Examining interlinkages to Climate Action, Biodiversity protection and Circular Economy

The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed how vulnerable economies are to unsustainable growth processes and the consequent catastrophe it can have to modern societies. It has demonstrated the intricate linkages of human beings and their development with the natural world. As economies struggle to return to normalcy, there is an utmost need to revisit our current and future development strategies. Any future policies and programs need to ensure that whatever is planned reflects our intent in addressing economic priorities in a manner that protects biodiversity, supports circularity and mitigates climate change.

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN in a recent statement referred that ‘Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top priority for everyone, everywhere’.

Climate change is an outcome of anthropogenic carbon emission associated with uncontrolled use of biotic and abiotic resources. Further, continued reliance and the exploitation of these resources lead to loss of biodiversity arising from deforestation, land degradation and pollution in rivers and oceans. Nearly 50% of global income comes from nature through their services in key economic sectors like agriculture, construction, and mining. However biodiversity and the ecosystem services in the form of the carbon sinks and critical ecological functioning has a very important role in reducing CO2 emission and thereby mitigating climate change. Hence curtailing biodiversity loss is important for ensuring the continued flow of ecosystem services to humans. It makes economic sense. For example, if the deforestation rates are halved by 2030, the cost of avoided damage from climate change would amount to US$3.7 trillion in terms of Net Present Value.

The circular economy has emerged as an alternative model based on a 'take-make-consume-throw away' pattern. Circular economy minimizes waste through reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products. The question is, ‘how it will help in addressing biodiversity loss and climate change mitigation’? The moment we are able to adopt circular practices across production and consumption value chains, our dependence on primary resources will fall leading to growth decoupling. Reduction in natural resource consumption will also retard biodiversity loss.

The circular economy advocates for biomimicry, ecosystem service valuation, bio-economy, and renewable energy. In a circular economy natural resources are used more sustainably and they are kept in circulation safely and for a longer time. For example use of recycled sustainable materials for construction can go a long way in preventing top soil loss for brick making, thereby reversing land degradation, deforestation and hence biodiversity prevention.

There will be greater acceptance of the interlinkages when biodiversity is mainstreamed in all economic sectors and at all levels of government as was deliberated at the Conference of the Parties (COP13) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2016 in Mexico. There is a need to have greater understanding of innovative solutions that can be derived from nature such as creating bio based products from organic waste. If the biodegradable municipal waste is separated from other solid waste at the source it can be used as the carbon and nutrient source to produce several valuable bio based products.

The plenary on ‘Examining interlinkages to Climate action Biodiversity protection and Circular Economy’ will provide an opportunity to deliberate and discuss how to reinstate and strengthen circular economy thinking to mitigate climate change and to prevent biodiversity loss. In addition, the session will witness discussion on how protection of biodiversity can result in both climate mitigation and adaptation and how climate action can contribute to the protection of biodiversity.. The Paris Climate Agreement comes into force from 2020 and COP 26, to be hosted by the UK Government in Glasgow this year, will be the first conference in the post covid era. It is envisaged that the deliberations will be a precursor to the COP 26, that will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.