The event "Listening to the voice of sub-national governments: learning from the Edinburgh Declaration for Biodiversity" was held at COP27 in Egypt. Organised by Regions4, with the collaboration of the Edinburgh Process partners and the Scottish Government, one of its objectives was to draw attention to the links and connections between COP27 on Climate and COP15 on Biodiversity, which will take place in Montreal (Canada) next month.
This session highlighted the main common challenges, solutions and recommendations between the two global summits and shared the progress of integrated nature-based and resilience solutions implemented at both regional and government levels. Recognising the synergies between the two issues is crucial, as while the two phenomena are recognised as interconnected in both policy and science, experts say that in practice they are treated separately, which can pose a great danger to people and ecosystems.
The Edinburgh Declaration for sub-national governments, cities and local authorities on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework is a key milestone in formally recognising the contributions of sub-national governments (including cities and local authorities) to the achievement of global biodiversity goals and targets. At the upcoming COP15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), one of its objectives will be for Parties to formalise this role through the adoption of an Action Plan specifically dedicated to sub-national and local governments.
The Action Plan aims to ensure that the "whole-of-government" approach advocated in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework is realised over the next decade. The Edinburgh Declaration builds on the previous recognition of sub-national authorities by the CBD at COP10 in Nagoya, Japan in 2010. Scotland's Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Mairi McAllan, said: "We have reached a crucial moment with the current COP27 negotiations and COP15 coming up next month. We must ensure that the climate and nature crises remain high on the global agenda and are recognised as part of the answer to many of the world's challenges".
"Both COP27 on Climate and COP15 on Biodiversity are unique opportunities for sub-national governments to show the world that they have a key role to play in halting biodiversity loss. The success of the Edinburgh Process and its Declaration invites us to continue to look to the sub-national level of government for inspiration on how to bring the two Conventions together and also how to implement the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework," said Natalia Uribe, Secretary General of Regions4.
According to the Intergovernmental Science and Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), "actions strictly focused on combating climate change can directly and indirectly harm nature and vice versa". Such actions include planting trees in ecosystems that were not originally forests; increasing irrigation capacity; and any measures focused exclusively on mitigating climate change. Such actions should be evaluated according to both their positive and negative impacts and externalities. For example, the use of renewable energy often requires significant consumption of mineral, natural or land resources. The same is true for some adaptation measures, such as the construction of dams, which can have devastating effects on natural ecosystems. This information is drawn from a report on a four-day online workshop. It involved experts selected by a 12-person Scientific Steering Committee selected by the Intergovernmental Science and Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is the first time the two intergovernmental bodies have collaborated.
However, according to the authors, there are many measures that can make significant positive contributions in both areas. Some of the most important examples include: "Halting the loss and degradation of carbon- and species-rich terrestrial and marine ecosystems"; "restoration of carbon- and species-rich ecosystems"; "enhancing sustainable agricultural and forestry practices to improve resilience to climate change, enhance biodiversity, increase carbon storage and reduce emissions"; and "improving and better targeting conservation actions, coordinated and supported by strong climate adaptation and innovation".
The need to address climate change and biodiversity conservation together is urgent. Therefore, on Biodiversity Day at COP27, Regions4 has put the spotlight on this essential nexus. According to Regions4's report "Interconnections between biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development", "connecting the climate and biodiversity spheres is especially crucial as the world prepares for stronger action on both Conventions. Earth's interrelated environmental emergencies must be addressed together through system-wide transformation, integrated approaches, coordinated action and international cooperation.
World regions are in fact already integrating both causes into their climate action in terms of adaptation. Some examples are compiled in the RegionsAdapt 2021-2022 Progress Report, launched last Thursday at COP27 in Egypt. This document shows how sub-national governments are moving towards nature-based solutions. For example, the LIFE IP Urban Klima 2050 project in the Basque Country (Spain) demonstrates significant progress in terms of interventions at three levels: urban/peri-urban, river basin and coast. Other important actions include the development of a catalogue of nature-based solutions for the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz; the recovery of the Tonpoi coastal area for public use with climate change adaptation criteria in Bermeo; the intervention and improvement of the Errekatxulo riverbank in San Sebastian; or the identification of alternatives to minimise the damage of the combined effect of waves and tides to the Zarautz promenade.
Goiás (Brazil), Santa Elena (Ecuador), Lombardy (Italy) and Wales (UK) are focusing on tree planting and the creation of green spaces. The "Woodlands for Wales" tree planting programme aims to achieve several outcomes, including reducing soil erosion, slowing water flows, providing shelter and improving connectivity to maintain the mobility of sensitive native species. The scheme also provides training and capacity building for local communities, creating opportunities to manage land locally without the need to move or travel.
In Lombardy, 9 million euros from the regional Recovery fund were invested in dewaterproofing and greening in 2021 under an agreement between the region and several of its municipalities.
Goiás is implementing several key projects, both at the institutional level. The "Juntos pelo Araguias" project is the largest watershed revitalisation initiative in Brazil and aims to restore forest areas, preserve natural springs and conserve soil and water quality in the Araguaia river basin. The SEDUC CERRADO (2021) planting campaign in the State of Goiás involves the direct participation of citizens, and the development of PlanteGo, a mobile application, encourages citizens to plant seedlings in urban and rural environments.
Regions4 is committed to supporting sub-national leaders in their advocacy efforts towards the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to be adopted at CBD COP15. This is a historic opportunity for subnational governments to be recognised for the role they will play in the implementation of the new framework, but also to define the enabling conditions that will enable its successful implementation at all levels of government. Therefore, Regions4 and its partners are already preparing for a stronger presence than ever at COP15, and call on all subnational governments to sign the Edinburgh Declaration, join the flagship platform of the RegionsWithNature partnership initiative and commit to the 7th World Summit on Biodiversity of Local Organisations and Subnational Governments, to be held in Montreal during COP15.
In this way, Regions4 and its partners will ensure that the most significant outcomes of COP27, in relation to the sub-national biodiversity agenda, will be transferred to COP15, playing their part in bridging the gap between the two conventions. Regions around the world are already playing a key role in bridging this gap by treating climate change and biodiversity loss as a common crisis, which must be responded to through strong commitment and action.