CLIMATE CHANGE AND OUR ECOSYSTEMS
Climate change can alter where species live, how they interact, and the timing of biological events, which could fundamentally transform current ecosystems and food webs. Climate change can overwhelm the capacity of ecosystems to mitigate extreme events and disturbance, such as wildfires, floods, and drought.
Global warming is likely to affect terrestrial ecoregions. Increasing global temperature means that ecosystems will change; some species are being forced out of their habitats (possibly to extinction) because of changing conditions, while others are flourishing. Other effects of global warming include lessened snow cover, rising sea levels, and weather changes, may influence human activities and the ecosystem.
Within the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, experts assessed the literature on the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. Rosenzweig et al. (2007) concluded that over the last three decades, human-induced warming had likely had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems (p. 81). Schneider et al. (2007) concluded, with very high confidence, that regional temperature trends had already affected species and ecosystems around the world (p. 792). They also concluded that climate change would result in the extinction of many species and a reduction in the diversity of ecosystems (p. 792).
- Terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity: With a warming of 3 °C, relative to 1990 levels, it is likely that global terrestrial vegetation would become a net source of carbon (Schneider et al., 2007:792). With high confidence, Schneider et al. (2007:788) concluded that a global mean temperature increase of around 4 °C (above the 1990-2000 level) by 2100 would lead to major extinctions around the globe.
- Marine ecosystems and biodiversity: With very high confidence, Schneider et al. (2007:792) concluded that a warming of 2 °C above 1990 levels would result in mass mortality of coral reefs globally. In addition, several studies dealing with planktonic organisms and modelling have shown that temperature plays a transcendental role in marine microbial food webs, which may have a deep influence on the biological carbon pump of marine planktonic pelagic and mesopelagic ecosystems.
- Freshwater ecosystems: Above about a 4 °C increase in global mean temperature by 2100 (relative to 1990-2000), Schneider et al. (2007:789) concluded, with high confidence, that many freshwater species would become extinct.
In the Kingdom of Tonga, which consists of 169 Pacific islands that are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding from storm surges, we are working together with research institutions and the Government to protect communities through a combination of infrastructure and nature-based solutions. This includes restoration, rehabilitation and management of coastal ecosystems as part of a Ridge to Reef approach, through coastal habitats and lagoons to fringing coral reefs.
With climate change, continuing urbanization trends and demographic growth – especially also in coastal areas, the impacts of floods are expected to increase dramatically in the next decades. Finding innovative and sustainable ways to work together with rather than against nature for effective flood risk reduction will be critical.
SASKIA MARIJNISSEN IS A TECHNICAL ADVISER ON ECOSYSTEMS AND BIODIVERSITY WORKING WITH THE GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL FINANCE UNIT AT THE UNDP REGIONAL SERVICE CENTRE FOR AFRICA
“That’s our charge,” Rowe said, “to figure out how to become more sustainable in the area of packaging, for example, but not drive the cost of products up.”
Lloyd’s is responding to environmental demands and consumer preferences by greening the packaging of its popular BBQ tubs by eliminating the throw-away paper sleeve. Now, all dietary and product information is printed directly on the tub, which saves more than 970 tons of wood or 6,000 trees annually.
The new tub also features “stay cool” handles, which make it easier to remove the heated container from the microwave. The change proved favorable during in-store testing, as consumers found the new packaging on the BBQ tubs to be more contemporary and of higher quality overall.
Not to be left out, the seafood industry has attracted the attention of investment community members seeking to fund companies marketing sustainable seafood. A San Francisco operation, Sea Change Investment Fund reportedly looks into companies with investment potential based on profitability and their offerings of environmental benefits.
Based on U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, one-quarter of the world’s fisheries face depletion due to exploitation practices. Added to that another half of global waters are being fished at maximum capacity.
Sustainability: historical perspective
Variously coined “green movement” and “environmental revolution,” sustainability in all its guises is an age-old phenomenon that has periodically gained new momentum over time.
Consider that air pollution was blamed on animal manure, dust and wood smoke among other contaminants long before the industrial revolution. Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century American philosopher and conservationist, promoted the conservation of and respect for nature including the federal preservation of virgin forests in his book “Maine Woods.”
Experts says global ecosystems have deteriorated dramatically during the past 50 years or so in connection with the rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel.
Meanwhile, the same year under the Bush administration, the U.S. House of Representatives embarked on a “Green the Capitol” initiative, including a series of strategies such as purchasing electricity generated from renewable sources, installing energy-efficient lighting, reducing the use of coal at the Capitol power plant and switching to hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles.
“Global warming and climate change are formidable issues that the entire world is confronting, and the United States Congress must lead by example,” noted Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Nature to the rescue: Using ecosystem services to reduce flood risks
12 MAY 2017 BY SASKIA MARIJNISSEN, REGIONAL TECHNICAL ADVISER, ECOSYSTEMS AND BIODIVERSITY, UNDP AFRICA
In Sierra Leone, over 3 million people live in increasingly vulnerable coastal areas. Finding innovative and sustainable ways to work together with, rather than against, nature for effective risk reduction is critical. © Tommy Trenchard/ UNEP
From the mouth of the Mississippi to that of the Nile, communities have been drawn to coastal flood plains throughout the centuries. Where rivers and oceans meet, nature is at its best, and river sedimentation provides rich soils that greatly benefit agricultural productivity as well as fisheries. At present, an estimated 60 percent of our global population lives along estuaries and coastlines – making them among the most heavily populated areas of the world.
As appealing as coastal areas are, living on a fertile floodplain comes with substantial risks. Floods are the most frequent of all natural disasters globally, and some of the largest disasters have occurred in coastal areas. Think about the devastation done by hurricane Katrina in New Orleans or the dangerous floods that happen every year in Bangladesh.
The country where I was born, the Netherlands, is built on a massive flood plain and extremely exposed to the forces of the sea. Realising the vulnerability of its population, the Dutch Government developed the Zuiderzee Works and later the Delta Works. Including dams, dykes, and massive storm surge barriers, the works are so impressive they were declared as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. But, while heavy infrastructure can be useful in protecting coastal populations from the forces of nature, it is not necessarily the best and most cost-effective solution.
Over the past decades, there has been a growing realisation that mother nature herself sometimes offers much better solutions. Concepts such as nature-based solutions, ecosystem-based adaptation or green infrastructure are increasingly accepted as alternatives or complement traditional infrastructure to provide flood protection.
Nature-based approaches can generally be defined as working together with nature rather than against it. More specifically, these approaches aim to protect, sustainably manage, and restore ecosystems to address societal challenges (such as climate change, water or food security, and disaster risks), simultaneously providing human well-being and environmental benefits.
Nature-based approaches are also cost-efficient and allow for flexibility in dealing with a constantly changing climate.
In the Netherlands, building with nature is now an increasingly popular concept, and solutions such as restoration and protection of wetlands, mudflats, and natural dune systems are often preferred for flood risk reduction. A growing number of countries across the world is realising the benefits of protecting coral reefs and mangrove forests as important areas for marine biodiversity as well as crucial buffers between land and sea.
At UNDP, our Ecosystem-Based Adaptation portfolio includes over US$ 355 million of investments by the Global Environment Facility, Green Climate Fund, government co-financing and other funding sources to support developing countries to address the adverse impacts of climate change using nature-based solutions.
In Bangladesh, we successfully supported coastal communities to reduce their vulnerability to floods through afforestation while simultaneously generating income opportunities through sustainable forestry, agriculture, and aquaculture.
In Sierra Leone, where over 3 million people live in increasingly vulnerable coastal areas, we helped the Government take an integrated approach to managing risks in the face of climate change, by protecting coastal habitats and incorporating scientific data in decision-making processes.
To be sure, facing a depletion of the earth’s natural capital is forcing global attention on matters of sustainability.
Sustainability: what the world needs now
Sustaining the environment is fast becoming a mandatory model for business progress among all sectors that seek to reduce landfill waste and do the right thing for the environment to put money in their company coffers.
A study commissioned by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) found that successful companies define sustainability as a top strategic priority while taking a structured and methodical approach to practices. The 2007 study, titled “Sustainability: Balancing Opportunity and Risk in the Consumer Products Industry,” was conducted by Deloitte Consulting LLP.
“This study tells us that sustainability is not just about ‘going green’ â€” it involves competing in a different world with constantly evolving issues and expectations,” noted Stephen Silbert, GMA senior vice president of industry affairs. “GMA will continue to develop the compendium of retailer practices to foster and enhance collaboration between manufacturers and retailers on sustainability initiatives. Such cooperation is mutually beneficial and, more importantly, helps companies meet consumer demands.”
Last year, Perrysburg, Ohio-based Owens-Illinois Inc. (O-I) appointed a 20-year veteran, Jay Scripter â€” who has general management, operations, Lean Six Sigma and engineering experience in both the chemicals and building materials sectors â€” to serve as its vice president of sustainability.
“We believe that sustainability is a key value driver for competitive advantage in our future,” Rich Crawford, O-I president of global glass operations said at the time. “This role will have a powerful influence on O-I competitiveness, the image of glass and the competitive position of the glass industry as a whole.”
Scripter’s job includes focusing on building O-I’s capabilities in the key disciplines of sustainability and to develop the strategies, management processes and key initiatives designed to position glass as “the most sustainable” packaging material. He also has oversight concerning key opportunities involving energy, environmental compliance, safety, recycling and related issues.
In 2007, Michael Dell, chairman and founder of the computer company by the same name, implored the electronics industry to join a tree-planting movement to compensate for the environmental impact of energy consumed by their devices.
UNDP Ecosystem-Based Adaptation portfolio is supporting one of the projects which helps developing countries to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change using nature-based solutions in the Kingdom of Tonga. This includes restoration, rehabilitation and management of coastal ecosystems
Our Ecosystem Restoration
The Regenerative Restoration of Ecosystems
The Rescue Earth System is focused on restoring ecosystems, conserving habitat, and regenerating the natural systems that sustain all life on Earth. Ecosystem restoration is defined as a process of reversing the degradation of ecosystems, such as landscapes, lakes and oceans to regain their ecological functionality; in other words, to improve the productivity and capacity of ecosystems.
This can be done by allowing the natural regeneration of overexploited ecosystems or by using the regenerative restoration principles of the Regenerative Design Framework to dynamically enhance the regenerative capacity of natural systems — to speed up regenerative capacity by focusing on natural mechanisms that can be amplified by human interventions.
WETLAND RESTORATION ALONG THE TÂRNAVA MICĂ (TÎRNAVA MICĂ) RIVER IN ROMANIA. A FORMER GRAVEL MINE (LEFT) WAS TRANSFORMED INTO A FUNCTIONAL WETLAND (RIGHT).
© CEEWEB FOR BIODIVERSITY
Ecosystem Restoration Camps are a practical, hands on way to restore land degraded by humans. Our mission is to work with local communities and build camps that transform degraded landscapes into lush, abundant, life-giving ecosystems.
THERE ARE MANY AREAS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD THAT ARE SEVERELY DEGRADED. ALTHOUGH THE EROSION OF THIS LANDSCAPE IN KENYA CAN NEVER BE REPAIRED TO ITS ORIGINAL STATE — WE CAN (FOR EXAMPLE) RESTORE ECOLOGICAL FUNCTION BY USING LEAKY CHECK DAMS TO CAPTURE SOIL AND REHYDRATE THE GULLYS (DONGAS) AND NATURE WILL RETURN
Ecosystem restoration and regenerative development together offer a practical pathway to redesign the human impact on Earth. This is the path towards becoming healers of the Earth and in the process heal ourselves and our relationships with each other and the community of life. We are all called to join together and to overcome the silos between disciplines, sectors and ideologies in an unprecedented collaborative effort to restore ecosystems everywhere and to heal the Earth — Daniel Christian Wahl
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, approved by the General Assembly on the 1 March 2019, will run from 2021 to 2030 and emphasize scaling-up of restoration work to address the severe degradation of landscapes, including wetlands and aquatic ecosystems, worldwide. It will likely boost landscape restoration work to the top of national agendas, building on a public demand for action on issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and the resulting impacts on economies and livelihoods.
Ecosystem restoration is fundamental to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, mainly those on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water and biodiversity conservation. It is also a pillar of international environmental conventions, such as the Ramsar Convention on wetlands and the Rio Conventions on biodiversity, desertification and climate change.
Valuing Ecosystem Function higher than material things is the paradigm shift that determines whether we understand the meaning of our lives and survive or whether we remain ignorant and selfish and destroy our own habitat trying to gain more wealth or more power. If we reach this level of understanding, not only can everyone live on the Earth but the natural systems on Earth can reach their optimal ability to sustain life. — John D. Liu (2016).
In preparation for the Decade’s launch, everyone can help raise the visibility and level of ambition for ecosystem restoration. Depending on your background consider the following actions:
- On an individual or small scale, you can become active in a local conservation organization, support research, plant trees, improve the ecosystem around you, or educate others on the value of ecosystem restoration
- Think about how your work can, or does, contribute to ecosystem restoration. Start strategizing on your contribution to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
- Communicate the opportunities that the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration can bring to your organization and to the constituencies you work with, and share it widely
- Get in touch with the organizations supporting the implementation of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and bring up ideas of in-country, regional, and international opportunities to scale up ecosystem restoration by, for instance, fostering partnerships, disseminating technologies and knowledge, and unlocking resources for the implementation of restoration action in all ecosystems.
- Identify gaps that this UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration can address through the global movement and join forces with others who are actively involved in pushing forward the global ecosystem restoration agenda.
NOTE: THIS REPORT IS THE CURRENT EDITION OF THE NATIONAL PROVISIONER’S ONGOING COVERAGE OF ISSUES RELATED TO SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAMS.
Global food companies are stepping up to the plate to keep afloat the idea that corporate social responsibility is not just a moral call but definitely is good for business. To that end, sustainability is not merely a 21st-century buzzword or a way of window dressing for a company’s annual report.
In a study conducted last year by Chicago-based Information Resources Inc., half of U.S. consumers polled indicated they consider at least one sustainability factor when selecting brands to buy or stores for shopping. Reportedly 22,000 U.S. consumers were asked to determine the impact of four key sustainability features in their product and store selection â€” organic, eco-friendly products, eco-friendly packaging and fair treatment of employees and suppliers. One-fifth of the respondents were classified as “sustainability driven,” taking at least two sustainability factors into account when making their selections.
The food industry is paying attention. Green initiatives topped the agenda of a poultry processor workshop sponsored by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association (USPEA) last summer.