|IUCN is highlighting the importance of healthy ecosystems in providing practical solutions to tackling climate change in the COP21 negotiations being held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 11 December.|
The 21st meeting of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNCCC) is underway in Paris, France, bringing together 195 countries that want to take action against climate change. This conference is crucial as governments are expected to reach a new international agreement to keep global warming below 2°C. IUCN features prominently in the Paris negotiations, conveying the message that climate agreements must recognise the practical solutions provided by nature.
In response to this situation, the Forum programme will focus on improving ecosystem governance in order to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and address the effects of climate change.
Healthy ecosystems play a vital role in combating climate change as well as providing us with services and products upon which our livelihoods and well-being depend. However, these important services provided by nature are often undervalued.
For instance, soil is the biggest terrestrial carbon sink. While loss of soil organic carbon is one of the principal signs of land degradation, soil carbon stocks can be increased through appropriate land management. Reversing land degradation and increasing soil organic carbon provides one of the surest and lowest-cost multiple-wins: benefiting climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and increased food production.
If ecosystems are poorly managed, they cannot provide essential ecosystem services as effectively. Environmental degradation has a direct impact on humans as ecosystems lose their capacity to offer the services and goods that we rely on. These services include food, fibre, clean water, climate regulation and new sources of medicines. Ecosystems also offer protection against natural hazards, which are predicted to increase in intensity and frequency with climate change.
When sustainably managed, however, our natural capital in the form of healthy ecosystems can work in our favour. Conserving, restoring and sustainably managing ecosystems can generate nature-based solutions to climate change while providing other important economic, social and environmental benefits.
It is important to know the status of ecosystems and how they can be managed most sustainably, in order to ensure they remain functionally intact. IUCN’s Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) is a global standard to scientifically assess the status of ecosystems at global, regional, national and sub-national scales. It is a tool that tells us not only the status of ecosystems, but also what action is required to ensure they remain functional and healthy. As the challenges of climate change intensify, the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems will become an increasingly important tool to assess ecosystem health and provide insight in how best to adapt to a changing world.