COP26, ESG, Sustainability, Sustainable Legacies

As the world looks to Glasgow for the COP26 conference on climate change, we’ll be discussing some of the changes our industry needs to make and reflecting on the COP debate on the AECOM BlogJoin the discussion on social media by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Find more information in our special COP26 edition of our “Future of Infrastructure” report:

As we navigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events, there is another global emergency at play – that of biodiversity loss. This has been observed in coral reef ecosystems, which are home to more than 25 per cent of all marine life and support close to one billion people across the globe. These ecosystems are severely under threat from climate change, which is causing near-irreparable damage to reef structures and the biodiversity they support. New approaches are required, urgently and at scale.

To initiate and support a global agenda, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation has established the Resilient Reefs Initiative, a global partnership bringing together local communities, reef managers, and resilience experts to develop new solutions for adapting to the effects of climate change and local threats. AECOM is the Initiative’s Delivery Partner, developing and delivering guidance to support World Heritage coral reef sites to develop and implement resilience strategies, combining proven resilience-building models with site specific coral reef expertise to institutionalise resilience-based management within governance and community structures.

As AECOM’s Project Manager for Resilient Reefs, I have witnessed how crucial effective governance is for biodiversity restoration and ecosystem management, and that this governance be robust, equitable and responsive to community needs at the local scale.

At a global level, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, commits signatories to the conservation of biological diversity and fair, equitable and sustainable use of biological outputs. Bookending COP26, the 15th Conference of Parties for the CBD, convening in two parts in October 2021 and April 2022, will aim to further develop, finalise and adopt a new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This framework is a guide to worldwide action on the preservation and protection of natural and essential services through to 2030. Importantly, it recognises the impact that climate change can have on biological diversity, as well as the importance of ecosystems to support mitigation and adaptation. This relationship is also outlined as a precursor to Article 1 of the Paris Agreement.

Signatories to both the CBD and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change have an opportunity and responsibility to align efforts that both address climate-related risk and maintain or enhance biodiversity. This means:

  • Recognising the value of ecosystem services to human health, wellbeing and sustainable livelihood
  • Valuing coastal and marine areas as natural buffers and essential carbon sinks that need to be effectively managed
  • Implementing climate response efforts that benefit communities and natural ecosystems, with a view to enhance resilience
  • Providing adequate resources to manage natural areas by increasing access to financial capital.

We know that biodiversity loss and climate change are interdependent and as outlined in the draft framework, “both emergencies need to be addressed in an integrated and urgent manner”. Initiatives like Resilient Reefs are examples of the global efforts being taken to address both biodiversity loss and climate change. As parties come together in Glasgow and for the CBD, we call on governments to work collaboratively and adopt key lessons and strategies that can mutually benefit the targeted outcomes of both conventions, notably through the adoption of nature-based solutions to support mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Originally published Nov 5, 2021

Author: Cindy Varnier