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Climate emergency? We also need to talk about nature


A major international scientific report, published in May, found that human activity is causing rapid decline in biodiversity, threatening 1 million species – including humans – with freshwater shortages, climate instability and extinction. With Heather Elgar, Manager of the West of England Nature Partnership (WENP), we reflect on the link between the climate and ecological emergency.

We were joined by almost 200 people at our March 5 gathering to discuss how to accelerate progress towards a carbon neutral city. Together, we shared almost 600 ideas for actions right now and in the future to move as rapidly as we can towards net zero emissions as a city.

But of those actions, less than 2% were primarily about nature, many of which were focused on tree planting rather than nature more broadly. This suggests that more can be done to highlight the links between action to address climate change and nature, and the role of nature-based solutions in mitigating and adapting to a changing climate.

WENP’s Heather Elgar invites us to consider ecology and climate change together: “We are probably all aware that trees do an exceptional job in sequestering carbon. Few of us thought that vegetated coastal habitats might sequester carbon forty times faster than tropical rainforests [2]. These natural solutions are also highly cost-effective.”

To this we can also add the multiple benefits that Heather notes of the healthy natural ecosystems which “Clean our air, Filter our water, Provide us with rich soils that – with the help of bees (and all their other pollinator colleagues) – grow nutritious food on which we all depend.”

Heather goes on to highlight that we are not alone in potentially underestimating nature as part of the critical climate response: “Some 37% of the global solutions, yet only 1% of the global conversation, and 3% of mitigation funding, is about these natural climate solutions [2].”

WENP has been working with local, regional and national partners to agree what a ‘nature recovery network’ for the region might look like. Far more than a joining up areas on a map, the Network will be an active, adaptive spatial plan that provides an opportunity to be part of the solution and enable nature’s recovery. Join WENP’s 2019 Forum on 6th June to hear more about this Network, which will join up water and land habitats and where nature (and people – who are part of nature) can thrive in a changing climate.

You may also be interested to join Greener UK and The Climate Coalition’s mass lobby for climate, nature and people, The Time is Now, on 26 June.

Further Information

[1] Article from Biogeoscience on the major role of marine vegetation on the oceanic carbon cycle

[2] Article from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) on natural climate solutions

Event details for WENP’s 2019 Forum on 6th June

Heather’s blog on the Natural History Consortium website

International Panel on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment report

Nature, News & Information, Blog
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