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Insights and personal musings from the world of biodiversity conservation and development. For more info on the Darwin Initiative see

What does UNFCCC COP 21 have to do with Biodiversity?

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By Hannah Betts, LTS International


Credit: T Chekchak, Equipe Cousteau

So we have finally reached an agreement on how to tackle climate change and acknowledged that we as a global community need to combat it. Furthermore 195 countries have agreed to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the most severe impacts of climate change that threaten our planet – which is a pretty HUGE deal in itself. Hence why the agreement reached at the recent Paris COP is being labelled as ‘historic and ambitious’.

In her article titled ‘Paris climate change agreement: the world’s most diplomatic success’ Fiona Harvey remarks on how easy it is to forget what an extraordinary event these UN talks were, noting that the UNFCCC is one of the last remaining forums in the world where every country is represented on the same basis with an equal say.

Indeed it is remarkable that for once the world seems to have been able to agree on something! The deal sets out a firm goal of keeping temperature rises well below 2C, and will strive for 1.5C. In addition, there has been a look to the longer term, with the agreement specifying a balance in the second half of the century between anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and removals, demonstrating another strong positive of this conference as long term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.

Delving a bit deeper into the detail of this globally historic moment, you have got to wonder what exactly has been agreed, and what this means for biodiversity. Whilst the Rio Conventions Pavilion documented the ‘importance and benefits of mainstreaming biodiversity issues across sectors with the context of climate change and increasing biodiversity loss’, with a need for urgent action on ‘conserving and restoring habitats and enhancing ecosystem services as a part of sustainable development’, the final COP text that has been agreed upon does not go into specifics on the details for biodiversity. That being said it does provide a platform for the detailed and specific conversations we NEED to be having on topics such as biodiversity, climate change and development, paving the way for a climate focused future.


Credit J Turner, Bangor University

It is widely recognised that climate change, land degradation and biodiversity are interconnected, not only through the effects of climate change on biodiversity and land management but also through the changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning that affect climate change. Maintaining and restoring healthy ecosystems play a key role in adapting to and mitigating against climate change.

Cameroon 20-007The forest

Credit: Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society

A vast array of Darwin projects focus on these links, demonstrating the positive steps being taken towards combating climate change, through a focus on poverty and biodiversity. A Darwin Initiative project carried out by Birdlife International worked on providing ‘Ecosystem conservation for climate change in East Africa’. The project looked to develop guidance and share best practice surrounding climate change, creating partnerships and raising awareness in order to share experiences and best practice examples and guidance on the successful application of ecosystem based approaches to climate change adaptation. This is just one example of the wide variety of Darwin projects that encompass climate change, and we are always on the lookout for new ones!

Personally, I feel like COP 21 should be viewed as a success. It is up to us to develop projects and programmes that take these factors into account, and the Darwin Initiative is a strong example of how projects can play their part in combatting increasing climate variability and change both directly and indirectly.

I am interested to know how the Darwin community view this deal. Is it indeed a signal of global cooperation that should be hailed as a great success? Will it go down in history as a landmark climate deal? Or is it indeed a cop-tastrophy, that fails to pay enough attention to the science and specifics, and instead focuses on achieving common consensus that amounts to little?


Author: darwininitiativeuk

The Darwin Initiative is a UK government grants scheme that helps to protect biodiversity and the natural environment through locally based projects worldwide.

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