COP and the SDGs: How protecting diverse ecosystems saves lives

Boosting progress against climate change requires cross-sectoral action

Our Climate and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) series explores how climate change is a development issue by highlighting the connections between individual goals and climate change. In the newest post, our experts look at how sustainable forest management is key to limiting climate change impacts, why ocean ecosystem has already changed, and what can be done to protect the planet from irreversible changes.

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SDG 13: Climate action

Senior consultant in our Climate Change and Disaster Risk team Katherine Cooke highlights why urgent action is needed to tackle climate change.

Fossil fuel combustion, one of main drivers of climate change, is one of major contributors to the seven million deaths from air pollution globally every year. Toxic pollutants and the greenhouse gas emissions are often emitted by same sectors, including energy, agriculture, and transport. Urgent action is needed to protect the planet and millions of lives on it from long-lasting and irreversible changes.

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SDG 14: Life below water

Specialising in water security issues, senior consultant Chris Brooks explores the links between marine life and climate.

The oceans cover more than 70% of the world’s surface and are particularly exposed and vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Our oceans have become more acidic as CO2 levels rise in the atmosphere. The viability of a lot of life under the seas will depend upon how they can adapt to these rapidly changing conditions, which are set to remain with us for a long time, even if we do manage to rein CO2 emissions.

Our concerns focus primarily on the loss of livelihoods and environmental damage that are expected with the impacts of climate change: more than 10% of the world’s population are at risk from sea level rises, and more than 70% of the world’s coral will largely disappear if global temperatures continue to rise by only 1.5°C. Coral ecosystems shelter a quarter of all oceans’ biodiversity and provide important livelihood options to coastal communities, from sustenance, fisheries, and tourism to shoreline protection.

As well as being vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, oceans are also a regulator of climate change. They store and release much of the carbon dioxide and energy that drives regional climate patterns. Changes in ocean temperatures in one part of the globe have significant consequences for climate patterns in another. Climate change interrupts oceanic currents driving extreme local weather conditions with, for example, the El Niño and La Niña associated drought and flood events in Africa driven by changes in ocean temperature in the Pacific.

Our work in Ethiopia researched the impacts of El Niño drought on the well-being of the most vulnerable communities.  

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SDG 15: Life on land

Based in Indonesia, Dwi Rahardiani, a consultant in our Climate Change and Disaster Risk team, discusses how sustainable forest management helps decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

More than a billion of people directly rely on diverse ecosystems, such as forests, deserts, and mountains, as their source of food, medicine, and fuel. Agriculture is a main source of income for more than two billion people, while further 1.5 depend on forests for their livelihoods. However, natural resources are deteriorating, in particular due to deforestation, land degradation, and soil erosion. Finding ways to sustainably manage available natural resources is key to mitigating climate change impacts:

Read more about our work in Indonesia on improving forest sector management.

Don’t miss our previous climate and SDG blogs – focusing on eliminating poverty, zero hunger, and good health; quality education, gender equality, and clean water and sanitation; affordable energy, economic growth, and innovation; reducing inequalities, sustainable cities, and responsible consumption; and peace and strong institutions, and goal partnerships.

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