One hand washes the other: climate protection closely tied to nature conservation

One hand washes the other: climate protection closely tied to nature conservation
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Climate and nature can only be stabilized together, a UN research team has warned. New report published with suggested solutions.

Geneva / Bonn – The fight against global warming is one of the major tasks of politics, business and society in the 21st century. However, it is important to ensure that the measures do not come in opposition to nature conservation. Climate protection that is not thought through can have dire consequences for ecosystems and the plant and animal species that depend on them. These are key messages from a joint report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES), which has now been published. For the first time, these UN research institutions jointly discussed solutions to two closely related crises.

The report, titled “Biodiversity, Ecosystems and Climate Change,” uses several examples to show how climate change and species decline are related. The destruction of forests, peatlands, mangroves and other ecosystems has not only destroyed the wildlife populations that normally live there, but also released large amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Conversely, rising temperatures and more extreme weather conditions are rapidly damaging biodiversity.

UN report: Combatting climate and natural crises at the same time

The report identified measures with which to combat climate and natural crises at the same time. These include expanding nature reserves and restoring ecosystems that are both carbon and biodiversity – such as forests, natural grasslands, kelp forests and salt marshes. The 50-person research group specifically calls for placing 30 to 50 percent of the world’s ocean and land areas under protection; At present it only applies to about 15 percent of land and ocean areas. There is also a need for a transition to a waste-free circular economy – aimed at reducing the consumption of resources and energy. The world must move away from disposable products.

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According to the report, protecting and restoring natural ecosystems is the fastest and cheapest way to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Co-author Camille Parmesan from the University of Plymouth, UK, said cutting fossil fuel emissions is important, but not sufficient. “We cannot avoid dangerous climate change without removing some of the carbon already released into the atmosphere. And the best way to extract carbon is by harnessing the power of plants,” said the professor.

Climate change and natural crises: ecosystem restoration possible

According to the team of experts, knowledge about restoring ecosystems has increased significantly over the past 40 years. Today we are able to restore even complex systems such as tropical rainforests, coastal wetlands, kelp forests and seagrass meadows so well that they almost regain their former diversity.

Another author, climate researcher Hans-Otto Portner of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven, commented: “Climate conservation is often thought without biodiversity, we have to change it.” The rewetting of dry bogs is a particularly positive example. It binds a lot of CO2, but at the same time forms a biotope for many species.

The interlocking of climate and nature: plantations in monoculture amplify the natural crisis.

However, experts warn that taking measures against one of the two crises could inadvertently worsen the situation in the other. An example of this is the creation of plantations in monoculture. Although they store carbon through photosynthesis as they grow, they are very poor across species and prone to extreme weather conditions. “Biomass plantations are a really bad idea if we want to combine climate protection and biodiversity,” warned Joseph Setel of the Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Halle, involved in the study. Even maize fields, which are often used for the use of biomass in biogas plants for electricity and heat production, have only low biodiversity.

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The experts of both the councils pay special attention to the agriculture sector. Since food systems cause about a third of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, more sustainable agriculture is important. According to the report, there are three main approaches to achieve this: eliminating subsidies if unproductive, reducing food waste and reducing the production of meat and dairy products, especially in industrialized countries.

Plant nutrition: good for the climate and nature

“Animal farming not only emits ten to 100 times more greenhouse gases per unit product than plant-based feeding, but it also uses ten to 100 times more land,” said Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen. More plant-based nutrition means more eco-friendly agriculture, he said, and then there will be more land available on which to implement nature-based solutions for climate and nature conservation.

Environmental politicians and environmental associations welcomed the report. It is clear that the issue of global climate and biodiversity cannot be resolved separately, said Svenung Rotvetten, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment. “Either we solve both or we don’t solve either.” His British counterpart, Zack Goldsmith, said: “This is an extremely important year for nature and climate. With the United Nations Summit on Climate and Biodiversity in Glasgow, Scotland and the city of Kunming, China in autumn, “recovering the world.” There is an opportunity to get on the path of”. (Joachim Wiley)

The melting ice in Antarctica is also a major challenge in terms of climate change. Germany is also clearly feeling the effects of climate change and natural crises.

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