Guess who’s coming to dinner

 Guess who’s coming to dinner

It is widely recognized that the climate crisis and biodiversity loss are deeply interconnected and must be addressed holistically. The “Unpacking the biodiversity-climate nexus” event critically examined the conditions under which such integration can be achieved in order to maximize co-benefits and minimize trade-offs.

Di Francesca Roseo

For a moment I thought I was in Barbie’s world; instead, I’m at a women-only side event at COP28. Opening the panel, “Unpacking the Biodiversity-Climate Nexus,” Grethel Aguilar, IUCN Director General, introduces with heartfelt emotion Mary Robinson: Ireland’s first woman president and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, chairwoman of The Elders, advocate for gender equality, women’s participation in peacebuilding, human dignity and climate justice. In a firm voice, Robinson states “nature cannot wait for a slow face-out, and neither can we.”

She then gives the floor to Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, president of Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous People of Chad (AFPAT), who reminds everyone present that we are nature and we should all have the same rights. But we don’t, and at this COP you could feel it in the air. “We should take care of each other and protect nature,” says Hindou, as subsistence farming is not supported by modern technology and there are those in the world who do not have enough to eat and are forced to migrate to find land that can still be farmed. Not everyone has the right to go out on the streets and protest the rising price of food, and spaces like the COP remain critical to allow those without a voice to be heard. The solutions discussed to move away from the use of fossil fuels should benefit the Global South as well, not just the Global North, and we should arrive at a transition that respects nature and human rights that does not view the latter as a commodity but as a necessity. The AFPAT chairwoman then goes on to say, “The financial system has to adapt to the people, not the people to the financial system.”, this means that there has to be a commitment by governments and companies to invest for the sake of indigenous peoples and nature because commitment alone feeds no one.

Monica Medina, president and CEO of Wildlife Conservation Society, follows to reiterate the commitment they, as a Society, have to supporting wildlife and ecosystem conservation projects in partnership with people around the world through Nature-Based Solutions. Ecosystems are complex and can only provide for their important functions (such as carbon storage) if they are not destroyed by human activities. The value of these ecosystem services far exceeds that of industries, because without them there would be no life. The goals set out in Biodiversity COP15, held in Montreal in 2022, to protect 30 percent of the planet by 2030 were also discussed extensively here at COP28 on climate, a signal that these two COPs should be merged as “we will have a double benefit and in fact we at WCS have worked very hard […] to bring this notion of ecological integrity here as well in the text of the Final Declaration that will come out of this COP.” If we do not include nature within treaties and political agendas we are unlikely to keep alive the Paris Agreement goal of not exceeding 1.5°. Biodiversity, women’s rights, renewable energy and food production are interconnected, and technologies alone will not limit climate change.

Christiane Laibach, Member of the Executive Committee of KfW, continues the panel, recounting the goals of the bank that has been supporting the German Federal Government for more than 60 years in achieving its objectives in international development policy and cooperation. It calls for a change in the perspective of investments, which must be guided by other motivations and not only those of producing, consuming and earning. KfW is committed to helping partner countries fight poverty, maintain peace, protect the environment, biodiversity and climate, and shape globalization appropriately. That’s 3.7 billion euros of the bank’s money invested in biodiversity-related projects around the world. She concludes by saying that it is a difficult road financially and that “Sometimes it is still difficult as a financial institution and promotional bank to have a direct impact and relationship with local communities.” To apply the crucial text of “Global Stocktake” in reality, it is necessary to partner with banks that recognize the link between climate change and biodiversity loss and are ready to invest in the future of the planet and people.

The final speaker is Dorothy Shaver, director of Global Head of Sustainability at Unilever, who brings the food system to the table. “Food, unfortunately, is the number one cause of biodiversity loss, is the number one consumer of water, emits more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions, and is also our life force: it is the engine of culture and health.” food production can in no way be disconnected from nature and the ecosystem services it freely provides for us. Shaver defines food as a key link between health, sustainable and equitable development, gender equality, biodiversity loss, renewable development, and climate change. In her talk, she also mentions the importance of monitoring the presence of wildlife, such as birds, within cultivated areas as fundamental bioindicators that can give crucial information for interpreting the type of impact of agriculture on ecosystems. If indeed governments, private companies and investment firms would design integrative approaches together to develop sustainable agriculture in harmony with nature we could truly change our system of production and consumption bringing immense benefits to the people and biodiversity of both the Global South and the Global North.

COP28 ended with a historic outcome, but we need now more than ever a holistic approach that puts biodiversity and all that it is linked to on the menu so that we can develop a sustainable model that really allows us to stay below that famous 1.5 degrees.

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