Article / 22 May, 2019
Antonio Guterres: Healthy Ecosystems are 37% of the Climate Solution

UN Climate Change News, 22 May 2019 - On the International Day for Biodiversity, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned against the unprecedented threats facing the world’s ecosystems which are accelerating climate change.

In a statement published for the day, António Guterres pointed out that since 1990, deforestation has caused the loss of more than 290 million hectares of forests that help to absorb harmful carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. He said:

“We need healthy ecosystems to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to address climate change: they can provide 37 % of the mitigation needed to limit global temperature rise.”

Conserving natural terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems and restoring degraded ecosystems is essential for the overall goals of both the UN Framework on Climate Change UNFCCC and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) because biodiversity can affect the climate at global, continental and local scales. In addition, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as one of the three Rio Conventions is designed to protect land and related ecosystems.

Forests, grasslands and freshwater, marine and coastal ecosystems all play key roles in the Earth’s carbon cycle and hence in regulating greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere, while also providing a wide range of ecosystem services that are essential for human well-being.

 “The links between biodiversity ecosystems and the benefits to human health are deeply entrenched in our global commitments to curb biodiversity loss and climate change,” said Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in a video address.

This year’s International Day for Biodiversity focuses on biodiversity as the foundation for our food and health and as a key catalyst to transforming food systems and improving human well-being.

A recent report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reveals that climate change is considered by countries to be having a negative effect on agriculture and ecosystem services in all production systems through changes in rainfall, temperature and the frequencies of extreme events such as droughts, hurricanes, floods and fires.

This means that farmers around the world need to adopt "disaster-resilient" farming practices in order to grow adequate food for growing populations.

And just two weeks ago the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released the Global Assessment Summary, showing that Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, and climate change is amongst the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far.

In 2020, the international community is set to agree on a new global biodiversity framework – the same year that nations are set to upgrade their national climate action plans under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Ultimately, only the full implementation of all major environmental agreements and of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals can stave off the worst biodiversity loss, and increasing ambition is all areas of environmental action is key.