CLIMATE CHANGE: Investment in Ecosystems Key to Adaptation

  • by Marcela Valente (buenos aires)
  • Friday, October 30, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Argentine Wildlife Foundation (FVSA) presented a report Thursday in Buenos Aires which states that conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems are essential for adaptation to global warming.

The most conservative estimates indicate that 63 billion dollars a year are needed to protect the environmental services such ecosystems provide for humanity. A partial costing of the services themselves valued them at 33 trillion dollars a year, according to a research paper in the scientific journal Nature.

In the run-up to the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 15), to be held Dec. 7-18 in Copenhagen, Diego Moreno, head of FVSA, emphasised that 'effective environmental management should be an essential part of adaptation strategies.'

He was speaking before the presentation of the study, titled 'Nuevos Paradigmas para Financiamiento, Desarrollo y Naturaleza. Casos de Adaptación para Responder a los Impactos del Cambio Climático' (New Paradigms for Funding, Development and Nature: Cases of Adaptation in Response to the Impact of Climate Change), which will be launched at the COP 15 summit.

The study examines 16 cases of adaptation on the five continents, covering a total area that includes 10 percent of the world population, currently estimated at over 6.8 billion people.

At COP 15, the international community is to agree a new global climate treaty to go into effect in 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol expires. Its commitments will include measures to reduce industrialised countries' greenhouse gas emissions and plans for adaptation to climate change in the countries of the South.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), adaptation is any 'adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems in response to actual or expected stimuli and their effects or impacts, to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change.'

Even if the emission of gases which cause the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere were to cease immediately, global temperatures would still continue to rise. That is why countries must develop adaptation strategies to minimise the harmful impact of climate change.

In general, when governments discuss adaptation, they talk about the financial resources needed by developing countries to build various types of infrastructure to cope with extreme climate-related events, such as the rise in sea level, severe storms or tropical diseases.

In this context, WWF and FVSA emphasise that terrestrial and marine ecosystems provide valuable services, such as drinking water, protection of soil and river basins, food production, clean air, pollination, disaster mitigation and carbon capture, which must be safeguarded.

The Secretariat of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change estimates that the annual investment needed to finance adaptation globally will be in the range of 49 to 171 billion dollars a year in 2030, in the case of developing countries to be paid for out of the Convention's Adaptation Fund.

But in their report the WWF and FVSA are calling for adaptation funding to be used for preserving the ecosystems that are important to maintaining climate balance and are being damaged by global warming.

The study emphasises, for instance, the critical importance of preserving the Gran Chaco, a dry forest region of over one million square kilometres spread over parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil, which is threatened with desertification because of more frequent droughts.

The Gran Chaco provides a wide variety of environmental goods and services, like the regulation of river flow, climate regulation, carbon capture, and conservation of the fertility of the soil, as well as supplying timber, firewood, charcoal, fruit, fibres and medicinal products for the local communities, the report says.

Faced with the threat of climate change, the loss of the Gran Chaco ecosystem's capacity to provide these environmental services would diminish the chances of adaptation in the entire region, the report warns.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the world's second largest coral reef extending along the shores of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, is similarly threatened. Rising sea levels and warmer temperatures are affecting the reef ecosystem, along with its associated mangroves, estuaries, rivers and coastal marshes, that are teeming with a wide variety of species of fish and sea turtles, which sustain the local economy.

The study also focuses on ecosystems in other continents, like the Coral Triangle which surrounds Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. These reefs harbour enormous biodiversity but are threatened by overpopulation, deforestation, and intensive fishing.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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