By Selva Ozelli
The global COVID-19 pandemic came as a dramatic wake-up call to the importance of Climate Change in our daily lives and economies.
The online international Climate Adaptation Summit (CAS 2021), hosted by the Netherlands Government, created the first-ever dedicated platform of global leaders and local stakeholders aimed at placing the world firmly on a pathway to accelerated climate adaptation and resilience towards a recovery from Covid-19.
The summit jumpstarted a year of climate-related events by linking up with the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda Week, Jan. 25-29 and also set the tone for COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.
The Summit was attended by World leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, UN Secretary‐General Antonio Guterres, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, The Deputy Prime Minister of China, Han Zheng, the US Climate Envoy John Kerry, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, President Ali Bongo of Gabon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, President Alberto Fernández of Argentina, IMF‐director Kristalina Georgieva, the former UN Secretary‐General Ban Ki‐moon, Bill Gates, co-founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They discussed the global cooperation and enhanced leadership needed for a climate-resilient future by 2030.
The full speaker list can be found here.
Climate Change has an Impact on Biodiversity
During the summit, Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng called on the international community to redouble their national adaptation efforts and to implement the adaptation commitments made in the Paris Agreement on climate change. According to a recent study led by Almut Arneth from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), a considerable number of existing and proposed post-2020 biodiversity targets by international organizations are at risk of being severely compromised due to climate change, even if other barriers such as habitat exploitation are removed. According to their analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), global warming accelerates the loss of biodiversity. Vice versa, measures to protect biodiversity may also mitigate the impacts of climate change. The authors suggest that flexible approaches to conservation would allow dynamic responses to the effects of climate change on habitats and species.
Again, according to the same study, about a million plant and animal species are currently endangered worldwide. At least 13 of the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations, however, depend on biodiversity, including species diversity, the genetic diversity within species and the diversity of ecosystems. Biodiversity regulates fundamental processes, such as soil formation and water-, trace-gas-, and nutrient cycles and, thus, contributes notably to regulating the climate. The continued loss of biodiversity makes humankind face ecological, social, and economic problems. “Apart from the over-exploitation of natural resources on land and in water, or environmental pollution, climate change also causes loss of biological diversity. This impact will increase in future,” says Almut Arneth, Professor at the Atmospheric Environmental Research Division of the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU), KIT’s Campus Alpine in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. She led an international study that is now published in PNAS under the title “Post-2020 biodiversity targets need to embrace climate change.”
Targets for Worldwide Biodiversity Conservation are Missed
In their study, scientists from Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, and Japan analyzed the so-called Aichi targets for the worldwide protection of biodiversity that were adopted by the 10th Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya, prefecture of Aichi, in 2010 for compliance by 2020. Most of these targets will be missed.
In addition, the researchers analyzed the set of revised biodiversity protection targets currently negotiated by the parties for the time after 2020, which are to be reached by 2030 or 2050. They found that many existing or proposed targets are at risk due to global warming, even if the mean global temperature increase would remain at the lower limit of projections. “It certainly is a big challenge, but also an important opportunity to better handle the political level of the interactions between climate change and biodiversity loss, and to better coordinate the biodiversity targets with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals,” Arneth explains. The biodiversity targets proposed should therefore consider climate change much more explicitly, she thinks.
Climate Change Threatens Species & Mountain Glaciers to Shrink
In their study, Arneth gives an example: A biodiversity target for nature reserves must consider the fact that composition and growth of vegetation will be altered with climate change and that certain species of plants and animals will either migrate or their existence threatened if climatic conditions keep changing.
For instance, climate change causes mountain glaciers to shrink. In semi-arid regions, however, lower lying valley ecosystems depend on melting water from glaciers in summer. If this melt-water flow decreases due to retreating glaciers, precipitation alone may not be sufficient to supply the plants in the catchment with water. This will then also affect the animals that are dependent on the plants.
Their study underscores the demand to quickly and significantly reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission and to halt climate change. Vice versa, it also shows that measures to protect biodiversity would contribute to climate protection. “Better coordination of political agreements and scientific findings may accelerate urgent decarbonization of economy and ensure slowdown of climate change by biodiversity protection measures,” Arneth summarizes.
All Forms of Pollution Pose a Serious Threat to Biodiversity & Pandemics
For many European ecosystem types, studies have concluded that Nitrogen deposition results in loss of the richness in a species. Peatland ecosystems provide an example of how species replacement, resulting from nitrogen deposition, may alter the functionality of ecosystems. For example, the carbon sequestration capacity of rain fed (ombrotrophic) bog ecosystems decreases when subjected to elevated nitrogen inputs.
Faced with the climate emergency and diminishing biodiversity, the commitment of political decision-makers to a paradigm shift in all sectors requires that climate and environmental factors be integrated at the core of economic models.
During the summit five Nobel Prize Laureates presented the “Groningen Scientific Declaration” a signed statement by 3,000 scientists from over more than 100 countries calling on world leaders, decision-makers and investors, to change the way we understand, plan and invest for a changing climate to ensure we limit future damage and pandemics like Corona.
Funding Needed to Respond to Climate Change Risks
Capping a year that was one of the three warmest on record, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) released its fifth Adaptation Gap Report, finding that although many nations have advanced in adaptation planning, developing countries face a significant gap in adaptation finance for implementation of adaptation action to prevent serious climate-related costs, damages, and losses. This report placed special focus on Nature-based Solutions, which, it found, must receive significantly greater funding and attention, given the low-cost benefits they bring to climate change adaptation, society, and biodiversity.
A report by the Global Center for Adaptation (GCA) “State and Trends in Adaptation 2020” showed that global funding would need to be increased ten-fold, to US$300 billion a year, to meet the UNEP’s estimates of what is needed to respond to escalating climate risks since funding for climate adaptation fell by up to 10% during the pandemic year of 2020 according to a report “Adaptation Finance in the Context of Covid-19.”
Accordingly, during the summit, the Prime Minister of UK Boris Johnson launched the Adaptation Action Coalition in partnership with Egypt, Bangladesh, Malawi, the Netherlands, Saint Lucia and the UN, to turn international political commitments made through the UNs Call for Action on Adaptation and Resilience into on-the-ground support for vulnerable communities.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for 50 per cent of the total share of climate finance provided by all donors and multilateral development banks to be allocated to adaptation and resilience. The World Bank Group committed to maintaining the share of its total climate finance that is earmarked for climate adaptation to at least 50% and the African Development Bank committed to mobilize $25 billion as climate finance between 2020 and 2025, of which at least 50% will support climate adaptation and resilience building.
Prime Minister Rutte reiterated that all Dutch public finance continued to be equally focused – 50/50 – on mitigation and adaptation. French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed that 2 billion euros – one third of France’s climate finance aid – will be allocated for climate adaptation. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel committed a total of 270 million euros extra budget for climate adaptation, in support of vulnerable communities.
The new US Climate Envoy, John Kerry, assured world leaders in his first public appearance on the international stage that the Biden-administration has made international climate action a top priority and will help promote more ambition in adaptation and resilience and promised ‘significantly’ more climate finance to make amends for a four-year absence from international climate action initiatives.
Raising Awareness Needed Concerning Impacts of Climate Change
Young people from more than 115 countries presented a call to action among government leaders on entitled “Adapt for our Future” to former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced to contribute to the launch of the GCA Youth Leadership program focused on building the next generation to raise awareness about Climate Change Risks.
The GCA announced it is collaborating with the University of Groningen which will start offering a specialization in Climate Adaptation Governance from September 2021 onwards in the Netherlands including free online courses on Climate Adaptation Governance through FutureLearn with the first course on Climate Adaptation Governance – Making Climate Adaptation Happen.
The art shows in this article have been selected in United Nations Global Goals Art Competition and exhibited/published at London Climate Action Week, United Nations World Environment, Oceans, Desertification, Clean Air for Blue Skies and International Mountain Days during 2020.
Selva Ozelli Esq, CPA is an environmentalist who expresses this sentiment as an artist, writer, international tax attorney who frequently writes about the environmental issues for Cointelegraph, Bloomberg BNA, TiredEarth, Times of Corona, TRVST, OECD, World Bank, UN-FAO and other publications.