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lakes, biodiversity, Mexico
This week’s UN Climate Change Conference highlights important moves to bring together two different issues: climate and biodiversity. From Madrid at the Cop 25, Gilles Kleitz, Director of AFD’s Department of Ecological Transitions and Natural Resources, explains how they're linked and what it means for environmental policy and finance.
Gilles Kleitz
© Alain Goulard / AFD

Why talk about biodiversity during a conference on climate?

According to the global carbon budget presented in Madrid, 44% of the greenhouse gases that we emit are absorbed by ecosystems: forests, oceans, grasslands, etc. So what happens in these areas is crucial in helping us address climate change

If these natural resources are well managed and their natural function is preserved, they can maintain their essential role as carbon sinks. Conversely, changes in land use, unsustainable agricultural and forestry practices and the continued deterioration of soil, water and biodiversity by extractive industries, may lead to increased emissions, rendering nature’s carbon sinks less and less effective (and allowing more and more carbon into the air).

In other words, the fight against global warming makes no sense if natural ecosystems are deteriorated. And without their contribution, it would be impossible to achieve our long-term objectives. Preserving ecosystems is the only choice we have! 

Climate goals and ecosystem preservation are inextricably linked. It is estimated that nature is the solution for at least 30% of all climate challenges today.

This is obvious, but it has needed some time to take firm root in the consciousness of the international community. Right now in Madrid, numerous events are being organized on oceans, forests, land use, and more. This is the first time there has been so much talk about "ecosystems" during a climate conference.  The lines are shifting. We are witnessing a real convergence between the requirements of combating climate change and preserving biodiversity.

How can this dual requirement be translated at the national level?

It’s important that people take on the idea of “Nature-Based Solutions” and apply them in development. A nature-based solution is an action that builds on or mobilizes ecosystems to solve both a local and a global problem, such as climate change. This may be mangrove restoration, replanting and sustainably managing forests or a conversion plan towards agro-ecology. All these solutions have concrete impacts in terms of greenhouse gas sequestration, adaptation to climate change and ecosystem preservation. Their potential is highly significant.

The challenge is therefore for countries to include nature-based solutions in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in line with their national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs). Very few countries, less than 10%, currently have quantifiable targets in this area.

However, I am struck by the level of mobilization on this subject at this time. Everyone is talking about it and sharing ambitious plans, especially the development banks, but also the countries of the South. That’s new. For example, in Ethiopia, Ecuador or Pakistan, nature-based solutions are seen as a cost-effective, realistic and attractive option offering many benefits. For me, it’s essential that we help in the spread of such solutions. 

What can AFD do to provide support?

Our role is to make nature-based solutions attractive and adapted to the countries with which we work. This includes improving carbon accounting for forests, oceans and agricultural land. And to ensure social benefits.

It is also about becoming more ambitious in terms of financial commitments. Many of the projects we support can already be classified as nature-based solutions: green cities, sponge cities, agroforestry, reforestation and certain sanitation projects. At present it is estimated that 15% of AFD's climate financing—some €700 million out of a total of €4.8 billion in 2018—is based on ecosystem protection. In other words, 15% of our financing that helps mitigate the effects of climate change, also provides benefits for biodiversity. This percentage is expected to rise in the coming years.

More generally, the role of development banks is essential. Public finance must help encourage other financial players to incorporate natural capital in their investment strategies. 

Raise standards, commit to "not harming" biodiversity in all our projects, step up monitoring and management of environmental risks. There are many avenues to explore. 

Our role is to make them possible.