COP28 climate conference: Considering biodiversity in climate protection

Biodiversity plays an important role in climate protection - be it because it regulates the reflection of sunlight or because diverse ecosystems recover more quickly after extreme climate events. Climate protection measures must therefore not harm biodiversity, argued Dirk Karger from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL at the climate conference in Dubai on Monday.

On the one hand, there are ambitious international conservation targets not only for the climate, but also for biodiversity: For climate, a maximum warming of 1.5°C (Paris target); for biodiversity, the protection of 30% of land area by 2030 (Montreal target "30 by 30").

On the other hand, climate and biodiversity are closely interlinked. For example, mixed forests reflect more sunlight than pure conifer forests, which heat up more and therefore evaporate more water. Stable climatic conditions favour diversity, while vegetation influences the climate via the CO2 and water cycles. The WSL-led FeedBaCks project, funded by the EU Biodiversa+ programme, explored such relationships using model calculations. The findings have now been discussed by experts from research and civil society, including Tom Crowther from ETH Zurich and Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, at COP28 in Dubai in the Blue Zone, where the official negotiations are taking place (video of the session on YouTube).

The conclusion: climate protection projects must take into account the impact on biodiversity. If, for example, forests are cleared for biofuels or monocultures are planted for CO2 sequestration, this not only harms biodiversity. It also jeopardises numerous services that humans receive from natural ecosystems - from natural hazard protection to water and air purification to recreational use.

"The loss of biodiversity is often irreversible, because when species die out, they don't come back," says FeedBaCks co-founder Dirk Karger from the WSL. "The climate and biodiversity crises must be dealt with together so that we don't lose even more species to climate change than we already have due to rapid climate change itself."

Biodiversity-friendly climate protection

The panel's appeal to climate protection experts at COP28 is that they should not forget biodiversity when planning their measures. Its loss is just as serious for nature and humanity as climate change, especially as climate and biodiversity influence each other. For example, the loss of vegetation due to fires or drought can increase the local risk of drought. From a climate protection perspective, it may seem sensible to plant monocultures of fast-growing tree species in order to bind as much CO2 as possible. However, as monocultures are much more susceptible to windthrow or pests, there is a risk that the trees will quickly die again and release the bound CO2 back into the atmosphere.

The FeedBaCks project management explains these connections in a statement (policy brief), which was handed out to politicians in print and online as part of the panel discussion and calls for the irreplaceable biodiversity to be protected and included in climate protection.



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