Katowice, Poland – The Rio Conventions Pavilion, in a series of sessions co-hosted by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) at the recent COP24 Climate Change Conference, provided a space for constructive dialogue among representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society on the issue of synergies. All present were unambiguous in their message: the three conventions need to continue enhancing their close cooperation to fully take advantage of synergies in mission so that actions which follow can be fully integrated to achieve multiple benefits.
The context for these discussions goes back to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which led to the establishment of the three sister conventions: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The Rio Conventions Pavilion is a platform for raising awareness and sharing information on the latest practices and scientific findings linking biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable land management. Making this happen has not always been easy at the global or national level.
In Katowice, the ”why” of synergies was made clear at Pavilion sessions, in scientific, practical and financial terms:
- It makes sense from the science point of view because the degradation of land releases carbon into the atmosphere (including vast amounts when peatlands are drained) — carbon that is the basis for life in the soil and everything that grows above it, impacting productivity and biodiversity, water and all other ecosystem serves flowing from land; affecting the health of ecosystems, the food supply and the well-being of people
- It makes sense in practice when sustainably managed land is recognized as an integrator and accelerator of virtually all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many of which compete for land resources. Land must be treated as the limited resource when planning and management decisions are made, in a way that encourages the optimization of interventions across the landscape to minimize the tradeoffs associated with multiple demands on land
- It makes sense from the point of view of effective and efficient use of financial resources to achieve the objectives of the three Conventions
- It makes sense from the perspective of developing countries that require support to design integrated projects addressing climate change, biodiversity and land degradation, because in many cases they have limited capabilities to design and implement projects, and it makes sense to use integrated approaches rather than fragmented ones
Addressing the “how” of maximizing synergies is critical. A number of solutions were tabled in the Rio Pavilion sessions, including:
- The framework of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) provides countries the means to plan and pursue interventions with the aim of maximizing positive impacts across the landscape and navigating the inevitable tradeoffs. LDN was a part of many approaches discussed at the Pavilion, including sustainable infrastructure and ecosystem-based assessment (EbA). The mitigation hierarchy approaches outlined for individual interventions can feed into the national-scale application of the LDN response hierarchy, as countries set priorities for and pursue their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), Aichi Targets and LDN targets simultaneously and seamlessly. Excellent examples of projects pursued in such an integrated way were shared by representatives of Mongolia, Belarus, Russia, Indonesia and Guyana
- Taking all of this into account when interventions are designed is also on the agenda – specifically through initiatives such as the Project Preparation Facility of the three Rio Conventions. UNFCCC, CBD and UNCCD are working together to put in action these calls for enhancing synergies and meeting the expectations not only of governments, to all other stakeholders working to address major environmental challenges across the globe.