Natural climate solutions are as simple as knowing your ABC’s – Addressing Biodiversity & Climate Change

Climate change is all over the news right now, cited as the major global challenge of our time. Yet there is another critical problem that hasn’t garnered the same public attention – global biodiversity loss. The 2019 UN report on biodiversity stated that global wildlife is disappearing faster than ever before.

1 million plant and animal species now threatened with extinction.
The woodland caribou is just one of the 799 species at risk in Canada. Their habitat is already being altered by our warming climate and the impacts will become more dramatic over the next 20 years. © Jonathan Anstey, CWF Photo Club

Countries around the world are investing in climate change solutions, but not all solutions that lower our carbon footprint also benefit biodiversity, and vice versa. Natural Climate Solutions may be one of the best options to both address climate change and reduce biodiversity loss.

What’s the climate-biodiversity connection?

The negative connection is that climate change accelerates loss of biodiversity. Habitat loss is the leading direct cause of biodiversity decline. Climate change intensifies the speed at which the ecosystems that support our wild plants and animals are changing and being lost by modifying temperature, rain and snowfall patterns. It also causes more frequent storms, wildfires and natural disasters. These changes are happening faster than the natural pace and many species are not able to adapt.

The positive connection is that protecting and restoring natural ecosystems has the potential to greatly reduce our carbon footprint. The landscapes that make up Canada, such as forests, grasslands and wetlands naturally absorb carbon. They are “carbon sinks” and they are the most effective way we know of to take carbon out of our atmosphere. However, industry, urban development, agriculture and even recreation changes these landscapes in ways that make them less effective at both fighting climate change and conserving biodiversity.

Keeping forests, grasslands and wetlands intact helps Canada meet its climate targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provides important habitat for species at risk.

What are Natural Climate Solutions?

Natural climate solutions are conservation, restoration and improved land management actions that take carbon out of our atmosphere and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in the first place. These solutions reduce our carbon emissions and protect biodiversity at the same time.

There are a wide range of possible solutions that include:

  • Changing forestry practices
  • Stopping the loss of grasslands, wetlands and peatlands
  • Improving the health of agricultural soils
  • Reforesting areas that were cleared for development
  • Applying sustainable grazing practices for livestock

Some of these solutions, when implemented in the right place, can also benefit people by filtering water or protecting communities from flooding. Natural climate solutions are already happening in Canada, but there is potential for much more to be done.

What’s CWF doing?

The Canadian Wildlife Federation is a strong supporter of investing in natural climate solutions as part of how Canada meets our carbon emission targets. We worked with the Green Budget Coalition to successfully advocate for a billion-dollar natural climate solutions fund for Canada.

CWF is supporting the Nature-based Climate Solution Summit taking place February 5 – 6, 2020 in Ottawa to determine how Canada can make Natural Climate Solutions have the greatest benefit for Canadians and for biodiversity.