Europe and Central Asia
11 Dec 2019

The Paris Agreement - without nature, a dead end path?

Asunción Ruiz, SEO/BirdLife Executive Director (left) and Patricia Zurita, BirdLife CEO (right)
By BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
  • BirdLife International this week released its briefing on The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030, containing  proposals for concrete measures that could help the European Green Deal achieve its objectives.
  • Next year will be key for action on both climate and nature, as the signatory governments of the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement are due to present their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the new UN biodiversity goals will be established under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Madrid 10/12/2019 – Coinciding with the annual Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP25, and to inform the development of the upcoming European Green Deal and Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, BirdLife this week released a comprehensive briefing laying out concrete actions that must be carried out for Europe to tackle both climate change and biodiversity loss.  BirdLife’s position paper on The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030  shows how climate and biodiversity challenges – and solutions - are interlinked, and highlights the pivotal role the EU must play in addressing this both domestically and internationally.

“The climate and biodiversity crisis are two sides of the same coin, and must be tackled together not only to save all life on earth but to guarantee social equity in the process. Human wellbeing and rights are threatened by this serious ecological crisis, with the poorest being hardest hit and least able to adapt. We therefore need a coherent solution that explicitly integrates climate, nature and people”, says Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International, speaking today from COP25.

One of the measures called for in the briefing is a large-scale nature restoration programme, to help recover biodiversity at the same time as restoring carbon reserves and sinks and improving water retention.

Such restoration of natural ecosystems, alongside other nature-based solutions such as nature protection and sustainable agriculture and fishing, is key to achieving both climate change adaptation and mitigation objectives of the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement, in particular in delivering over 30% of the climate mitigation needed by 2030 to keep global temperature rise below the 1.5ºC threshold that will cause irreversible damage to the planet.

Given the climate and biodiversity emergency, and the fact that habitat restoration can take several years, to achieve impacts by the year 2030 it will be necessary to start work immediately and at the latest by 2023, and to ensure efforts are sustained. BirdLife believes that the new EU strategy on biodiversity must include legally binding objectives, one of which should be to restore 15% of marine and land territory.

The position paper also emphasises that agricultural policies must be changed to stop the main cause of biodiversity loss as well as to improve carbon sinks in productive lands and make food production resilient to climate change.

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Another urgent need is to restore life in the ocean through strictly protecting key biodiversity areas, in particular by closing fisheries in large areas of the EU to allow ecosystem recovery. "We know that the collapse of marine food chains makes coral reefs, seagrass beds and seaweed forests fragile and destroys their carbon absorption capacity," points out Patricia Zurita.

On the other hand, BirdLife stresses that the EU must implement bold policies to reduce unsustainable consumption, since no amount of land and sea conservation and sustainable production can cope with current levels of consumption. Reductions of 50% in consumption of meat and dairy products, 50% in food waste and 40% in seafood are needed, and we need policies that support these goals together with improvements in health and social justice.

The EU must show international leadership and emphasise shared responsibility in the coming year, both at home and on the global stage. Asunción Ruiz, Executive Director of SEO/BirdLife, says, “We ask the EU to make an ambitious and firm commitment to reduce emissions, though Nationally Determined Contributions, in the first quarter of 2020, to clarify what role ecosystems and biodiversity conservation will play, and to do so after a broad process of public participation and debate. At the same time, we demand that more countries ally themselves with the EU’s position, to counterbalance the denial or lack of commitment from less supportive leaders concerning the current climate and ecological emergency.”

At the same time, the EU should demonstrate leadership both in advocating for an ambitious and transformational post-2020 global biodiversity framework, currently being negotiated under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and in the negotiations for biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, also culminating in 2020.

See for more details on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, including BirdLife’s positions on nature-based solutions and nature-sensitive renewable energy development for the post-2020 nature, climate and development agendas.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.