Africa and

The Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework

Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss and Africa


The climate crisis and biodiversity crisis are interdependent and mutually amplifying, which is why they cannot be addressed as two separate challenges. Human society has fundamentally changed the earth system, with climate change and global biodiversity loss being two of the key manifestations of that change. Resolving them separately is not possible, and a deep paradigm shift in action is needed to reverse the underlying drivers of both crises.

A key dimension of this new paradigm for changing the trajectory of the underlying drivers is ensuring that emerging major challenges are addressed jointly, and never separately. A new review study in the journal Science emphasizes what is increasingly being called a ‘nexus’ approach; that is, ending the single-sector and narrow approaches that have dominated economic and national policies that have caused the current crises to considering the interlinkages across sectors and challenges together.

Figure 1: The link between climate, biodiversity and human society. (Pörtner et al. 2023)

This nexus approach would represent the ‘transformative change’ in governance and planning that is called for by both bodies that hosted a workshop report[1] that is the foundation for the paper, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC). In the context of climate change and biodiversity, this approach would consider synergies and trade-offs in climate change mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity conservation, to ensure negative impacts are minimized or prevented and synergies for climate and biodiversity are maximized.

“The two catastrophes – the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis – are interdependent and mutually amplifying, which is why they should never be seen as two separate things”, says Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner. “Consequently, our review study shows in detail the connections between the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis and presents solutions for addressing both catastrophes and mitigating their social impacts, which are already dramatic.”

The study amplifies the essence of what is a true ‘nature-based solution’, a term at the heart of tensions among countries resulting from single-sector approaches in historical climate interventions. In particular, the planting of exotic trees to rapidly sequester carbon should no longer qualify as a nature-based climate solution, because of the negative impacts such actions have both on indigenous biodiversity (e.g. converting natural forests or grasslands to low-species richness plantations of introduced species) and on peoples’ welfare (e.g. through loss of access to areas under plantation, loss of species and associated benefits from biodiversity that can’t live in exotic plantations, etc.).

“In fact, solutions from nature, the essence of the term ‘nature-based solution’ will perhaps be Africa’s greatest asset as we face the challenges of the 21st century, particularly for low-income earners”, says David Obura, from Kenya, one of the study authors. “And not just solutions for climate – we also will need to optimize and blend solutions for food, for energy, for housing, for health. Locally planned and designed nature-based solutions will be the foundations for all aspects of life in a prosperous and equitable 21st century Africa”.

The study points out the key requirement for such holistic nature-based solutions being local decision-making and empowerment in the selection, design, implementation and ownership of solutions, thus satisfying the increasing requirements for equity and justice at all levels of society, and particularly for indigenous people and local communities whose local knowledge and cultures are foundational to sustainable living.

The study highlights the critical planning approach that will be foundational to delivering climate, biodiversity and other societal solutions – the blending of human and nature’s needs across what the study calls ‘multi-functional scapes’. These refer to landscapes, seascapes and freshwater-scapes that must include mosaics of protected areas, climate refugia and migration corridors, supporting diversified and sustainable farming, fishing, aquaculture and forestry, and the urban and infrastructure spaces we will need in the 21st century.

The recently-adopted global biodiversity targets cover many of the elements that will need to be achieved by countries across many of these ‘multi-functional scapes’ as do elements from other global agreements, including on climate change, disaster risk reduction, feeding all people healthy diets, and global or ‘one’ health. Local planning of appropriate nature-based solutions meeting peoples challenges across multi-functional scapes could enable sustainable development across all of Africa’s lands and waters

The study concludes with pointing out the potential for this approach to help countries meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Of particular importance to African countries for whom nature is one of the only major assets with which to support rapidly growing populations and build sustainable economies, the study points to a development pathway beyond 2030 founded on biodiversity and climate solutions, integrating all other development goals, to sustainably resolve today’s challenges and pre-empt tomorrow’s. To succeed however, the continent (as will other continents) must invest in transformative change, including developing suitable incentives and conditions for positive economic and social tipping points, transformed education and institutions, and greater attention to equity and justice for all people and for future generations.


The international team of researchers that prepared the paper was co-led by Hans-Otto Pörtner from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Germany, and the late Robert Scholes, of the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). This web article, by CORDIO East Africa, focuses on the implications of the paper for Africa.  

Original publication:

H.-O. Pörtner, R. J. Scholes, A. Arneth, D.K.A. Barnes, M.T. Burrows, S.E. Diamond, C.M. Duarte, W. Kiessling, P. Leadley, S. Managi, P. McElwee, G. Midgley, H.T. Ngo, D.Obura, U. Pascual, M. Sankaran, Y.J. Shin, A.L. Val: Overcoming the coupled climate and biodiversity crises and their societal impacts. Science (2023). DOI: