Putting Biodiversity in the Driver’s Seat: A Vital Component of Canada’s Net-Zero Journey


Anirban Kundu, Ph.D.

Anthesis Consulting Canada

Senior Sustainability Consultant

Ashoke Mohanraj

Dalhousie University

Doctor of Law Candidate

photograph of the two male authors of this article
Disclaimer: The French version of this editorial has been auto-translated and has not been approved by the author.

When we discuss the “path to net-zero,” the focus is typically on reducing emissions. But what about the birds, bees, and broader biodiversity ? What role do they play in achieving net-zero targets?

At first glance, the connection between biodiversity and emissions reduction might not be obvious. However, as we increasingly recognize the interdisciplinary impacts of climate change and formulate emissions mitigation and adaptation strategies, the role of biodiversity is ever more important. This paper aims to advocate the crucial role of biodiversity in net-zero strategies, while highlighting nature as an important stakeholder in net-zero and climate action roadmaps. We explore why biodiversity has been sidelined, the need to integrate biodiversity into climate strategies, and benefits it offers to stakeholders. 

Biodiversity and Climate Action: (Historically) An Imbalance

For decades, efforts to combat climate change have predominantly focused on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in an imbalance that marginalizes the equally pressing issue of biodiversity loss. Despite the intrinsic connection between climate change impacts, earth system response, and biodiversity, policies often treat these entities in siloes, leading to compartmentalized approaches that neglect systemic interdependencies [1]. This oversight is counterproductive and risks duplicating efforts that draw on finite resources, further exacerbating ecosystem and species loss [2]. It is essential to study and leverage the synergies and trade-offs between biodiversity protection and climate strategies, while integrating the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Global Biodiversity Framework, and the Sustainable Development Goals [3]. Additionally, the systemic undervaluation of biodiversity is evident in funding disparity: in 2021, nature-based financing was USD 133 billion, but to meet global climate and net-zero targets by 2050, a funding gap of USD 4.1 trillion needs to be closed, requiring significant investment from both public and private sectors [4]. Addressing these issues with a holistic approach is crucial for sustaining ecosystems, economies, and human well-being.

Biodiversity is imperative to a holistic net-zero strategy building 

Biodiversity supports critical ecosystem services such as food and water provisions, biogeochemical nutrient cycling, pollination, soil fertility, and more. Ignoring biodiversity risks jeopardizing these services, which undermines the resilience of ecosystems and the communities that depend on them. Focusing on biodiversity offers numerous benefits, leading to synergistic solutions that simultaneously address climate and ecological challenges. Integrating biodiversity conservation into climate action, through nature-based solutions such as reforestation, habitat restoration, and ecosystem-based adaptation, provides cost-effective strategies for mitigating climate change while safeguarding biodiversity. For example, well-designed Nature-based Solutions, in their maximum possible extent, are estimated to result in a potential removal of ~11 billion tons CO2-equivalent per year until 2050 [1]. Moreover, natural assets such as agriculture, forestry, marine ecosystems, wetlands, and bioenergy could feasibly contribute about 30% of the global mitigation needed to limit warming to 1.5°C by 2050. This sector’s share of mitigation potential may even be higher in the near term, contributing up to 37% of the emissions mitigation needed until 2030 [5]. Biodiverse ecosystems demonstrate greater resilience to climate change, offering a buffer against extreme weather events, pests, and diseases. In addition to environmental benefits, biodiversity conservation offers significant socio-economic advantages, such as supporting ecotourism and sustainable agriculture, driving pharmaceutical discoveries and providing genetic resources for crop breeding. Importantly, considering Indigenous Peoples’ Lands contain 80% of the remaining global biodiversity stock, biodiversity conservation also generates co-benefits for Indigenous communities, and fosters social equity, cultural resilience, and community empowerment [6].

Synthesis of science policy options and enablers

Synthesis of policies and programs exploring the biodiversity and net-zero interface indicate enabling levers, such as i) economic transformation of global supply and value chains accompanied by changes in natural resource use, circular economy, and market economy mechanisms, ii) pursuing adaptation, mitigation, and development solutions while exploiting systemic synergies and reducing trade-offs, iii) increase in funding vehicles, such as private and public financing and cross-government collaboration, iv) adoption of net-zero policies aligned with national biodiversity conservation and land protection projects and which consider an integrated understanding of the biodiversity-climate relationship, v) well-defined framework to guide nature-based climate solution implementation which considers synergies with climate mitigation and adaptation, while ensuring longevity, vi) data systems to monitor net-zero nature-positive progress, vii) need of science-based standard and guidance to inform nature-positive investment [1,5, 79]. 

Putting biodiversity centre-stage 

As Canada charts its course towards net-zero emissions, it is crucial to recognize the indispensable role of biodiversity. Embracing a holistic approach that integrates biodiversity considerations into climate action is imperative for achieving long-term sustainability. Elevating biodiversity conservation to a central pillar of Canada’s net-zero agenda ensures that we acknowledge its intrinsic value and invest in its preservation, forging a path towards a greener, healthier, and more resilient future. This interconnectedness is central to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s 2024-2029 Science Strategy [10], and Canada’s 2030 National Biodiversity Strategy [11], which emphasize the implications of climate change on biodiversity, advance climate mitigation and adaptation, and leverage partnerships with Indigenous communities. By prioritizing biodiversity, Canada can drive nature co-benefits and support infrastructure projects that enhance both climate and biodiversity resilience, ensuring a sustainable legacy for generations to come.

Works Cited

  1. Climate change and biodiversity: Interlinkages and policy options, The Royal Society (Link)
  2. Environmental Policies Must Manage Climate Change and Biodiversity as One, Scientific American (Link)
  3. Pörtner et al. 2021. IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop report on biodiversity and climate change; IPBES and IPCC. DOI:10.5281/zenodo.4782538 (Link)
  4. State of Finance for Nature, UNEP, ELD, and WEF (Link
  5. Vidal, A., Martinez, G., Drion, B., Gladstone, J., Andrade, A. & Vasseur, L. (2023) Nature-based Solutions for corporate climate targets. Views regarding the corporate use of Nature-based Solutions to meet net-zero goals. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN (Link)
  6. Recio, E., Hestad, D. (2022) Indigenous Peoples: Defending an Environment for All, Policy Brief #36, IISD (Link)
  7. OECD (2023), Net Zero+: Climate and Economic Resilience in a Changing World, Policy Highlights, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/da477dda-en (Link)
  8. Net-Zero Nature-Positive Accelerator Integrated Program, Global Environment Facility (Link)
  9. OECD (2022), Climate Tipping Points: Insights for Effective Policy Action, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/abc5a69e-en (Link)
  10. Environment and Climate Change Canada Science Strategy 2024 to 2029. (Link)
  11. Canada’s 2030 National Biodiversity Strategy (Milestone document). (Link)