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Biodiversity, Climate Change and City Planning: A Look to The Future

Summary: City governments are often more proactive on climate change and biodiversity than their entire country. As cities come up with increasingly ambitious plans to mitigate and prepare for a changing climate, city biodiversity is becoming increasingly important. Our research, commissioned by C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, will investigate how and why cities are taking steps to preserve biodiversity, and how their results compare across continents.

The world’s big international frameworks on climate change, diversity, and sustainable development such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, SDGs, and the 1992 Biodiversity Convention are discussed and adopted by national governments. Cities are not usually concerned with these big plans, but in the last decade, they have been engaging with these discussions, trying to influence them for the better. This is the 'city diplomacy' with which C40 is involved, and which Polygeia’s research plans to assist: How cities engage with, and influence, these discussions between nations.

The subject of our research is the nexus between climate change and biodiversity. Transport, buildings, and waste management systems all need to adapt to climate change goals. Cities cannot do this alone and need help from national governments. Engaging at global level allows cities to get access to climate finance and other resources.

Why have we chosen this focus?

This research is essential since the 2020 UN Biodiversity Conference hosted in China next year, will gather to review its Convention on Biodiversity and adopt new goals. The UN's current biodiversity/conservation goals (The Aichi Targets) were adopted in 2010, for a term of ten years, and are due to expire next year.

The global activist community hopes that the goals adopted next year will be considerably more ambitious than those selected until now because, in the last ten years, the situation has worsened. The WWF and IPCC report a very explicit loss of species and biodiversity, with 50% of natural life lost in the last forty years.

WWF 2014 Living Planet Report

The biodiversity and extinction crisis is equally as urgent as the climate crisis but has only garnered political attention in the last few years.

(Legagneux et al., 2018) Our House Is Burning: Discrepancy in Climate Change vs. Biodiversity Coverage in the Media as Compared to Scientific Literature

Being environmental activists, C40 wants to participate in the general push to make nations exert the necessary commitments in 2020. Our research will tie biodiversity planning to climate change planning, showing the mutual benefits and efficiency gains cities and national governments can make by integrating biodiversity into their climate change plans.

The synergy between climate action plans and biodiversity action plans is intuitive since the climate change, and biodiversity crises have many of the same causes, and visible consequences: urban sprawl, the disappearance of natural spaces due to urbanisation and deforestation, mining, agriculture, pollution, and air and water contamination. These cause problems both for the climate and for life on earth.

We are operating under the framework of shared benefits. For instance, exploring what cities are doing in terms of green infrastructure, which includes creating or maintaining green spaces in the city or vegetalising the city and enquiring how does this have benefits for the climate and biodiversity conservation?

Hence our focus on the "synergy" between climate action plans and biodiversity plans.

We are looking at what cities can do in biodiversity.

● How long have they been working on this?

● Who is doing it?

● What kind of policy instruments and incentive structures are being used to do it?

● What are the objectives?

● What are the results (tangible or expected)?

Our research will compare the answers to these questions with what the same cities are doing on climate, to see if there are any common gains or benefits.

The research aims to identify some specific policy actions or measures being taken by city governments which help to address multiple issues: reducing emissions, adapting the cities to climate change, and helping with biodiversity and nature conservation. We plan to show that biodiversity planning is indispensable to both city and national governments, a key element in the fight against climate change.

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