This is among the central findings of a new climate issues update by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), a project launched by Germany and the European Commission in response to a proposal by the G8+5 Environment Ministers (Potsdam, Germany 2007) to develop a global study on the economics of biodiversity loss. The study is hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme. The issues update was launched today by TEEB study leader Pavan Sukhdev, with German Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel, European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas and UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP Achim Steiner.
It says the planet's biological diversity and 'ecological infrastructure' are increasingly being put at risk from the impact of climbing greenhouse gases.
Yet natural systems represent one of the biggest untapped allies against the greatest challenge of this generation, says the paper, part of a stream of work towards a final study in 2010.
Pump-Priming Nature's Mitigation and Adaptation Engine
The update underlines that an agreement on funding for forests is a key priority for governments attending the crucial United Nations climate convention meeting in Copenhagen in December.
An estimated 5 gigatonnes or 15 per cent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions - the principal greenhouse gas - are being absorbed or 'sequestrated' by forests every year, making them the 'mitigation engine' of the natural world. This could also be described as 'green carbon'.
Investing in ecosystem-based measures such as financing Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) could thus not only assist in combating climate change but could also be a key anti-poverty and adaptation measure.
Forests also provide services such as freshwaters, soil stabilization, nutrients for agriculture, eco-tourism opportunities and food, fuel and fibre - all of which will be key to buffering vulnerable communities against the climate change already underway.