Promoting biodiversity within climate response strategies

Article, 16 August 2013

Biodiversity conservation both affects and is affected by climate change. IIED is working to enhance the integration of biodiversity values into climate change and development decision-making.

Men spray water from water hoses onto a small fire in Kazakhstan

Biodiversity can help poor people adapt to, and mitigate the effects of, climate change. For example, preserving trees and maintaining biodiversity can help provide natural protection against flooding, while diverse traditional crops often prove to be more resilient to climate and weather variation. 

On the other hand, because of the potential threats to biodiversity posed by climate change, there are calls for renewed support for, and expansion of, protected areas to safeguard key species and habitats – potentially at some cost to local communities. 

One attempt to tackle climate change mitigation that has attracted a lot of attention from the conservation sector is Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), which aims to provide incentives to keep forests standing by recognising forest values in storing carbon.

But there are risks for biodiversity, if priorities are only given to carbon, as high biodiversity areas may not always overlap with areas with high carbon stocks. Furthermore, there are risks to local communities if recognition of the high carbon value of some forests results in local community land and their rights to resources being ignored or trampled on.

Biodiversity is also a very important part of climate change adaptation. Top-down, infrastructure-related adaptations to the impacts of climate change are well-promoted in policy arenas, but ecosystem maintenance and restoration can also play an important part in the adaptation process.

People's local traditional knowledge – for example concerning climate-resilient crop varieties – can help in adaptation strategies, but is often overlooked by policymakers and is in danger of being eroded in the process. The importance of ecosystems and ecosystem services for adaptation is particularly true for the world's poorest, who rely heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods, and will also be hit worst by climate change impacts. 

Ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation (EbA) complement community-based adaptation (CBA): they have people at their centre and use participatory, culturally appropriate ways to address challenges, but with a stronger emphasis on ecological and natural solutions.

From a biodiversity perspective, our priorities under this theme are thus to:

Some recent work includes: 


Hannah Reid (, research associate with IIED's Climate Change Group