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Transform decision-making to tackle climate and biodiversity crises together

Published on
June 1, 2022

A new study published today in the scientific journal BioScience argues that to effectively and equitable address the interactions between biodiversity, climate and society, transformative changes (i.e. profound, multifaceted and urgent) across economies and societies must be initiated. The study by world-leading climate and biodiversity scientists claims that these changes contrast with current and proposed policies that focus on incremental changes. Such traditional changes only consider actions that focus on specific organisations, sectors and domains, but ignore interactions between them and do not question basic paradigms.

Incremental changes do not avoid severe negative impacts

The authors further argue that incremental changes will not gain sufficient traction to be scaled-up if they are not accompanied by broader system-wide changes. Besides, current incremental changes also risk being too slow to avoid severe negative impacts on people and nature, as shown by the latest assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). To illustrate the opportunities and challenges that are encountered when building more transformative approaches to govern the interactions between biodiversity, climate and society (i.e. the BCS-nexus), the study draws on examples from forest ecosystems, marine ecosystems, urban environments and the Arctic.

Source: Governing for transformative change across the biodiversity-climate-society nexus
Source: Governing for transformative change across the biodiversity-climate-society nexus

Developing a strong BCS-nexus governance

Co-author Rik Leemans, Professor Environmental Systems Analysis at Wageningen University & Research, wishes that this study guides policymakers to move away from their siloed approaches where climate change, biodiversity or society are addressed independently. “It reviews different governance concepts to deal with environmental issues, distils the lessons learned and proposes principles to foster transformative governance. Many studies have determined trade-offs and co-benefits between individual measures, but this innovative study sets the scene for much stronger, science-based integrated nexus governance approaches.”

Contributing to a ‘Paris-style’ agreement for nature

The study in BioScience is designed to contribute to the much-anticipated and long-delayed ‘Paris-style agreement for nature’ set to take place later this year in Kunming, China, where 196 countries aim to set ambitious goals for biodiversity. The authors hope that their calls for transformative change will help to better inform the setting of biodiversity objectives, targets, and indicators for the next decades, while simultaneously considering climate change and sustainability challenges.

Lead-author Unai Pascual, Professor at the Basque Centre for Climate Change: “International policy initiatives such as the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Biological Diversity, are surprisingly lagging behind the scientific evidence on the need to integrate a BCS-nexus perspective in their decisions. I hope that our efforts will be followed up by action from the policymakers. We need urgent and decisive action amidst the accelerating climate and biodiversity crises”.