Biodiversity and Climate Change

The Belgian Biodiversity Platform is currently assessing the need for science-policy interfacing tools/approaches/capacity in the topical area of Biodiversity and Climate Change. 

Science-policy interfaces (SPIs) help to bridge the gap between science,policy and society; they are a sort of two-way communication mechanism, allowing for exchanges between scientists and other actors in the policy process, enriching the decision-making process along the way.

This initiative comes as a recognition that the climate change and biodiversity crises require an ambitious and coordinated response, and that several initiatives and policy processes in (or supported by) Belgium could benefit from closer engagement among biodiversity and climate change research communities, and with policy actors. Addressing biodiversity loss and climate change as separate risks compromises our ability to successfully halt climate change, while preserving ecosystems and meeting other Sustainable Development Goals.


There are at least four major ways in which climate change and biodiversity issues are linked:

  1.  Climate change is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss. Its impacts on ecosystems are recognized in the 1992 text of the UNFCCC[1] (see e.g. Article 1), and have been documented in the scientific literature and highlighted over several IPCC assessments, including in the 2019 IPCC's "Global Warming of 1.5°C" Special Report. The IPBES 2019 Global Assessment Report outlines how the role of climate change as a driver for biodiversity loss is set to increase over the coming years. Both reports underline the significant benefit to biodiversity of keeping temperature rise to 1.5°C rather than 2°C.
  2. Nature based solutions play a major function in regulating climate as well as enhancing adaptation and resilience to climate change. Their role as carbon sinks is recognized in the UNFCCC text (ibid; see the Preamble). This has been given stronger emphasis by the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC and its “GHG neutrality” goal (article 4.1), which requires a greater reliance on carbon sinks, therefore placing ecosystems at the centre of ambitious climate action. In addition to this, nature-based solutions are central to adaptation strategies to climate change, and promoted under the EU’s Green Deal.
  3. Several “solutions” envisioned for climate change can be potentially damaging to biodiversity, in particular solutions relying on carbon-dioxide removal technology using widespread Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage, for instance, especially if deployed at a large scale. Some researchers project that half of ideal bioenergy growing areas are situated in biodiversity hot spots. 
  4. Climate change and biodiversity loss share several root causes that are linked to unsustainable modes of production and consumption (e.g., in agri-food systems or energy production) (IPBES, 2019). This is also reflected, for instance, in the subsidies identified by a 2019 OECD report that are harmful to biodiversity, with a massive share concerning subsidies to fossil fuels. Moreover, climate change and biodiversity loss interact to create and compound harms to people’s lives, livelihoods, wellbeing and rights.


What is Science-Policy Interface (SPI)?

SPI has been defined as social processes which encompass relations between scientists and other actors in the policy process, and which allow for exchanges, co-evolution, and joint construction of knowledge with the aim of enriching decision-making. SPIs involve an exchange of information and knowledge. This exchange leads to learning, and ultimately influences decisions and changes behaviour – i.e., doing something differently as a result of the learning.

Science can help identify problems and needs that come from policy and society; this then gets incorporated into research, which is then transformed into knowledge. Knowledge can also come from policy and society, so SPI is at the interface between science and policy and science and society. If we follow the information flow shown below, SPI has the potential to facilitate that knowledge is transferred, adopted and diffused to policy actors and society, and in doing so contribute to the development of policies that take into account the latest knowledge, and behavioral change.

To learn more about SPI and the work of the Belgian Biodiversity Platform, visit the 20 Years Highlights Report 2000 -2020.


More information on the role of the Belgian Biodiversity Platform in Biodiversity and Climate change activities coming soon!