Breaking silos: Addressing biodiversity loss and climate change cohesively

Imagine a vast, intricate puzzle that is the world’s biodiversity, with each piece symbolizing one of billions of species or the invaluable ecosystem services they provide – like water purification, carbon sequestration, and disease control.

As the room that the puzzle sits in steadily rises in temperature, the puzzle is exposed to relentless stress, causing its pieces to warp and break apart. Even the remaining pieces struggle to fit together, disrupting the once resilient mosaic. 

As these pieces disintegrate, they  take with them vital solutions to climate adaptation and mitigation, such as carbon-sequestering trees, essential pollinators, and erosion control. This disruption not only weakens the puzzle itself, but also hinders its ability to adapt to the changing climate that first caused these impacts. 

The climate and biodiversity crises and their societal and environmental impacts are inextricably linked, which means these emergencies call for holistic policy responses. 

Our puzzle analogy  isn’t even sufficient to adequately capture the interconnected nature of biodiversity loss and climate change. Research shows that climate change and its associated ecosystem disruption is a key driver of biodiversity loss. This loss, in turn, can diminish ecosystems’ capacities to weather the effects of climate change.

Global biodiversity also plays a role in climate regulation and carbon sequestration, meaning its loss can reduce our ability to mitigate climate change.

And many key drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change overlap: think of deforestation or forest degradation, which both destroy and degrade ecosystems while emitting immense levels of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  

Even though climate change and biodiversity loss are inseparable, efforts to address them have historically worked in silos. International climate and biodiversity policy approaches have been developed under different conventions, with different implementation levels, and with different funding mechanisms at global and national levels. This partition remains true for countries’ national climate plans (i.e., Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs) and national biodiversity strategies (i.e., National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, or NBSAPs). 

For instance, government ministries may develop NDCs and NBSAPs independently from one another and on different timelines, while guidelines from international conventions inadequately account for these crises’ effects on one another. And many on-the-ground measures for mitigating climate change can negatively impact biodiversity, and vice versa.  

This compartmentalization limits efforts to address these interconnected challenges effectively. Given these challenges, Climate Focus developed Breaking Silos: Enhancing Synergies between NDCs and NBSAPs, a report that explores overviews how conventions, national policymakers, and non-state actors can strengthen synergies between countries’ NDCs and NBSAPs.  

Released at COP28 in Dubai and developed with WWF, the report identifies several key areas for building synergies between climate and biodiversity strategies. These entry points include:  

  • Conventions’ guidance for governments in developing their NDCs and NBSAPs 
  • The global processes to take stock of world’s collective efforts to address climate and biodiversity crises 
  • National policy planning processes 
  • Setting targets and measures 
  • Implementation and monitoring of progress 
  • Public-private initiatives that could be catalysts for holistic policy actions  

The report stresses several priority actions to improve cohesion between efforts to solve the climate and biodiversity crises, including:  

  • Integrating national climate and biodiversity policy planning processes within sectoral strategies. At the national level, building coherence between climate and biodiversity policies is crucial. It can significantly reduce monitoring and reporting burdens and enhance on-the-ground policy impacts. By promoting collaboration between sectors and stakeholders, integrated policy processes can help improve the allocation of resources, better align budgets for national climate and biodiversity goals, and improve countries’ access to the finance needed to achieve their targets.
  • Prioritizing and pooling financial resources for policy measures such as nature-based solutions that can contribute to both climate and biodiversity objectives. Simultaneous progress on mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity goals is possible only when public and private sector finance is channeled to projects and programs designed to address these goals simultaneously while minimizing trade-offs between them.
  • Ensuring greater representation and resources for Indigenous Peoples and local communities to act on climate change and biodiversity. Indigenous Peoples and local communities are uniquely placed to help governments address climate mitigation, adaptation, and biodiversity loss: the lands they manage tend to sequester more carbon, harbor more biodiversity, and be more resilient than other lands. These groups possess extensive traditional knowledge that is invaluable in managing these lands to help to achieve these simultaneous positive outcomes.  

In the end, conventions and policymakers can no longer operate in isolated silos – as if trying to solve a complex jigsaw puzzle with pieces scattered across different tables – for the world to address climate change and biodiversity loss.