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Many of us may still be reeling from last year’s climate change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which focused on the physical science of climate change, confirming that climate change is already widespread, rapid and intensifying. Today’s report focuses on the impacts of this upheaval, ways we can adapt to it, and areas of particular vulnerability.

The overall results are just as concerning, showing that climate change is impacting every region on earth, with irreversible changes for nature and people. It is no longer possible to deny that this catastrophe is the result of human activities. Even at the 1.1°C level of global warming we are currently experiencing, we can already see its impacts, including increasingly frequent extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts and flooding around the globe.

In the natural world, the report clearly shows that ecosystems and species are surpassing tipping points, with the risk of species extinctions rising sharply with increasing warming. This can be seen in BirdLife’s recent update to birds on the Red List of threatened species, where climate change was a major reason for several bird species sliding closer to extinction. A recent report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) also highlighted that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction – more than any time in human history – with climate change now the third biggest driver after habitat loss and exploitation.

Millennia-old human ways of life may also face extinction: the report finds that vulnerable Indigenous communities are under severe threat from climate change. Without action, we will continue to see more species go extinct, ecosystems collapse, and the most vulnerable people suffer.

However, we are not powerless in the face of this crisis. There is still much we can do to reduce climate change and its effects. BirdLife is well-positioned to deliver the transformative adaptation measures that the planet so desperately needs, because nature is a big part of the solution to climate change. Natural habitats such as forests, grasslands and wetlands can help us store carbon, protect communities and ecosystems from flooding and sea level rise, and regulate the temperatures of cities and other landscapes, all while providing a refuge for wildlife. 

by Rhiannon Niven, Global Climate Change Policy Coordinator

Above: wetlands such as this one in Kenya absorb vast amounts of carbon every year © Marisa Estivill / Shutterstock

Local people carry tree saplings up Peru’s mountainsides to reforest the slopes of the Andes © ECOAN

From reforestation in South America to coastal salt marsh creation in the United Kingdom and wetland restoration in Africa, BirdLife Partners are increasing their resilience to the impacts of climate change while improving biodiversity at the same time. But we must do more. We will continue to advocate for ambitious action at the international level, whilst also seeking to step up our action on the ground.

The recent United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow (also known as COP26) provided the mandate for integrated nature and climate action, and the upcoming Convention on Biological Diversity conference in Kunming (COP15) provides a crucial opportunity to build on this momentum. Here, BirdLife will be continuing to push for governments to deliver a nature-positive future that includes full recognition of the connections across different international conventions, seeing biodiversity, climate and sustainable development goals addressed together.

As we look towards the 2022 United Nations Climate Change conference (COP27) in Egypt, we will continue to advocate for increased ambition in national policies and hold governments accountable for delivering on the promised funding and action desperately needed for the most vulnerable people and ecosystems. By COP27, there must be a clear trajectory to meet the financial goals required from private and public finance in order to ensure our planet stays under 1.5 °C of global warming.

Nature may be a powerful tool in the fight against climate change, but its capacity to absorb emissions is not infinite, and is weakened by continued and increased warming. We must see rapid decarbonisation happening alongside the use of nature-based solutions, focusing on restoring and protecting nature – because the more we help our natural habitats, the more they will help us achieve an equitable, carbon-neutral, and nature-positive future.


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As the global ecological crisis unfolds all around us, a few things should seem straightforward. Forests host precious biodiversity, store carbon, slow water flows and perform other vital roles. So protecting and restoring forests is a good idea while burning them is bad, right? Carbon, once burned and emitted as CO2, helps cook the planet, so we should basically stop burning stuff, right? Well, in the magical world of European policy and in many other countries, you’d better think again.

The EU is in the process of adopting a comprehensive package of legislation aiming to address climate change by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. This is a belated and insufficient response to the existential threat that has been on display this summer, as various bits of the continent went up in smoke, drowned in floods or got steamed by heat waves. But there’s a catch. At the heart of Europe’s response is the Renewable Energy Directive, whose purpose is to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. And at the heart of that law, there is a tree-shaped hole.

EU legislation sets targets for ‘renewable energy’ without distinguishing between different technologies. National governments then choose what and how to subsidise. Over the last decade, they have often poured their support into the wrong renewables, most notoriously biofuels. This has already led to massive conversion of grasslands and agriculture intensification in Europe and to deforestation across the globe. Some 80% of EU biofuels is biodiesel, which now absorbs the majority of EU palm oil imports, directly driving deforestation and peatland destruction in Indonesia.

But the problem is even wider than that. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land in Europe have been converted to maize for biogas production, driving a further nail in the coffin of farmland birds. Use of wood for heating, and increasingly for electricity production, has sent logging rocketing across Europe, inverting decades of forest recovery. More than half the wood harvested in Europe is burned, and bioenergy is now the lead driver of forest degradation, with impacts spilling as far as south-east USA, where hardwood and swamp forests are cleared to make wood pellets for the EU market, and then the land is converted to sterile and climate-vulnerable pine plantations.

Missed opportunity

The new round of legislation would be the opportunity to change this sad state of affairs. In February more than 500 scientists wrote to the EU warning that, as “numerous studies have shown, this burning of wood will increase warming for decades to centuries. That is true even when the wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas”.

Earlier this year the EC’s own Joint Research Centre (JRC) published a study on bioenergy, stating: “Burning forest biomass emits more carbon pollution than fossil fuels per unit energy, and the net impact of this increased CO2 can persist in the atmosphere for decades to centuries.” No fewer than 23 out of the 24 bioenergy provisioning scenarios evaluated by the JRC report pose a risk to climate, biodiversity or both.

Despite all these warnings, the EC has caved in to massive lobbying from forestry and farming interests and the national governments they control. Their legal proposal includes marginal and ineffective safeguards and paves the way for another decade of environmental devastation and fake emission reductions.

The ball is now in the court of national governments and members of the European Parliament, but anyone that has at heart the future of both forest and farmland birds, and believes in real science-based climate action, should be mobilised.

Please support our campaigning on this crucial issue in the coming months – if you are an EU citizen contact your MEPs and relevant ministers in your national government asking them to stop the catastrophic burning of wood and crops for energy. For more information read our position statement here.

“Hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime agricultural land in Europe have been converted to maize for biogas production, driving a further nail in the coffin of farmland birds.”

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia


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As a female Chief Executive Officer of a global conservation organisation, and as someone from the global south (Ecuador to be specific), I know that I owe much to the women before me, on whose shoulders I – and we all – stand.

Soon after COVID-19 started disrupting all of our lives in late spring 2020 – it’s hard to believe that’s a year and a half ago already – I was brainstorming with my close friend and colleague Asun Ruiz. Asun is the CEO of our Spanish partner, SEO BirdLife, and we both recognised the need to step up our work to save birds and biodiversity at this time of great adversity.

Beyond the excellent conservation work BirdLife and its partners carry out in local communities around the globe, we knew it was imperative to scale up our broader advocacy to save the planet, and this thinking led us to create the 1Planet1Right campaign. We had followed the work of Dr David Boyd, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, for several years – his Spanish skills alone had caught our ears. We designed our campaign to support his work in trying to get the United Nations to add the right to a healthy environment to the roster of recognised Universal Human Rights.

Digging into the subject, we learned of the seminal role played by former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as the first Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights. She was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We’ve learned about the many other global women who collaborated with her and especially how this led to a recognition of the right to gender equality – without which I might well not be writing this today.

Let us celebrate, for example, Hansa Mehta from India (on right in photo below): she succeeded in changing the text from “All Men” to “All Human beings are born free and equal”. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.

Above: US Firsty Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo © FDR Presidential Library & Museum

“Beyond the excellent conservation work BirdLife carries out around the globe, we knew it was imperative to scale up our broader advocacy to save the planet, and this thinking led us to create the 1Planet1Right campaign.”

Patricia Zurita, CEO, BirdLife International

Angela Jurdak (Lebanon), Fryderyka Kalinowski (Poland), Bodgil Begtrup (Denmark), Minerva Bernardino (Dominican Republic) and Hansa Mehta (India), delegates to the Sub-commission on the Status of Women, New York, May 1946 © UN

Asun and I wanted to bring our collective energies and our global BirdLife family to something that many felt initially might be outside the partnership’s remit. But saving the planet is a battle that requires the broadest and most innovative of coalitions. We need to stop preaching to the choir and convince those who are oblivious to the threats facing the planet’s future.

We all depend on the environment in which we live. We are part of nature, one species among millions. A safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is integral to our full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation. Without a healthy environment, we are unable to fulfil our aspirations. We may not have access to even the most basic standards of human dignity.

The blunt reality is that we will also perish if we do not face up to the biodiversity and climate crises – and recognition of a universal right to a healthy environment will be a powerful arrow in our quiver as we fight that fight.

Our lobbying and broader public engagement helped push the UN’s Human Rights Council to officially consider this new human right. October 2021 saw the Council approving the measure, and we are hopeful it will be brought to the entire General Assembly in 2022.

Add your own voice to our campaign at 1planet1right.org


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Peru is home to more than 15% of the world’s bird species: an astonishing 1,861 in total, 138 of them found nowhere else on Earth. From the arid plains of the Pacific coast to the mountainous Andes and the tropical rainforests of the Amazon basin, its varied landscapes make the country a hotspot for wildlife of all kinds. BirdLife is therefore delighted to welcome a new Partner for Peru: Ecosistemas Andinos, or ECOAN for short.

Despite only joining the BirdLife family this June, ECOAN is a prominent conservation NGO in Peru with a 20-year history. Over this time, it has been working to conserve some of the country’s most threatened species through the establishment of nature reserves at Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas. It has also worked with indigenous communities to restore important high Andean forests, and raised public and political awareness of the importance of Peru’s ecosystems.

To date, its community reforestation programme has resulted in more than three million native trees being planted across Peru. As well as restoring habitat for threatened wildlife, these new forests benefit the local population by offsetting climate change, providing clean water, preventing erosion and supporting indigenous communities. To expand this project, ECOAN co-founded Acción Andina (Andean Action): the first multi-country, large-scale initiative to restore high-altitude forests across the length of the Andes. The goal is to work with local and indigenous communities to protect and restore one million hectares of this critical ecosystem over the next 25 years.

Within Peru’s borders, ECOAN has been able to protect, restore and manage more than 30,000 hectares of critical habitat so far. This has benefited a host of threatened bird species including Marvelous Spatuletail and Junin Grebe (both Endangered), as well as Royal Cinclodes (Critically Endangered). The conservation measures are also a lifeline for mammals such as Spectacled Bear (Vulnerable to extinction).

Above: Local volunteers reforesting mountain slopes as part of the Acción Andina initiative. Planting vegetation not only helps wildlife, but also safeguards against climate change, flooding and erosion © ECOAN

ECOAN works with the Pomacochas Community to protect Marvelous Spatuletail habitat © thibaudaronson

BirdLife first worked closely with ECOAN on the High Andean Wetlands conservation protect, launched in 2010. The high Andean wetlands are home to some of South America’s most threatened bird species, and are vital links in the chain of sites used by migratory birds which breed in North America. Through the project, a new protected area was created to safeguard the breeding grounds of Hooded Grebe (Critically Endangered), and other protected areas have been strengthened and extended. Thanks to the success of this collaboration, there is now much greater public, political and scientific knowledge of the importance of this vital ecosystem.

“Since 2007, when I first worked at BirdLife, there was great interest on the part of ECOAN to become a BirdLife partner,” says Itala Yepez, Head of Conservation, BirdLife Americas. “Their affinity with our goals, and their focus on bird conservation in Peru, among others, made them ideal candidates for the position.”

BirdLife has already begun collaborating with ECOAN to find financing for its work in Andean forests. But despite ECOAN’s name (Ecosistemas Andinos means ‘Andean Ecosystems’ in Spanish), its work doesn’t just cover this region. The organisation is also active in the lakes and plateaus of Junín, the rainforests and deep river gorges of Amazonas, and the incredible historical landscape of Cusco, among other locations.

Constantino Auca, Chief Executive Officer of ECOAN, looks forward to expanding the reach of the organisation as part of the BirdLife Partnership: “In the last 21 years, ECOAN has grown and shown really important impacts on a large scale in Peru. ECOAN wishes to remain efficient and scale up its conservation actions. Now being a BirdLife Partner, we feel we are being given a great opportunity to join forces with other organisations in the region and at the global level for the conservation of birds and biodiversity, fulfilling our institutional mission.”

”In the last 20 years, ECOAN has grown and shown really important impacts… now we are being given a great opportunity to join forces.”

Itala Yepez, Head of Conservation, BirdLife Americas



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I gather many others have criticised the film because they found the allegory connecting an imminent comet destroying earth with the climate crisis to be inaccurate or tortured. To be honest, I find this a bit ridiculous, and it feeds my frustration. They are missing the point. To me the film depicts the inability our culture has in dealing with and accepting reality – science – facts! This might be an even more devastating pandemic facing humankind. We see it across the board in our politics and society at large. Vaccines, nature, climate – you name it. I bet much media criticism stems from the film’s devastating portrayal of the current shallowness in coping with and scarcity of coverage of the climate and nature crises in the news.

As the leader of the world’s largest and oldest nature conservation partnership, which is the global authority on the science and conservation status of birds, I can tell you our scientists, policy teams and conservationists, and myself as well, have shared Leonardo di Caprio’s character’s challenges in getting the powers that be to act when presented with scientific facts. Birds are one of our most accurate and prescient indicator species for the health of our planet – and they are telling us, and we are telling the public and politicians, that the planet is in grave peril.

Nature loss is climate’s twinned existential crisis – without addressing one, we won’t solve the other. With over 1 million species soon facing extinction, the stakes are completely intertwined with the climate catastrophe.

So I salute and thank Adam McKay and Netflix for their trenchant, humorous and sharply pointed satire on the hurdles we face to convince the world’s governments, businesses and people to act now if we are to secure a future for nature, for all life, on earth.

Please consider joining and supporting our flock at BirdLife in 117 countries around the globe where we are tackling all fronts of the twin crises of climate and nature.

Header image: Netflix, find out more here.

“As the leader of the world’s largest and oldest nature conservation partnership, which is the global authority on the science and conservation status of birds, I can tell you our scientists, policy teams and conservationists, and myself as well, have shared Leonardo di Caprio’s character’s challenges in getting the powers that be to act when presented with scientific facts.”

Patricia Zurita, BirdLife CEO


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Colombia, Paraguay, Brasil y Argentina potenciarán la protección y restauración de sus pastizales naturales gracias al aporte financiero de BirdLife Américas.

Download an English version

Los Pastizales naturales del América del Sur son un bioma imponente compuesto principalmente por un manto ondulado de vegetación herbácea.  Conocidos también como llanuras, llanos o pampas, los pastizales proveen servicios ecosistémicos esenciales para la vida como: la purificación y recarga de fuentes de agua, provisionamiento de fibras, alimentos y combustibles, almacenamiento de carbono, y regulación del clima. Además, son el hogar de una exuberante variedad de vida silvestre y cuentan con una gran riqueza cultural, espiritual y recreativa.

Más de 600 aves autóctonas y miles de aves migratorias dependen de este frágil y amenazado ecosistema. Desafortunadamente, la intensificación y expansión de prácticas humanas mal-manejadas como: la agricultura, la ganadería, el desarrollo urbano y el uso indiscriminado del fuego han mermado drásticamente su extensión y salud.

Para afrontar esta problemática, en 2006 BirdLife lideró la conformación de la Alianza del Pastizal con el apoyo de sus socios: Aves Argentinas, SAVE Brasil, Guyra Paraguay y Aves Uruguay. Desde entonces, más de 560 mil hectáreas de pastizales del Cono Sur se encuentran manejadas con prácticas de pastoreo responsables que combinan su conservación con la producción sostenible. A la par, en Colombia, la Asociación Calidris en asociación con otras 12 organizaciones conforman la Alianza Sabana, quienes se enfocan en la implementación de soluciones innovadoras de conservación para los Llanos colombianos.

A pesar de los grandes logros alcanzados hasta el momento, todavía existen varios desafíos por afrontar. Precisamente, para potenciar las acciones de conservación y restauración de este ecosistema, BirdLife Américas lanzó a inicios de noviembre de 2021 un Programa de Pequeñas Donaciones para la Conservación de Pastizales Naturales. Se trata de fondos semilla para incentivar proyectos de conservación y/o investigación que contribuyan durante un año a la conservación de los pastizales naturales en la región y las aves terrestres, playeras y acuáticas asociadas a éstos.

Alectrurus risora – Joaquín Ghiorzo, Aves Argentinas

El Programa de Pequeñas Donaciones para la Conservación de Pastizales Naturales es una iniciativa de BirdLife Américas que otorga fondos semilla para incentivar proyectos de conservación y/o investigación en la región que contribuyan a la preservación de estos ecosistemas y sus aves.

Conoce a los seis proyectos ganadores

La miel de la biodiversidad: identidad gastronómica para la conservación de las sabanas inundables

Con el respaldo de: Asociación Calidris
Equipo técnico: Ocampos Andrea Barrera, Nelsy Niño, Beatriz Ramírez, Marcela Vega, Natalia Roa.

Con un enfoque participativo y de género, este proyecto potenciará la conservación de las sabanas inundables de Colombia, en Reservas de la Vereda Altagracia (un Área Importante para la Conservación de las Aves – IBAs, por sus siglas en ingles).  La idea es empoderar y educar a una comunidad de mujeres para que aprovechen, de forma sostenible, su entorno y biodiversidad en su gastronomía. El proyecto abarca estrategias de conservación y restauración para garantizar el alimento, los materiales y el espacio de anidación necesarios para la abeja mansita (Melipona favosa), la tecnificación para producir miel de forma eficiente y limpia, la difusión del valor agradado de este producto y la integración con la red de productores de meliponicultores de Casanare. De esta forma, se pretende contribuir la soberanía alimentaria, la resiliencia frente al cambio climático y conservación de la vida silvestre asociada a estos llanos. 

Polen en la lengua de una mujer de la Reserva de la Vereda Altagracia – ABC Colombia.

Estudio de la dinámica de carbono en diferentes sitios ecológicos y tipos de manejo en establecimientos ganaderos en pastizales naturales de Paraguay

Con el respaldo de: Guyra Paraguay
Equipo técnico: Diego Ocampos

Se investigará varios aspectos relacionados con la dinámica de carbono en el suelo y las plantas. Se estimará la captación de carbono, composición botánica y caracterización de nutrientes en pastizales naturales de acuerdo con variables de conservación de biodiversidad y suelos, así como las características ecosistémicas presentes en establecimientos ganaderos y los tipos de pastoreo realizados. De esta forma, se identificarán buenas prácticas de manejo pastoril que permitan contribuir con evidencia científica a la protección y producción sustentable en pastizales como una estrategia de conservación de la biodiversidad y mitigación frente al cambio climático. Esta iniciativa se desarrollará en al menos tres establecimientos ganaderos ubicados en los departamentos de Caazapá y Paraguari; que basan su producción en pastizales naturales.

Gabriel Jimenez, Unsplash

Optimización de la restauración ecológica de campos en Pampa con recolección mecanizada de semillas de especies nativas

Con el respaldo de: SAVE Brasil
Equipo técnico: Rodrigo Dutra da Silva, Sandra Cristina Müller.

A partir de una referencia existente en el mercado, se construirá una maquina recolectora de semillas maduras por contacto, práctica, liviana y accesible, que permitirá fortalecer la capacidad y conocimiento para realizar acciones de restauración ecológica en los campos nativos de la Pampa brasileña. A través de este proyecto piloto, se buscará solucionar la falta de semillas de especies herbáceas nativas para la siembra directa en territorio que existe actualmente en el mercado; lo cual constituye un gran problema en la cadena productiva entre la cosecha y la siembra. Además, gracias a la cosecha mecanizada, se pretende potenciar y optimizar las intervenciones a gran escala para recuperar extensas áreas degradadas. Cerca de 95 especies de aves silvestres dependen de la conservación de estos pastizales Sulinos.

Barley, Unplash

Uso de nuevas tecnologías para el monitoreo de buenas prácticas de manejo de pastizales y conservación de aves de pastizal amenazadas en la provincia de Corrientes, Argentina

Con el respaldo de: Aves Argentinas
Equipo técnico: Adrián Di Giacomo, Melanie Browne, Florencia Pucheta, Yamila Barasch.

Este proyecto diseñará una herramienta de programación que combina sensores remotos con el conocimiento sobre la biología de aves amenazadas para evaluar si en los campos con pastizales se aplican o no buenas prácticas para la conservación de aves. Es decir, un instrumento de gestión para el monitoreo de impacto, análisis de datos y la toma de decisiones basado en la plataforma Google Earth Engine (GEE). Se prevé la capacitación de actores locales para que puedan utilizar esta herramienta en la gestión adecuada de su territorio.

Hydrochoeris hydrochaeris y Machetornis rixosa – Pablo Grilli, Aves Argentinas

Uso de Conservación y manejo de la Loica Pampeana

(LLeistes defilippii)

Con el respaldo de: Aves Argentinas
Equipo técnico: Candelaria Neyra, Igor Berkunsky, Clara Trofino, Gerónimo Peralta Martínez, Pablo Grilli, M. Gimena Pizzarello.

Consiste en la generación de un programa de conservación a largo plazo para evitar la extinción de la Loica Pampeana (Leistes defilippii); una de las dos especies más amenazadas en los pastizales de Argentina. Para ello, se realizarán monitoreos bióticos y se establecerán redes locales conformadas por productores ganaderos, académicos, gestores ambientales y naturalistas, con quienes se promoverá un sistema participativo de generación y uso de la información a través de plataformas de ciencia ciudadana.

Leistes defilippii – Agustín Esmoris, eBird.

Manejo con remoción de invasoras y pastoreo para restauración de pastizales serranos de la región Pampas de Argentina invadidos por Acacia melanoxilon: diversidad de aves y stocks de C como indicadores de la recuperación

Con el respaldo de: Aves Argentinas
Equipo técnico: Juan Pablo Isacch, Esteban González-Zugasti, Facundo Pedraz, Paulina Martinetto, Augusto Cardoni, Gastón Morán, Pamela Rivadeneira, Tomás O’Connor, Stella Román y Sofía Martin-Sirito.

A través de esta propuesta, se busca valorar cómo se recupera el pastizal natural serrano, luego de la remoción de la Acacia negra (una especie exótica e invasiva) y la implementación de un manejo agro-pastoril adecuado. Los investigadores involucrados monitorearán constantemente cómo varia la diversidad de aves, los stocks y dinámica de carbono, así como la aparición de Acacia negra y pastizal nativo, como indicadores de cambio en el sitio de estudio: la Estancia Paititi, Sistema Serrano de Tandilia. Finalmente, también se evaluará la viabilidad de diferentes opciones que otorguen una sostenibilidad económica a la remoción de la acacia.

Acacia melanoxilon – iNaturalist Colombia

Un agradecimiento especial para Bruce Peterjohn y Charles Duncan por su generoso apoyo en el proceso de selección de las propuestas.


If you’re familiar with the fight against climate change, you’ve probably heard of the Paris Agreement – a legally binding treaty adopted in 2015 by the United Nations, aiming to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. You may be less familiar with the UN Climate Change Conference happening in Glasgow from 31st October to 12th November this year – but it is no less important. This conference will bring together heads of state, climate experts and campaigners from across the world to agree on coordinated climate change action over the next decades. In other words, if the purpose of the Paris agreement was to outline what needed to be done to avert climate catastrophe, then the purpose of this one is to define exactly how countries will achieve it. This is our big chance to make sure world governments get it right.

A BirdLife delegation will be in attendance, with staff from across the world. But what does protecting birds have to do with fighting climate change? Well, firstly, birds are excellent indicators of the state of the planet as a whole. Birds respond quickly to environmental change, and are some of the most visible and well-studied groups of animals on earth. As such, they are the planet’s early-warning system. Many initial insights into the effects of climate change have come from BirdLife’s science. For example, recent plummets in Atlantic Puffin and Black-legged Kittiwake populations were found to be the result of fish shortages caused by rising sea temperatures.

More widely, much of our work is based on the fact that protecting and restoring nature can help limit global temperature rise. Many people see climate change and nature conservation as separate issues, but this is far from true. Every year, the Earth’s forests absorb approximately 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – one third of the amount released from burning fossil fuels. Wetlands, grasslands and oceans also have powerful carbon storage abilities – and healthy, intact, diverse ecosystems are much better at absorbing carbon than destroyed or degraded ones.

What’s more, healthy natural habitats also protect people directly from the impacts of climate change. For example, coastal wetlands reduce the effects of sea level rise and coastal flooding. Trees and plants can reduce high temperatures in cities by providing shade and cycling water. By safeguarding and restoring habitats, we benefit not only birds and nature, but people too.

Our decades of experience on the ground have shown us how important it is to ensure local people benefit from environmental action. Conservation measures cannot have a lasting impact unless they help to alleviate poverty, uphold human rights and honour the roles of indigenous peoples. Without this, people will continue to resort to destructive practices such as unsustainable hunting and logging to earn a living.

The Gola Cocoa Project uses sustainable agroforestry to provide fair wages to cocoa farmers © B Horvath

The Gola Cocoa Project in Sierra Leone is a good illustration of this concept. In order to curtail the destruction of vast swathes of Gola rainforest for cash crops, BirdLife helped local farmers to set up sustainable cocoa agroforestry. Smallholders now grow cocoa in the shade of the forest canopy and are trained in nature-friendly practices. 75% of the profits from their first batch of cocoa went straight back to the farmers – a vast improvement on the paltry sum formerly doled out by big supply chains.

The Gola Cocoa Project is just one of many projects that form Trillion Trees: an initiative to protect and restore one trillion trees by 2050. This initiative is founded on finding innovative, long-term solutions that fund forest conservation and benefit local communities. At the upcoming conference, we will be showcasing a range of BirdLife projects that tackle climate change by helping nature and people. If scaled up and rolled out across the world, solutions such as these could be the key to fighting climate change and achieving an equitable, carbon-neutral, nature-positive future.

We’re not saying nature conservation is the only solution. Protecting wildlife must go hand in hand with reducing energy consumption and transitioning to renewable sources such as wind and solar power. Once again, BirdLife can help – our Energy Task Force works with developers to ensure that renewable energy infrastructure such as powerlines and wind farms are located in areas that do not endanger birds and nature. Nonetheless, we hope to make the link between nature and climate better-known, and ensure that they are tackled hand in hand – because the decisions made over these two weeks in Glasgow will affect us all.

“When transitioning to a renewable energy-led future, we must ensure that technologies such as wind and solar have the right safeguards in place to avoid negative impacts on key areas of biodiversity and vulnerable species.”

Patricia Zurita, CEO, BirdLife International


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By Faisal Elias and Lewis Kihumba

As the world reels from the COVID-19 pandemic, the issue of nature is increasingly coming to the forefront. Climate change is re-entering the public consciousness as the other big issue the globe is grappling with. Non-renewable energy sources currently account for more than 80% of the world’s energy supply, and due to the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced when they burn, they are major diivers of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), fossil fuels contributed 89% of the world’s global CO2 emissions in 2018. Consequently, the world is increasingly moving towards renewable energy sources, with a significant uptake in Africa over the last 20 years.

In Ghana, renewable energy is a rapidly-growing industry, with major sources including wind, hydropower and solar energy. As demand increases, the country urgently needs to balance these developments with protecting biodiversity. Statistics indicate that millions of birds are killed every year due to negative interactions with energy developments, for example electrocution, collision and the destruction of habitats. Wind turbines and power lines may also act as barriers to the movement of some migratory birds, and to birds moving between different sites for breeding, feeding and resting. These interactions also have a negative effect on the power providers and the economy, as they cause power outages and high maintenence costs. Other negative impacts of these developments include displacement from feeding, nesting and roosting areas, and habitat degradation.

Birds flying near wind turbines © Zlikovec / Shutterstock

Consequently, it is vital to develop a policy framework to guide these developments. The Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS, BirdLife Partner) has developed a position statement on the deployment of renewable energy programmes and projects, in line with the country’s aspirations.

Ghana’s wind energy infrastructure is currently being installed in areas close to the coastline and wetlands, including areas recognized as Ramsar sites and Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). Consequently, much work is needed to safeguard biodiversity amidst these developments. World over, several tools have been developed to ensure that these energy developments are located in suitable areas, thus minimizing risk to birds.

For example, BirdLife has developed a sensitivity map for vulnerable species and sites, which can be instrumental in the planning of energy developments. Environmental assessment tools such as Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) are critical in mapping out potential impact areas for biodiversity at strategic and site-specific levels.

Ghana’s EIA guidelines for the energy sector should be reviewed to reflect current trends, realities and findings from SEAs on the renewable energy sector in the country. With regards to existing energy infrastructure, windfarms and power lines should be monitored regularly and their impact on birds and biodiversity evaluated at the national scale.

The effectiveness of mitigation measures in place to minimise impacts on birds’ populations also need to be assessed. National legislation and policies, such as the Renewable Energy Act, 2011 (Act 832), the Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999 (L.I. 1652), the EIA Guideline for the Energy Sector, the National Energy Policy, and the Strategic National Energy Plan (2006-2020), should be updated and enforced. Most importantly, involvement of stakeholders in the energy sector, including public and private institutions, will be critical in initiating dialogue on this issue. GWS will continue engaging with stakeholders in the sector to ensure that biodiversity considerations are taken into account in the development of Ghana’s renewable energy sector.


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