Maintaining and enhancing the integrity and resilience of ecosystems is critical for the long-term effectiveness of climate mitigation and adaptation. Healthy ecosystems sequester and store carbon, while providing a natural defense against climatic hazards such as floods, sea-level rise and drought, and supporting the livelihoods and welfare of billions of people. When they are destroyed or degraded, ecosystems become a source of emissions, and their ability to enable people and other species to adapt is compromised. Actions taken to maintain or enhance ecosystem health, integrity and resilience will help countries to achieve their mitigation and adaptation objectives and to avoid ill-conceived climate responses that perversely undermine progress towards these objectives.
Similarly, respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling rights is fundamental to long-term success of climate actions. For example, with respect to the right to participation, mitigation and adaptation actions must be based on – and will benefit from – full and effective participation of those directly affected, including vulnerable and marginalized groups. Linking ecosystem integrity to a rights-based approach recognizes the intrinsic connections between these principles and adopting a holistic approach to climate actions can in turn maximize social, environmental and economic objectives.
Focusing solely on reducing GHG emissions may lead to disastrous unintended consequences for ecosystems and people, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The IPCC recognizes the threat that certain mitigation actions present to ecosystems, and acknowledges that measures should be undertaken with a multi-objective perspective. Mitigation or adaptation actions that do not adequately consider ecosystems may be maladaptive, delivering minimal emission reductions – or in the worst case increasing emissions – and exacerbating the vulnerability of people and ecosystems to the impacts of climate change. Poorly planned deployment of bioenergy, hydropower and other climate responses is already driving ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss, and undermining livelihoods.