Fforests, mangroves, nature, oceans… In COP 26 delegates, researchers and activists cannot ignore these words. From green plants taped to tables in the French pavilion, to polar bears in the Tuvalu pavilion, there are living creatures on display everywhere. However, once locked in a meeting room, he suddenly disappears from conversations. This break is required, and it is all the more surprising that the interactions between climate and biodiversity are numerous and critical.
With Valerie Masson-Delmotte, climatologist and IPCC Group 1 co-president, we didn’t talk about pandas or turtles, but about ecosystems. Although climate change is one of the first threats to species, it is important to emphasize that the richness of species in forests and oceans is essential to the balance of these environments. It is also critical that they be able to absorb some of our greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the term “biodiversity” can be misleading. This concept is more than just a count of existing life forms, it refers to the enormous complexity of the interactions between living things and their environment. Thus, the extinction of one species can threaten the entire ecosystem and the services it provides us.
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Action paths are still little used
This is what the Cameroonian delegate, with whom we shared the only remaining table in the restaurant, strongly insisted on, citing elephants as an example. These animals play a key role in the dispersal and fertilization of some seeds in the forests of the Congo Basin. Their disappearance could overturn the entire world’s second rainforest. Then our interlocutor reminded that these forests are not only carbon sinks, but also a resource necessary for the survival of the local population.
To showcase their commitment to reducing emissions while reducing vulnerability to extreme climate events, more and more countries are stepping up their efforts to green their image by highlighting environmental solutions such as reforestation or mangroves in their pavilions. To date, these courses of action, however, remain very theoretical and underused. They are difficult to implement, also because they may deprive some local communities of the natural resources on which they depend. Warning about this risk, the Colombian negotiator prefers to emphasize “solutions based on nature.” and residents” to ensure the success of the projects.
Every word matters
With these elements in mind, the students of the COP-ENS delegation went to meet two French biodiversity negotiators. The latter assured that the European Union and, in particular, France supported the inclusion in the texts of an ambitious reference to the link between climate and biodiversity and solutions based on nature. A point to keep a close eye on until the end of this COP!
In the text of international law, every word is important. For each subject, its coverage would be much less strong if, for example, it included the phrase “take note” instead of “recognise”. This detail, which seems very technocratic, is reminiscent of the intricacies of the COP negotiations. Reaching consensus on certain key terms is indeed a capital lever to stimulate ambitious climate policy at all levels. Consider, for example, the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development’s commitment to allocate 30% of its climate funding to nature-based solutions by 2030. This is a direct result of the growing recognition of the principle based on nature.
From words to deeds
The CCs have a motivating force that goes beyond the texts that bind the parties: political pressure, “ name and shame » and problems soft power can influence climate policy. For example, China has committed to stop building coal-fired power plants by 2040, as the chief negotiator from the French delegation reminded us.
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We can rejoice that the interplay between biodiversity and climate is increasingly present in people’s minds. Thirty-one years after its first report, the IPCC published a study for the first time in June with its biodiversity colleague, Ipbes. Much work remains to be done to bring this synergy to life. In addition, some solutions to climate change may harm ecosystems, including through land use. As we enter the era of the sixth mass extinction, can we really settle for a piecemeal approach?
* Delegation of COP-ENS: Akim Wennet, Cassandra Windi, Esther Loizeleur, Manon Malsang, Mathieu Ombrook, Nolwenn Schmoderer, Theophane Azume.