The stakes are high for the future of our planet as we approach COP28
Just over a year ago, on 2 December 2022 at Columbia University, the UN Secretary-General delivered a landmark speech on the state of the planet, where he warned the world that making peace with nature will be the defining task of the 21st century. It has to be the top priority for everyone, everywhere.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023 warns that humanity and the planet are facing an unprecedented polycrisis. The climate and nature crises are inextricably linked, and it is unreservedly clear that we will fail in all of our endeavors unless the climate and nature crises are tackled together.
UNEP’s State of Finance for Nature 2022 Report demonstrates that a rapid doubling of finance flows to nature-based solutions (NbS) can halt biodiversity loss, reduce emissions by 5 GtCO2 per year by 2025, and help restore nearly 1 billion hectares of degraded land. Yet in 2020, NbS received just 0.3% of overall spending on urban infrastructure.
The report further recognizes that cities are responsible for 80% of the world’s GDP, making them critical players in the global economy. The Parties to the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopting Decision 15/12 at the COP15 in Montreal 2022 is evidence that policymakers are increasingly recognizing the role of cities in reaching global environmental targets and are eager to expand funding at local level.
Cities are at the frontline of dealing with biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and the climate emergency, and their devastating consequences to communities. Yet, they are also hubs of innovation and solutions. There are myriad examples of innovative urban projects, initiatives and platforms addressing the challenges we face, and these should be applauded and built upon, but we need to move faster and go further if we are to create a resilient urban future, where all life forms not only survive, but thrive!
ICLEI’s response is captured in the following ten messages and calls to action, in the lead up to and during COP28, highlighting the linkage between the climate and biodiversity crises:
Climate-driven impacts on ecosystems have already caused immense economic and livelihood losses around the world. Leaving biodiversity and nature out of climate change mitigation and adaptation actions is not an option.
It is vital that Parties encourage cities and regions to integrate nature into their climate transition and urban policy agendas as an immediate priority, to ensure that their actions deliver net positive outcomes for nature and people, and avoid pushing further beyond our planetary boundaries.
A just transition is about ensuring that a response to climate change is a whole-of-society, whole-of-economy approach that leaves no one behind, particularly protecting the most vulnerable and marginalized. Biodiversity and nature-based solutions have key roles to play in contributing to a just transition, through nature-based job creation, the biodiversity economy, and enhancing the health, well-being and resilience of communities.
All levels of government are urged to work together to adopt just transition approaches and to integrate biodiversity and nature-based solutions in their just transitions.
Radical collaboration and innovation are fundamental to strengthening disaster risk reduction and resilience. A multilevel governance, whole-of society-approach is key to addressing the challenges we currently face. The CBD Decision 15/12 on engaging cities and regions in enhancing the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), provides a framework for subnational action and multilevel governance.
It is imperative for Parties to work with their cities and regions in facilitating, as appropriate, the implementation of the action areas related to this Decision, while also minimizing the negative impacts of climate change.
According to the World Economic Forum’s New Nature Economy Report released in 2020, more than half of the world’s GDP A– equivalent to an estimated US$ 58 trillion – is moderately or highly dependent on nature.
It is vital that all levels of government strengthen the enabling framework to protect nature and ecosystems, and ensure that investment targets leverage multiple and complimentary benefits beyond climate action. Restoring and protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services will, in turn, enable further climate action.
Estimates suggest that nature-based solutions can provide 37% of the mitigation needed by 2030 to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement. If we do not protect our biodiversity and restore ecosystems, especially in cities, we will not achieve the Paris Agreement targets or the Sustainable Development Goals. This requires greater synergy and complementarity in achieving targets at all levels.
Whole-of-government approaches to multilevel policy implementation and alignment between Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) are crucial to reaching agreed targets. This should recognize the linkages between climate change and biodiversity loss, ensure the inclusion of local and subnational actions and targets, and facilitate the mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem restoration into sector plans and integrated development plans.
Biodiversity is fundamental to human well-being and health, and we urgently need to reduce pressures on biodiversity and decrease environmental degradation, to reduce risks to health and the likelihood of future pandemics.
City governments should significantly increase the area, quality and connectivity of, as well as access to, green and blue spaces in urban and densely populated areas. This will enhance native biodiversity, ecological connectivity and integrity, and improve human health and well-being, and climate resilience.
It is essential that we optimize co-benefits and synergies of finance, targeting the biodiversity and climate crises; investment in nature is an investment in climate. Examples of partnerships between subnational governments, private sector and civil society, that show tangible results for both people and nature exist, and must be adopted, replicated and scaled.
It is essential that Parties create an enabling policy environment that supports cities and regions to significantly increase investment in nature and ecosystem restoration, by introducing innovative financing instruments and mechanisms, and partnering with the private sector in expanding the financial investment envelope.
Human rights principles provide a compass for equitable and just climate and nature action. Integrating human rights into climate and nature policies and actions is paramount to safeguard the rights of present and future urban generations, and cultivate resilient, sustainable solutions that prioritize social justice.
All levels of government should embrace a human rights-based approach to climate and biodiversity action, not merely as a moral imperative, but as a crucial state duty and a strategic necessity.
The time for scaling out actions, based on science-based decision making, that will transform the current consumptive and destructive development trajectory, to a more sustainable one in harmony with nature, is now. Cities and regional governments are well placed to embrace innovative and integrative solutions because they are more agile than national governments when developing and adopting new policy instruments and plans, and they are also closer to citizens.
Cities and regions are strongly encouraged to recognize, apply and mainstream biodiversity and urban-rural linkages into planning and development processes, and ensure that nature-based solutions are grounded in ecosystem-based approaches. This will address societal challenges and climate change, and achieve biodiversity benefits and net positive outcomes for nature.
Now is the time for implementation, and we urgently need to move from ‘agreement to action’. Enhanced reporting, and tracking progress against targets, is vital to ensure that we meet our goal of being nature positive by 2030.
We urge cities and regions to commit to taking action for nature, and to report and track progress against their commitments on the CitiesWithNature and RegionsWithNature online platforms, endorsed by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and both members of the Global SURGe Alliance.