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Urban Environmental Management

Climate Change, Biodiversity and Desertification
Interlinkages among the Big Three

Hari Srinivas
Continuing Research Series E-017. June 2015.

Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) are agreements drawn up between national governments to solve global environmental problems such as climate change. These agreements are proposed, negotiated and agreed on (and signed) under the auspices of the United Nations.

One of the key outputs of the Rio Summit was to highlight and focus attention on the environment, spawning as a result a host of conventions, conferences and other activities related to myriad environmental issues. The outcome of these processes were the three MEAs on Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Desertification have presented a triple challenge both governments and NGOs.

With the objective of adapting a holistic view by integrating the three issues together, The Trialogue is presented as a means of comparing, coordinating and consolidating activities and information related to the three conventions. Focus is placed on providing information on the conventions, and specifically highlighting the activities and actions of NGOs.

The MEAs on climate change (UNFCCC), Biodiversity (UNCBD) and desertification (UNCCD) are collectively called the "Big Three" agreements or the "Rio Conventions"

Did you know?
2 Feb is Wetlands Day
22 May is Biodiversity Day
5 June is Environment Day
17 June is Desertification Day
Climate Change

Climate Change
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Human activities are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and rising levels of greenhouse gases are expected to cause drastic climate change. The faster the climate changes, the greater will be the risk of damage. Temperatures are expected to raise by 1 to 3.5 deg.C by 2100. The mean sea level is expected to rise 1595 cm by the year 2100, causing flooding of low-lying areas and other damage. Climatic zones (and thus ecosystems and agricultural zones) could shift towards the poles by 150550 km in the mid-latitude regions. Forests, deserts, rangelands, and other unmanaged ecosystems would face new climatic stresses.


UN Convention on Biological Diversity

The term "biological diversity" is commonly used to describe the number and variety of living organisms on the planet. It is defined in terms of genes, species, and ecosystems which are the outcome of over 3,000 million years of evolution. The human species depends on biological diversity for its own survival. The Earth's biological resources are vital to humanity's economic and social development. As a result, there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to present and future generations. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been so great as it is today. Species extinction caused by human activities continues at an alarming rate.


UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Land degradation is continuing and increasing at an alarming pace, seriously eroding the world's precious store of productive land. When it happens in the world's drylands it often creates desert-like conditions and is called "desertification". This process happens piecemeal as different areas of degraded land spread and merge together, rather than through advancing desert. The definition agreed by the world's leaders at the 1992 Earth Summit and adopted by the Convention is: "land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities."

The Trialogue is an initiative of the Global Development Research Center, jointly developed by three GDRC programmes of Urban Environmental Management, Non-Governmental Organizations, and Sustainable Development.

Other MEA-related outputs from GDRC work initiatives include:

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