Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Time to tap climate-change-combating potential of the world's ecosystems

03.09.2009
Inaction already threatening multi-billion dollar coral reef services and livelihoods of half a billion people

Investing in restoration and maintenance of the Earth's multi-trillion dollar ecosystems - from forests and mangroves to wetlands and river basins - can have a key role in countering climate change and climate-proofing vulnerable economies.

This is among the central findings of a new climate issues update by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a project launched by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal by the G8+5 Environment Ministers (Potsdam, Germany 2007) to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss. The study is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme. The issues update was launched today by TEEB study leader Pavan Sukhdev, with German Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel; Director-General for Environment, European Commission, Karl Falkenberg; and UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner.

It says the planet's biological diversity and 'ecological infrastructure' are increasingly being put at risk from the impact of climbing greenhouse gases.

Yet natural systems represent one of the biggest untapped allies against the greatest challenge of this generation, says the paper, part of a stream of work towards a final study in 2010.

Pump-Priming Nature's Mitigation and Adaptation Engine

The update underlines that an agreement on funding for forests is a key priority for governments attending the crucial United Nations climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in December.

An estimated 5 gigatonnes or 15 per cent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions - the principal greenhouse gas - are being absorbed or 'sequestrated' by forests every year, making them the "mitigation engine" of the natural world. This could also be described as 'green carbon'.

Investing in ecosystem-based measures such as financing Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) could thus not only assist in combating climate change but could also be a key anti-poverty and adaptation measure.

Forests also provide services such as freshwaters, soil stabilization, nutrients for agriculture, eco-tourism opportunities and food, fuel and fibre — all of which will be key to buffering vulnerable communities against the climate change already underway.

TEEB is urging governments to factor these wider benefits into a forest carbon finance package in order to maximize the return of an agreement in Copenhagen into the future. This might pave the way for a new, Green Economy in the 21st century where natural or nature-based assets become part of mainstream economic and policy planning.

The TEEB climate issues update says that governments can already take steps to include ecosystem services in their national accounts in order to "measure what they manage". In support of this, it suggests that an upgrading of the United Nations' 2003 handbook on Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting be carried out to include forest carbon.

While the precise level of investment needed to maintain and enhance carbon storage and adaptation services of ecosystems in a climate-challenged world is unknown, TEEB findings indicate that investing in the Earth's ecological infrastructure has the potential to offer an excellent rate of return.

For example an investment of $45 billion in protected areas alone could secure nature-based services worth some $5 trillion a year.

Coral Reef Emergency: An Ecosystem on a Climatic Knife-Edge

Meanwhile the update highlights some of the consequences if governments fail to rise to the climate change challenge and seal an ambitious deal in Copenhagen.

It underlines a 'Coral Reef Emergency' that is already here as a result of the current build-up of greenhouse gases.

Scientists contributing to the TEEB process indicate that irreversible damage to coral reefs can occur at atmospheric CO2 concentrations of over 350 parts per million (ppm). This is linked with rising temperatures but also ocean acidification. Concentrations are already above this threshold and rising. It raises concerns that stabilizing CO2 levels at 450 ppm, or some 16 per cent above the current levels, may condemn this critical, multi-billion dollar ecosystem to extinction and take with it the livelihoods of 500 million people within a matter of decades.

Pavan Sukhdev, TEEB's study leader who is on secondment from Deutsche Bank, said the loss of the world's coral reefs would undermine one of nature's most productive assets and one that has a key role to play in coastal defense against a predicted rise in storm surges and other extreme weather events due to global warming.

"The ecosystem services from coral reefs - ranging from coastal defense to fish nurseries - are worth up to USD$170 billion annually; an estimated half a billion people depend on them for livelihoods and more than a quarter of all marine fish species are dependent on coral reefs".

"The climate stabilization goals of many governments may prove sufficient for some ecosystems and some biodiversity but there is now a real question mark against the survival of coral reefs world-wide and their natural treasure troves," he added.

"The economic consequences are significant, but so are the social and humanitarian ones. It underlines that a simple cost-benefit analysis alone will fail to capture the ethical dimensions of international climate policy decisions now and in the coming years and decades -especially in respect to an ecosystem at a climatic tipping point," said Mr Sukhdev, who also heads up the Green Economy initiative of the UN Environment Programme.

Mr Gabriel said: "Human vulnerability to the harmful impacts of global climate change is significantly increased by the loss of biodiversity. TEEB proves that the protection and restoration of ecological infrastructure is a cost effective means to mitigate global climate change and its effects. To me, ecological restoration is a critical tool in addressing global climate change, enhancing the extent and functioning of carbon sinks as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. What we now need is a breakthrough in Copenhagen. We have to recognize that enhancing the resilience of ecosystems and maintaining the planet's biodiversity are key parts of the mitigation and the adaptation agendas."

Mr Falkenberg said: "These TEEB findings demonstrate that climate change and biodiversity loss must be tackled together. They lend further support to the EU's goal of achieving a concrete and ambitious agreement in Copenhagen that comprises both reductions in the world's greenhouse gas emissions and the creation of global mechanisms to stop tropical deforestation. Quite simply, we will not manage to halt biodiversity loss if we do not mitigate climate change. And we will not be able to mitigate and adapt to climate change if we do not protect our valuable ecosystems and biodiversity."

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP, said: "It is clearly emerging that investments in the planet's ecosystem infrastructure can deliver the twin, Green Economy gains of curbing and cutting emissions while assisting vulnerable communities to adapt."

"Currently governments are considering multi-billion dollar investments in carbon capture and storage at power stations. Perhaps it is time to subject this to a full cost benefit analysis to see whether the technological option matches nature's ability to capture and store carbon - a natural system that has been perfected over millions of years and with the multiple additional benefits for water supplies up to reversing the rate of biodiversity loss," he added.

TEEB call for additional Scientific Input

The TEEB team invites scientists and other experts to support its efforts with further evidence on the economic consequences of biodiversity loss. Via the TEEB website (www.teebweb.org), stakeholders can contribute to the different products currently under development via the TEEB Call for Evidence. For the forthcoming report on the ecological and economic foundations of TEEB, draft chapters will be online for comment on the website starting in September 2009.

For further information please contact:

Georgina Langdale
TEEB Media and Communications
UNEP, Bonn
Tel: + 49 228 815 0572
Mobile : + 49 174 853 8070
Email: georgina.langdale@unep-teeb.org
Carsten Neßhöver, Christoph Schröter-Schlaack
TEEB Scientific Coordination
Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Tel: + 49 341 235-1649 / -1475
Email: teeb@ufz.de
http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=18587
Nick Nuttall
Spokesperson/Head of Media
Office of the Executive Director
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Nairobi, Kenya
http://www.unep.org
Phone: +254-20 7623084
Mobile in Kenya 254 (0) 733 632755
Mobile when travelling 41 79 596 57 37
Fax 254 2 623692 e-mail nick.nuttall@unep.org
The final results of Phase II of the TEEB study will be presented in the autumn of 2010. In November this year a TEEB report for national and international policymakers will be released. This will be used to further engage stakeholders in dialogue on the issues and opportunities of responsible consideration of ecosystem services in policy development.

Materials are available on the TEEB website www.teebweb.org.

The TEEB study was launched by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal by the G8+5 Environment Ministers (Potsdam, Germany 2007) to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss. The second phase of the TEEB study is being hosted by UNEP with financial support from the European Commission; German Federal Ministry for the Environment; and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The TEEB study draws together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy from around the world. Contributions feed into TEEB's open architecture format and the philosophy of creating a public good.

The Coral Reef data was drawn from a scientific statement on climate change and coral reefs published at a Royal Society Meeting organised by ZSL, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the Royal Society on 6 July 2009.

Economic valuation of human welfare benefits derived from coral reefs was estimated at $172 billion annually (Martinez et al. 2007).

Further background material on each of the points made in this release is available in the TEEB climate issues update.

Tilo Arnhold | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ufz.de

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>