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Ecosystem-based approaches to climate change

Jul 10, 2009

Convenient solutions to an Inconvenient truth, World Bank’s latest document stresses on the inclusion of ecosystem-based approaches to national and regional adaptation strategies. The report points out that access to funds will help communities to address climate change at all levels.

Convenient solutions to an Inconvenient truth

Publisher: World Bank, June 2009

Global warming and changes in climate have already had observed impacts on natural ecosystems such as wetlands, mangroves, coral reefs, cloud forests, arctic and high latitude ecosystems.

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About 20% of total GHG emissions are caused by deforestation and land use changes but in tropical regions emissions attributable to land clearance are much higher, up to 40% of national totals.

Considering climate change as a serious environmental challenge that could undermine these goals the World Bank supports projects and programmes for the biodiversity conservation and protecting of natural habitats, thereby contributing to effective mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Keeping this in view, the new report offers practical solutions to the climate change problem. It attempts to set out a compelling argument for including ecosystem-based approaches to mitigation and adaptation as a third and essential pillar in national strategies to address climate change.

Natural ecosystems serve as major carbon stores and sinks, mitigating and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy related or land use changes. Biodiversity provides the mainstay of agriculture, forests and fisheries.

Three of the world’s greatest challenges over the coming decades will be biodiversity loss, climate change, and water shortages.

  • Biodiversity loss will lead to the erosion of ecosystem services and will increase vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
  • Climate change will lead to water scarcity, increased risk of crop failure, pest infestation, overstocking and permanent degradation of grazing lands and livestock deaths.
  • Water shortages affect agricultural productivity, food security and human health. Impacts from these challenges are already imposing severe economic and social costs, and they are likely to get more severe as climate change continues, particularly affecting already vulnerable communities.

In South Asia, hundreds of millions of people depend on perennial rivers such as the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra – all fed by the unique water reservoir formed by the 16,000 Himalayan glaciers.

Current trends in glacial melt suggest that the low flows will be substantially reduced as a consequence of climate change even as the demand for agricultural water is projected to rise by 6 to 10% for every 1°C rise in temperature.

As a result, even under the most conservative climate projections, the net cereal production in South Asian countries is likely to decline by 4 to 10% by the end of this century.

Promoting integration of ecosystem based approaches into climate change responses and national adaptation strategies will require access to much greater sources of funding, including capitalising on opportunities to protect natural ecosystems as part of major energy and infrastructure projects.

New initiatives and investment funds such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, Forest Investment programme and the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience provide exciting additional opportunities to better protect natural capital, benefit communities and utilise cost effective green technology to address the challenges of climate change.

Source : World Bank
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