The Paris Climate Agreement: how ESPA research is making a contribution

January 11, 2016

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's Paris Conference (also referred to as COP21) made December an energising time for anyone involved in science, policy or development related to the environment and climate change. The subsequent Climate Agreement brings hope that the knowledge being generated by researchers in this field can begin to be adopted into policy and action.

COP21 not only delivered a welcome opportunity for the international community to reach agreement on how to resolve climate-related challenges but also broadened the spectrum of how we define and consider these challenges. Co-relating environmental factors and impacts, such as inequity, sustainable ecosystem management, biodiversity and poverty, were placed firmly on the agenda, signalling widespread acceptance of the need to address the threat of climate change in the wider context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

This was reinforced in the Climate Agreement, which stated “the intrinsic relationship that climate change actions, responses and impacts have with equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty” and also highlighted “the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity,” with a specific emphasis placed on forests (Article 5).

These assertions chime with ESPA’s overall vision, and this further emphasis on ecosystems and poverty alleviation opens up many opportunities for ESPA research to make vital contributions to how the Climate Agreement is taken forward.

A number of researchers in the ESPA community had opportunities to highlight their work at the Paris Climate Conference and sideline events.

A team from the p4ges project, which aims to influence the development and implementation of international ecosystem service payment schemes in the interests of poverty alleviation, helped the Malagasy Government prepare for the Paris conference. This support included inputting into Madagascar's submission of its Individual Nationally Determined Contributions document.

Four members of the p4ges team attended the Paris event as part of the Malagasy Government delegation, fielding questions from attendees, contributing to and presenting at roundtable discussions and displaying p4ges project posters at the Madagascar pavilion (pictured).

Nigel Asquith launched the Water:Shared initiative based on his ESPA research, at Global Landscapes Forum, an event that ran concurrently to the Paris Climate Conference.

The Mikoko Pamoja project, informed by ESPA-funded research led by Mark Huxham was placed under the spotlight at Paris. It was selected for inclusion as a case study in an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publication launched at the event.

Following on from the Paris event the UN's Scientific Advisory Board hosted its fourth meeting. The Board focussed discussion on “harnessing the full potential of science and knowledge, including social science and local and indigenous knowledge to realise fully the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The meeting also acknowledged that the “strong links between climate change mitigation, health, food security, and other aspects of sustainable development, demonstrating that they must be addressed jointly.”

ESPA is in the unique position to be able to investigate these links under the umbrella of a single interdisciplinary research programme, drawing knowledge from physical, natural and social sciences as well as indigenous local knowledge. Now the wider international community is recognising the value of this approach, the opportunities are prime to raise awareness of and make an impact with our work.

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