Sustaining urban biodiversity for climate change adaptation and mitigation

25 March 2014 | Article

Most of the time, we think that the impacts of climate change will affect only local communities living in rural and coastal areas. This is only a part of the truth. In fact, the impacts of climate change can be felt everywhere, including in cities. Biodiversity, which is defined as the richness and variety of plants and animals in a given environment, plays an important role in climate change adaptation and mitigation for urban areas.

In December 2013, representatives from Asian countries gathered in Chiang Rai, Thailand, to discuss the importance of urban biodiversity and its role in climate change adaptation and mitigation for the region. The First Urban Biodiversity Regional Seminar provided a platform to disseminate climate change knowledge, exchange experiences of climate change adaptation and mitigation among the relevant stakeholders including , local authorities, municipalities, NGOs, community representatives and academic institutions to discuss and share lessons learned.

The participants shared some good practices and policies on climate change response in urban areas, such as establishing a national committee on climate change, conducting needs and technology assessments, establishing constitutional structure to address climate change issues and allocating funds for implementation.

“Biodiversity conservation requires partnerships, and IUCN is facilitating this,said Dr Chamniern Vorratnchaiphan, Country Representative of IUCN Thailand. “It is important that the development activities undertaken by different sectors in society pay serious attention to biodiversity and the services it provides. Ecosystem services, such as, carbon sequestration by trees, help reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Without biodiversity and its function as a natural protection, disasters like floods and drought will be more severe.”

The holistic approach is a key to success of implementation undertaken by local people with the technical support of the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network in Asia. Some examples of good practice included the Green Growth and Economic Development Policy in Jeju island, South Korea; Urban Agriculture as a Community Initiative in Chiang Rai and Bangkok of Thialand, Urban Eco-Forest in Japan and Urban Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change Centre in Chiang Rai.

In addition, environmental education, synergy of top down policy and bottom up initiation including peer to peer knowledge dissemination have been significantly applied in the context of urban resilience to climate change.

Mr Mozaharul Salam, Regional Climate Change Coordinator, UNEP, emphasized the importance of having the national policies on climate change adaptation and mitigation in the Southeast Asian countries. “Climate change adaptation needs to be integrated into the national development plans,said Mr Salam.

During a visit to Chiang Rai Municipality project on urban biodiversity conservation for climate change adaptation, “the most important key to success of these municipality projects is a meaningful participation of all relevant stakeholders”, said Ms. Suranit Ongla, Chiang Rai City Clerk. Samples of urban climate change adaptation activities include urban agriculture like organic food production, climate change knowledge dissemination to public, disaster response strategies and emergency relief unit, and conservation groups in urban areas.

This conference was jointly organized by the key partner organizations from theThai government agencies and some international organizations. It included some local organizations in the Low Carbon City project, a number of municipalities, IUCN, WWF, UNEP, the National Municipal League of Thailand, Asia Pacific Adaptation Network, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, and Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network.

The next conference will be hosted by Tung Song Municipality, Nakorn Sri Thammarat Province in southern Thailand in August 2014.

By Supranee Kampongsun