Why Net Zero is reliant on the halting and reversal of biodiversity loss – and creatures like these.
Project #D – PLANETARY LIMITS: Climate change, Biodiversity Loss
By Alex Gow-Smith, Tabitha Taylor, and Jane Fiona Cumming
“Key natural ecosystems are heading towards irreversible tipping points with dangerous consequences for the stability of our planet. This is why we need to set our global compass to halt and reverse nature loss to safeguard human and planetary health. A global goal for nature aiming at achieving a net positive outcome by 2030 is crucial to secure a nature-positive future for humanity within our planetary boundaries.”
Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Whilst global goals for carbon reduction have been widely adopted, it is now clear that Net Zero, alone, is not enough to halt climate change. The relationships between anthropogenic climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem degradation are intrinsically interlinked. Nature is climate’s greatest ally - absorbing 1/2 of our carbon emissions a year - but it's also the foundation of our economy and our lives.
Next year sees the Convention on Biological Diversity releasing 'A New Global Framework for Managing Nature Through 2030'. The Framework comprises 21 targets and 10 ‘milestones’ proposed for 2030, en route to ‘living in harmony with nature’ by 2050. An increasing number of global political leaders have committed to delivering a nature-positive world by 2030 through the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature. Science-based targets for nature (SBTN) are also in development.
Nature positive means enhancing the resilience of our planet and societies to halt and reverse nature loss. Through improving the state of biodiversity and natural ecosystems by nature-based solutions, more carbon is sequestered, and ecosystem services are enhanced. Similarly, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will decrease ecosystem degradation (oceans: lowering of acidification and temperatures as well as less sea level rise; land: decreased fires, drought etc.).
Biodiversity is a contraction of “biological diversity”. It is comprised of several levels, starting with genes, then individual species, then communities and finally ecosystems, such as forests or coral reefs, where life interplays with the physical environment. These interactions define the Earth that we live in. But the huge global biodiversity losses now apparent represent a crisis equalling – or possibly surpassing – climate change.
For many people, wildlife and animals are something watched on television. But ultimately all species (including humans) rely on biodiversity. Some links are obvious: without plants there would be no oxygen to breath and without pollinators (e.g., bees) there would be no fruit or nuts. The roles of other creatures are not so well understood. Fruit-eaters for example, including tropical tortoises and spider monkeys, disperse the seeds of hardwood trees - some of the best carbon dioxide removers known.
Another example is seagrass. These plants act as huge carbon stores, capable of capturing carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests, absorbing 10% of the ocean’s carbon each year. Seagrass is also vital for marine life, providing an important habitat for endangered species such as seahorses, who use the cover of the grass as a nursery.
ARTICLE 13 VIEWPOINT - What does this mean for business?
Our latest practitioner research shows whilst the majority of companies are now measuring their performance and setting targets relating to climate change, only 7% of the companies reviewed are setting a target for biodiversity loss. Of that handful of targets set, none of these were at scale with what the planet needs. See a snapshot of our latest research here.
Businesses must firstly commit to measuring their full impact on the planet’s resources – not just carbon reduction - and base reduction targets on what the world needs them to do. Secondly, businesses can help support biodiversity conservation and restoration programmes related to their supply chains, areas of operation and markets that they serve.
Article 13 is an SBTN Corporate Engagement Program participant, pledging alignment with SBTN’s goals and vision and contributing advice and end-user insights to the development of SBTN methods and tools.
If you would like to know how Article 13 can support you to measure your impact on Planetary Limits and Social Thresholds, get in touch.