Despite their crucial importance in mitigating the worst effects of climate change, efforts to protect ecosystems and biodiversity continue to be hampered by a lack of data and inadequate investment, a report from the Center for American Progress argues.
According to the report, Building Resilience to Climate Change Requires Investment in Nature (HTML or PDF, 7 pages), ecosystems around the world provide economic benefits on the order of $124.8 trillion a year to human society, including extractable resources as well as services such as water filtration, photosynthesis, and flood and storm protection. Yet even if current emissions commitments are fulfilled, between 20 percent and 30 percent of all species on earth face a high risk of extinction. The resulting cost in the form of asset losses, declines in human well-being, and expenditures on artificial replacements, the report argues, could have a significant impact on economies large and small.
To date, public finance for climate change adaptation has largely been allocated to shoring up physical infrastructure, including coastal armoring, agricultural systems, and water delivery, wastewater management, and energy supply systems. Meanwhile, data on the potential impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services is scarce or nonexistent. Among other things, the report calls on the international climate finance community to expand research on ecosystem services decline, coordinate international donors and funds to better address the preservation of those services, and collaborate with governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to support habitat and watershed conservation, develop frameworks to monetize ecosystem services, and foster infrastructure development that integrates ecosystem restoration.
"The international community has begun to organize and respond to the urgent need for investments in resilience and adaptation to climate change," the report concludes. "However, until ecosystems, a major pillar of global economic vitality, become a core component of climate change adaptation strategy and a primary target for corresponding investments, the response will remain structurally flawed and insufficient."