convention and other relevant international obligations, taking into account national socio economic conditions.
Target 4
By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.
Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
Target 5
By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.
Target 6
By 2020 all fish and invertebrate stocks and aquatic plants are managed and harvested sustainably, legally and applying ecosystem based approaches, so that overfishing is avoided, recovery plans and measures are in place for all depleted species, fisheries have no significant adverse impacts on threatened species and vulnerable ecosystems and the impacts of fisheries on stocks, species and ecosystems are within safe ecological limits.
Target 7
By 2020 areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry are managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity.
Target 8
By 2020, pollution, including from excess nutrients, has been brought to levels that are not detrimental to ecosystem function and biodiversity.
Target 9
By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.
Target 10
By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.
Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
Target 11
By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.
Target 12
By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.
Target 13
By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of wild relatives, including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.
Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
Target 14
By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable.
Target 15
By 2020, ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks has been enhanced, through conservation and restoration, including restoration of at least 15 per cent of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification.
Target 16
By 2015, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization is in force and operational, consistent with national legislation.
Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building
Target 17
By 2015 each Party has developed, adopted as a policy instrument, and has commenced implementing an effective, participatory and updated national biodiversity strategy and action plan.
Target 18
By 2020, the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and their customary use of biological resources, are respected, subject to national legislation and relevant international obligations, and fully integrated and reflected in the implementation of the Convention with the full and effective participation of indigenous and local communities, at all relevant levels.
Target 19
By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied.
Target 20By 2020, at the latest, the mobilization of financial resources for effectively implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 from all sources, and in accordance with the consolidated and agreed process in the Strategy for Resource Mobilization, should increase substantially from the current levels. This target will be subject to changes contingent to resource needs assessments to be developed and reported by Parties

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