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The Climate-Ecology Nexus at the IUCN World Conservation Congress

Emma Archer, PLOS Climate Editor-in-Chief, discusses some of the highlights of the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress.

Two weeks ago, I had the great privilege of attending the IUCN World Conservation Congress, running from September 3rd to the 11th.  Climate change was a very evident cross-cutting theme at the meeting, right from the start. In the opening ceremony and session, President Emmanuel Macron emphatically stated France’s commitment to addressing the challenges of biodiversity and climate change at a global scale, reiterating the key policy target of ’30 by 30’, or protecting 30% of land and water by 2030.  Macron, and a number of other prominent leaders, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang; emphasized the notion of conservation not simply as a ‘nice to have’ goal, or as an academic target; but very much in the spirit of healthy ecosystems providing multiple benefits, including climate change adaptation and mitigation.

In this spirit, further valuable sessions included highlights from the recently released IPCC/IPBES joint report, with inputs from amongst others, IPBES Executive Secretary, Dr. Anne Larigauderie; report lead author Dr David Obura of CORDIO East Africa; lead author Dr Wendy Foden, of South African National Parks, as well as report lead author, Professor Pamela McElwee of Rutgers University, who is also a PLOS Climate Section Editor.  Agroecology was considered as a nature-based solution for climate change adaptation and mitigation – with inputs from the French Ministry for Agriculture, as well as the Senegalese Ministry for Agriculture; emphasizing a paradigm shift from focusing just on the performance of just a few species (and considering, for the example, the beneficial effect of wild species).

More specialized thematic sessions considered, amongst others, how species conservation planning can help reverse the decline of threatened species – particularly in the context of multiple stressors, including climate change (this is obviously of particular concern in an environment where a number of CBD targets are not being achieved);  learning from best practice examples around the world to improve island resilience and sustainability in a changing climate; and a session focused specifically on mangroves – drawing on the State of the World’s Mangroves report to consider how mangrove cover might be increased 20% by 2030 as an explicit climate action (as well as opportunities and challenges in achieving such a goal). Overall, in a year where biodiversity and climate change are so solidly on the agenda of global policy, it was a wonderful opportunity to represent PLOS Climate at the Congress – and we anticipate, given some of the discussions, very interesting developments at CBD COP15 in Kunming; and at COP26 in Glasgow.

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