Why biodiversity is important for climate protection & food security - and vice versa

The world is facing major challenges that need to be solved. We need to feed an ever-growing population, bring climate change under control and stop the loss of biodiversity. Martina Fleckenstein, Director of Global Policy at WWF, on what is expected from the climate conference in terms of biodiversity and biodiversity conservation.

Biodiversity loss is linked to food impoverishment. ©WWF, 2022

By World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF)

The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) is one of the largest and most experienced nature conservation organizations in the world and active in more than 100 countries. Around the world, around five million are supporting the WWF.

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World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF)


By Martina Fleckenstein

Martina Fleckenstein focuses on conservation, agriculture and sustainable production at national and international level. She previously worked for more than two decades with WWF-Germany as Director, Agriculture & Land Use Change. Among other issues, she worked on sustainability standards, transparency in supply chains, international commodity markets, and sustainable consumption for a range of projects in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

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The world is facing major challenges, which we need to solve. We need to feed a population which is constantly growing, get climate change under control and stop the loss of biodiversity. If even just one of these three challenges is not tackled to a sufficient extent, we will experience catastrophic social, environmental and economic consequences.


Let’s take a look at the facts

Our food systems and agricultural production account for 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 70% of the surface and ground water which is used globally is utilised in agriculture for producing food products and animal feed or raw materials for energy use. In developing countries, this even reaches 90%, which is often connected to the high level of use of fertilisers and chemicals. 70% of the loss of biodiversity can be traced back to changes in how land is used to a significant extent, in particular the destruction of grasslands and forests. More than 2 billion people are overweight and, at the same time, more than 820 million people are starving every day. Our diets are lacking in diversity, with 60% of global calorie requirements being met by three plants: corn, rice and wheat.


These are the hard facts. However, the good news is that how we produce food can also be part of the solution. Significantly, the course for this can also be set at the 27th Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh and at the Biodiversity Conference in December in Montreal


The food system: the missing link in the climate discourse

Short-term solutions need to be brought into harmony with long-term strategies in order to feed everyone within the planet’s limits, restore our natural environment and cap global warming at 1.5 degrees.


Donor countries should promote funding for nature-based solutions for the agricultural sector. ©Pixabay, 2022

COP27 is the first climate conference which has brought the issue of agriculture and food onto the presidency’s official agenda. A record number of events and pavilions are dedicated to food production. At the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 and the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, a range of agreements were concluded and commitments made to improve the food system but the analysis shows (State of Climate Actions) that implementation is proceeding at a really slow pace.



Integration of food systems in global climate policy control

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the mandatory national climate protection contributions (NDCs) within the framework of the Paris Agreement play a key role.


The future mandate of Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) is set to be decided at COP27. The future content and structural direction of the working group created at COP23 in Bonn, which aims to develop effective measures which contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bringing about changes in the agricultural sector, are up for discussion. To date, the following topics have been covered by the working groups: land use and soil health, nutrient use, fertiliser use in crop production, sustainable animal husbandry and socioeconomic matters from the agricultural sector and fundamental questions of food security. This now raises the question of how the next phase, which builds upon these topic-specific workshops, should be designed. Should it be a committee or a programme of work? What topics will it cover and priorities will it have?


In order to meet future challenges, it is essential to take into account all elements of the food system, from the field to the plate.


This also includes measures for reducing food waste and loss, as well as shifting our diets to include less meat and more plant-based products. In order to prevent the loss of biodiversity and improve food security, the elements of agroecology are of vital importance and should be included in the future plans.


The agreements which were made within the framework of the Paris Agreement between the signatory states on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) constitute efforts by the individual countries to reduce national emissions and adapt to the changes brought about by climate change. They provide a platform for collating political priorities and determining the national need for reduction and adaptation measures in order to fight climate change by transforming food systems.


However, the recently-published UNFCCC Synthesis Report shows that the national climate protection contributions are nowhere near enough to achieve the 1.5 degree target, which also applies to the food and agricultural sector. Whilst an investigation carried out by the WWF does show a positive trend towards integrating measures for the food sector into the NDCs, the ambitions are still too minor to bring about the necessary U-turn. Up to 30 September 2022, 134 countries out of the total of 160 signatory states have provided updated or revised NDCs. A general trend towards adopting measures for the food sector can be seen here: 93% of the countries have at least one measure in the NDCs compared to 79% in 2020; nevertheless, there is still a great deal to be done and countries are nowhere near ambitious enough in the areas of food waste, consumption and nutrition. There is a huge need for action to be taken here.


What we are expecting from the climate conference

From the climate conference, we expect that steps towards concrete implementation will be at the centre of the decisions. This both applies to the discussion about the continuation of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture and to the question of how the goals set in the Paris Agreement can be achieved by ambitious national climate protection contributions. Governments and non-governmental players need to make transforming the agricultural and food sector a priority at the climate conference. This should also be reflected in clear statements in the closing remarks on the conference. The donor countries need to stick to their financial promises and provide funding for nature-based solutions for the agricultural and food sector. It is absolutely vital to shift funding for the agricultural and food sector from measures with a harmful effect on the environment and climate to measures which have a positive effect on nature, the climate and people. Previous promises and assurances of support from governments and non-governmental players need to be made a reality and commitments need to be fulfilled. We don’t need any new pie in the sky ideas. We need robust action which has a solid basis. Implementing measures must take priority in the future.


COP27 will take place a month before the World Biodiversity Summit in Montreal. As part of the agreement on biodiversity, the countries will agree on a framework for the period after 2020 to stop and reverse the decline in biodiversity.


The climate community needs to signal that a strong, new global agreement on nature is required if we want to meet our climate goals.


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