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Climate Change

Biodiversity and Climate Change

There is now broad scientific and political consensus that we have entered a period of unavoidable and unprecedented climate change. Impacts on biodiversity in the EU are already evident. Climate change has the potential, over a period of a few decades, to undermine our efforts for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Substantial cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are essential to mitigate the longer–term threat to biodiversity. We have honoured our Kyoto commitments, but more ambitious global emissions targets post–2012 are needed in order to limit the increase in global annual mean temperature to no more than  2°C above pre–industrial levels.

Biodiversity can help us cope with the impact of climate change in many ways. Protecting biodiversity can, for instance, help limit atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations because forests, peatlands and other habitats are major stores of carbon. Healthy ecosystems can also help mitigate climate change impacts, for instance, by absorbing excess flood water or buffering us against coastal erosion or extreme weather events. Therefore ecosystems based approaches should be an integral part of the overall adaptation and mitigation effort. This can be achieved by ensuring the effective management and restoration of Natura 2000 areas, developing a green infrastructure, and working with- rather than against – nature. 

Policies will also be needed to help biodiversity adapt to changing temperature and water regimes. This requires in particular securing the coherence of the Natura 2000 network. Care must also be taken to prevent, minimise and offset any potential damages to biodiversity arising from climate change adaptation and mitigation measures.

On 1 April 2009 the European Commission adopted its White Paper Adapting to Climate Change – Towards a European Framework for Action,  which recognises the importance of ecosystem resilience and encourages the development of "measures which address biodiversity loss and climate change in an integrated manner to fully exploit co-benefits and avoid ecosystem feedbacks that accelerate global warming"

Read more about climate change adaptation


Guidance document on Climate change and Natura 2000

This guidance document on how to deal with the impacts of climate change within the context of management of the Natura 2000 Network is primarily addressed to site managers and policy makers.

It presents the latest scientific information on the risks posed by climate change to species and habitat types of EU conservation concern and provides advice, supported by good practice examples, on how to deal with the impact of climate change when managing Natura 2000 sites.

The guidance document aims, on the one hand, to underline the fact that an effectively managed, functionally coherent and well-connected Natura 2000 Network can play a vital role in helping society adapt to, and mitigate, the impacts of climate change.  On the other, it also considers how to ensure that Natura 2000 sites, and the species and habitats they aim to protect, are managed in a way that is adapted to the potential effects of climate change. 

A supplement has been developed to assess the vulnerability of Natura 2000 species and habitats. This supplement is based on best available knowledge. Caution is advised in the use and interpretation of the results: for many species, no or little information is available on the impacts of climate change; for habitats, the majority of the assessment is based on expert knowledge.

  • Guidelines supplement:  assessment of the vulnerability of species and habitats of Community Interest to climate change


Studies on climate change and biodiversity

DG ENV has commissioned a series of studies and papers on the relationship between climate change and biodiversity.


UNFCCC COP 15 in Copenhagen – side event on 12 December 2009: "Climate change, ecosystem services and biodiversity"

Maintaining and restoring natural ecosystems as carbon sinks and resources for adaptation is a necessary, efficient and cost-efficient strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation - in addition to technological emission reductions.


The Rio Conventions Pavilion

This Pavilion is a collaborative outreach activity involving the Rio Convention secretariats, with the Global Environment Facility and supporting partners, including UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), the European Commission, some Member States and others. It is a platform for raising awareness and sharing information about the latest practices and scientific findings on the synergies that can be realized through implementation of the three Rio Conventions.  It is providing a place for negotiators and other key decision makers, scientists, civil society and practitioners to discuss the links between biodiversity, climate change and sustainable land management with a view to identify integrated approaches with mutual benefits. It was convened for the first time in 2010 at the tenth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD COP 10, October, 2010) in Nagoya and since then at all COPs of the Rio Conventions and at Rio+20. The activity will continue at CBD and UNFCCC COP later in 2012.


Ecological Connectivity

Climate change will significantly affect economies and societies through its impacts on ecosystems. This is because the impacts of climate change on man are largely mediated by natural systems. Healthy ecosystems will be more resilient to climate change and so more able to maintain the supply of ecosystem services on which our prosperity and wellbeing depend. They lie at the centre of any adaptation policy. Consequently 'conventional' pressures that cause the fragmentation, degradation, over-exploitation and pollution of ecosystems must be reduced ('ecosystem climate-proofing').

Biodiversity climate change adaptation tools, such as flyways, buffer zones, corridors and stepping stones, enhance the coherence and interconnectivity in Europe.

Read more about green infrastructure