The Nature Conservancy (TNC) committed to work with partners to develop and demonstrate the concept and practice of ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) to climate change (i.e. the use of ecosytem services to provide cost-effective solutions to societies' climate change adaptation challenges) via three distinct efforts:
TNC's commitment will first refine the practice of conservation in order to ensure the continuation of the ecosystem services and enhance adaptive reslience. TNC has been supporting field-based conservation programs throughout the United States and in 30 countries worldwide through a process of 'Conservation by Design' that seeks to understand and analytically quantify threats to ecosystem persistence and to address needs in a targeted and cost-effective manner. Faced with the threat of climate change, the Nature Conservancy's scientists have set about ensuring that existing and future conservation programs take projected climate change into account and adjust programs to specifically address this threat. An initial screening has produced an indicative list of about 20 candidate field projects from which TNC will draw to refine the use of our Conservation By Design methodology in order to update the practice of conservation and draw lessons on how to maintain and enhance the resilience of ecosystems and the services they provide.
Next, TNC's commitment will work with a wide range of governmental and non-government partners to develop a portfolio of projects that go beyond the maintence of ecosystem services to demonstrate how those services can provide cost-effective solutions to adaptation challenges. This will require developing an analytical framework to:
1) identify society adaptation challenges amenable to this approach;
2) design interventions around the restored or enhanced provision of ecosystem services;
3) measure the bio-physical consequences of those interventions;
4) measure the socio-economic benefits of the intereventions to affected communities; and
5) evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the interventions relative to potential alternatives.
TNC is in discussions with a number of partners and a handful of bilateral aid agencies and plans to develop a portfolio of a half dozen or so pilot projects to test the framework over the next three years.
Finally, TNC's commitment will use the momemtum of global events such as the Conferences of Parties to the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions to leverage commitments by partners, national governments, and funders to accelerated action on incorporating ecosystem-based adaptation into national strategies and action plans for climate change adaptation. Over the next year, TNC aims to generate political commitments to Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EBA) implementation at the level of heads of state or government or ministers in at least four countries, as well as complimentry commitments from at least an additional four major partners.
I. September - December 2009
- Convene a 'climate change adaptation clinic' with TNC scientists, project managers, and partners to develop guidance on how ecosystem-based adaptation addresses factors affecting ecosystem-resilience
- Assemble and begin implementaion in a suite of adaptation pilots across TNC's global program that demonstrates the applicability of EBA techniques for discussion with partners and funding agencies
- Publish authoritative evidence of the role of protected area systems in climate change adaptation and convene a Protected Areas and Climate Change summit in Grenada, Spain in November 2009
- Facilitate a high-level commitment event in Copenhagen to demonstrate national government, partner, and funding commitments to pursuing a research and implementation program for ecosystem-based adaptation
II. January - June 2010
- Design a research and learning program to support the further development of tools and guidance for ecosystem-based adaptation, including a second generation of pilots that will explicitly consider the human livelihoods component of ecosystem-based adaptation
- Develop and negotiate a comprehensive suite of project proposals for funding of a three year EBA implementation program in partnership with funding agencies and development partners
- Develop an analytical framework for evaluating bio-physical and socio-economic impacts of EBA interventions and their cost-effectiveness
III. July 2010 - December 2011
- On-going development and implementation of EBA demonstration portfolio
IV. January - June 2012
- Analysis, domumentation and dissemination of demonstation project results
The effects of climate change are felt everywhere, including and especially by people who are most dependent on resources that climate change impacts. The World Bank's Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change (2008) suggests that climate change has the potential to reverse the hard-earned development gains of the past decades, and will affect the poorest countries and communities the earliest and the most. Ecosystems are well recognized as critical in supporting human well-being (Reid et al. 2005; TEEB, 2008), and the importance of their maintenance under anthropogenic climate change is explicitly highlighted in UNFCCC Article 2. In particular, developing countries and poor communities may be the most sensitive to the direct impacts of climate change due to a greater direct dependence on ecosystems and their services for their livelihoods (IPCC, 2007Stern, 2007, TEEB, 2008). Parties to the UNFCCC have therefore emphasized that priority should be given to the most vulnerable countries, populations, and ecosystems in an enhanced program of action on adaptation.
Although climate change is generating impacts that require immediate and sometimes humanitarian responses, e.g. the impact of extreme weather events and floods, longer term adaptation measures will have to address impacts on the resilience and functioning of natural ecosystems that climate change disrupts, e.g. the destabilization of mountainsides through deforestation, or the reduced productivity of fisheries as coral reefs collapse. Adaptation to climate change must be an holistic effort that reduces the vulnerability and increases the resilience of ecological, social, and economic systems to current and predicted climate change. Social and economic resilience is fundamentally rooted in ecological resilience and therefore priority attention in adaptation action must be given to addressing the impacts of climate on natural ecosystems and ecosystem services.
Within just the last 12 months, a new concept of 'ecosystem-based adaptation' has entered the lexicon of the international climate change negotiations. The concept is receiving considerable attention within the political negotiations, within government agencies responsible for managing the natural resources on which people depend, and within many of the bilateral and multilateral donor agencies which support these agencies in developing countries. The Convention on Biological Diversity's Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Climate Change and Biodiversity has recently defined ecosystem-based adaptation as 'the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. Ecosystem-based adaptation uses the range of opportunities for the sustainable management, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems to provide services that enable people to adapt to the impacts of climate change.'
There remains considerable uncertainty as to what the concept means in practice, such as where to apply it, how to apply it, and how cost-effective it is. There are numerous examples around the world that ecosystem services (or 'green infrastructure') can provide cost-effective solutions to societal challenges relative to built infrastruture (e.g. the New York City watershed where a range of conservation and forest restoration measures solved water quality problems and was considerably cheaper than building filtration and treatment plants) but it remains a largely untested hypothesis that ecosystem services can provide cost-effective solutions specifically to climate change adaptation challenges. There are only a handful of innovations underway, mainly concerning coral reef conservation and mangrove restroration to address ocean warming and sea level rise. Through this commitment, The Nature Conervancy intends to test the above hypthesis in order to demonstrate under what conditions ecosystem services can provide cost-effective solutions to adaptation challenges. It is not enough to demonstate just that they work; they also have to be shown to be economically smart investments - incremental financial resources to address climate change are likely to be woefully inadequate, so what resources are available must be used as wisely as possible.
SEEKING: financial assistance, implementing partners, best practice information. TNC is interested in exploring partnership opportunties with: development / humanitarian NGOs, government agencies responsible for natural resource management, and thinktanks with environmnetal / natural resource economics expertise.
OFFERING: implementing partnership, best practice information.