There is increasing consensus among scientists and commentators for addressing conservation and climate change issues together, particularly through the development of intergovernmental agreements and targets. This POSTnote summarises the links between biodiversity loss and climate change, and outlines options for jointly addressing their drivers and effects on a global scale.

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The term biodiversity is often used in place of nature in policy, and refers to the abundance and variety of life on Earth. Biodiversity is essential for human well-being because it provides benefits from the natural environment, such as: food, medicine, and clean water (ecosystem services or nature’s contributions to people). The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment found that humans have extensively altered 75% of the earth’s land surface and 40% of the ocean. This may lead to the extinction of an estimated 1 million species within decades, leading to declines in ecosystem service benefits.

Climate change and biodiversity are interdependent; climate change can contribute to biodiversity loss, and biodiversity loss can make climate change and its effects worse. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests more protection and restoration of ecosystems is needed to meet the mitigation and adaptation objectives of the Paris Agreement. This POSTnote summarises the interactions between biodiversity and climate change, the gloabl opportunities and challenges for jointly addressing their effects and drivers, and their inclusion in international environmental frameworks.

Key points in this POSTnote include: 

  • While climate change and biodiversity loss are interlinked issues, they have largely been addressed through separate, rather than integrated, global policy frameworks.
  • Changes in sea and land use are the main drivers of biodiversity loss and contribute to climate change. Climate change also drives biodiversity loss.
  • Conserving biodiversity could also mitigate climate change by increasing capture and storage of carbon in ecosystems, and support adaptation to climate impacts.
  • Ecosystems can be conserved, managed and restored to provide benefits for biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable development.
  • The effectiveness of ecosystem based climate and conservation measures may be affected by the rate and magnitude of climate change.

Acknowledgements 

POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

Dr Mike Barrett, World Wildlife Fund*

Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife International*

Ian Christie, Centre for Environment & Sustainability, University of Surrey*

Dr Tom Clements, Wildlife Conservation Society

Dr Stephen Cornelius, World Wildlife Fund+

Stephen Corry, Survival International

Paul de Zylva, Friends of the Earth*

Eric Dinerstein, RESOLVE

Dr Kate Dooley, Australian-German Climate and Energy College, University of Melbourne*

Prof David Edwards, Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Sheffield

Gavin Edwards, World Wildlife Fund

Dr Jasmin Godbold, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton

Danny Heptinstall, Joint Nature Conservation Committee*

Dr Valerie Kapos, UNEP-WCMC*

Prof Simon Lewis, Department of Geography, University College London*

Prof Dame Georgina Mace, Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, University College London

Prof E.J. Milner-Gulland, Department of Zoology, Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science, University of Oxford

Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, ZSL Institute of Zoology

DEFRA*

Corli Pretorius, UNEP-WCMC

Prof Andy Purvis, Natural History Museum*

Prof Nathalie Seddon, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Nature Based Solutions Initiative

Prof Martin Solan, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton*

Dr Richard Unsworth, Department of Biosciences, Swansea University

*Denotes people who also acted as external reviewers of the briefing

+Denotes people who only acted as external reviewers of the briefing

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