Climate Change and Biodiversity- The interplay
Ms Saumya Chaudhari
Aug 01, 2020
With the temporarily lighter human footprint in many ecosystems, due to the prevailing COVID-19 crisis, an increase in wildlife sightings, dropping carbon emissions and improved water quality, etc. have been welcomed globally, however, very briefly so. This worldwide pandemic has laid bare the results of destroyed biodiversity and loss of unique ecosystems due to reckless anthropogenic activities, leading to a rapid and dominant spread of pathogen. The interconnectedness of human-induced Climate change and biodiversity are widely recognized, debated, and legislated upon. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, climate change is likely to become one of the most significant drivers of biodiversity loss by the end of the century. Climate change is already forcing biodiversity to adapt either through shifting habitat, changing life cycles, or the development of new physical traits.
Internationally, conservation of biodiversity has been addressed through multiple regulatory framework, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992 (CBD), Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2000, Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2011, post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, Aichi Biodiversity Targets, 2010 (ABTs), 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992, Paris Agreement IPCC COP 21, among several others. The direct and indirect impacts of climate change on biodiversity/ ecosystems and the way forward have been documented in these instruments and peridically discussed and updated in the Conference of Parties of some of these Conventions.
In the Indian context, the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, flowing from CBD, has laid out a clear institutional structure of the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) at the national level, the State Biodiversity Boards (SBBs) at the state level, and Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs) at the local level to undertake biodiversity conservation, regulate the use of biological resources, and also further the National Biodiversity Targets (NBTs) in line with the global ABTs. Furthering the objectives of UNFCCC, India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change covers eight missions, including National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, the National Mission on Sustaining Himalayan Eco-system and the National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change, among others, all of which are crucial and especially relevant to the ecology and biodiversity conservation. These Missions are implemented through State Action Plans on Climate Change involving cross-sectoral consultations with stakeholder Departments. These conservation efforts, stemming from International regimes, are overlayed with domestic efforts through national instruments such as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Forest Conservation Act, 1980, The Environment Protection Act, 1986, National Environment Policy, 2006, among several others. Most importantly, the success of all overarching efforts lies at the grass roots where the institutional understanding meets the traditional knowledge of the local indigenous communities who live harmoniously co-dependent lives with the forests and biodiversity rich ecosystems.
With vast existing framework for biodiversity conservation, as seen above, the culmination in meaningful and observable action is only possible with the collective and collaborative efforts of these myriad institutions/ bodies/ communities with overlapping responsibilities. Biodiversity can support efforts to reduce the negative effects of climate change since conserved and restored habitats can help reduce carbon emissions, adapt to climate change, and also help achieve the larger Millennium Development Goals. With the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, fresh in the mind, an increased and renewed impetus to biodiversity conservation remains to be seen in the coming months.