Biodiversity, Climate Change and Climate Resilience
Climate change accelerates biodiversity loss. Changes in the geographical distribution of species are required to allow them to move with the changing climate. However, many species are static, and when a species’ range hits a barrier such as an ocean or mountain range, there is nowhere for it to go.
Conversely, protecting and restoring biodiversity can help avoid and mitigate the effects of climate change. Many of our best carbon sinks are naturally occurring habitats such as tropical rainforests, peatlands and salt marshes.
Additionally, highly diverse ecosystems are the most resilient to anthropogenic pressures, including climate change. In turn, these resilient and diverse ecosystems provide ecosystem services which improve human resilience to climate change, such as natural flood defences or erosion control.
The significance of this report being commissioned by the Treasury, in the very same year in which we are to host the UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 26) and China hosts the Conference of the Parties on Biodiversity (COP 15) should not be overlooked. While the review does not present anything we, as environmental professionals, were not already aware of, it is the mainstreaming of this understanding that is significant; an ecosystem-led approach presented by an economist in the language of economics.
Partha Dasgupta proposes three key transitions to tackle the issue, using economic systems to help us reverse course:
- Ensure demands on nature do not exceed nature’s ability to supply the raw goods and services through reducing consumption, improving efficiencies, and increasing nature’s supply relevant to its current level;
- Change measures of economic success. At a national/international level, replace GDP with Inclusive Wealth, a measure which takes into account stocks of goods, rather than the flow of money; and
- Transform institutions and systems (particularly finance and education) to enable changes to sustain future generations. Through improving our relationships with nature, we increase people’s investment in protecting it.
These are broad, interconnected transitions and addressing each point will mean vastly different things for different people, industries, and governments, although we all have a role to play.
Furthermore, when evidencing such consideration, it is then possible to derive additional benefit from leveraging biodiversity and natural capital gains within existing financial drivers, including ESG and Task Force for Climate Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) reporting or through helping meet net zero pathways reflecting wider climate resilience targets.
As ecologists we can look at this through the lens of the emerging biodiversity net gain (BNG) and ecosystem service valuation (or Environmental Net Gain, ENG) concepts. Importantly, both approaches allow us to quantify changes (usually through proxy measures) in the ecological performance of an asset. It is these predicted or actual changes that can be measured and leveraged for the mutual benefit of asset managers and nature.
This BNG/ENG template for identifying, optimising, measuring and reporting direct and indirect benefit is, therefore, applicable to any organisation with landholdings or built form assets, and in particular those that have a requirement for ESG reporting.