How USAID helps to advance climate and biodiversity solutions


"As one of the world’s largest biodiversity conservation funders, USAID is working to advance win-win solutions for climate and biodiversity."

The latest findings of the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) provide a stark assessment of how human activities are “unequivocally” resulting in warmer land, warmer and more acidic oceans, and rising sea levels, and that these changes are accelerating. The 2019 Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) global assessment report offered a similarly stark message: climate change is the third largest threat to the planet’s biodiversity, and the ecosystem services this provides to humanity are declining faster than at any time in human history.

During the recent gathering at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), President Biden and Administrator Samantha Power made several announcements which highlight USAID’s critical role in combating climate change. These include plans to help partner countries prevent 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, a commitment to conserve 100 million hectares of carbon-storing ecosystems, and new initiatives such as the President's Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) which mobilizes a whole-of-government approach to assist developing countries to adapt to and manage climate change impacts. As one of the world’s largest biodiversity conservation funders, USAID is working to advance win-win solutions for climate and biodiversity. The following are just a few of the many examples of USAID activities that aim to reduce climate impacts on biodiversity, increase the adaptive capacity of vulnerable systems, and avoid or sequester greenhouse gas emissions. 

A USAID-funded study in the Philippines indicates that current trends in ocean temperature and salinity could result in decreased habitat for many commercially-important fish species. To help address these worrying predictions, USAID partnered with the Government of the Philippines in the Fish Right activity to create and enhance networks of marine protected areas using ecological principles and participatory stakeholder processes. Through strengthened local and community-based governance and the application of an ecosystem approach to fisheries management, these protected areas aim to increase the resilience of fish stocks and local livelihoods. 

In the Caribbean, USAID’s Integrated Marine Ecosystem Management (IMEM) activity works to improve the management of marine protected areas in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Fertilizers and other inputs used in intensive farming operations in northern Hispaniola can drain into the ocean and degrade “blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrasses that sequester greenhouse gas emissions. By engaging local community members and private industry, IMEM seeks to catalyze behavioral change towards more sustainable farming methods that reduce threats to biodiversity, protect carbon-storing ecosystems, and improve farming yields. 

The USAID West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development (WABiLED) Program’s goal is to promote biodiversity conservation as well as alternative livelihoods that are climate resilient and low in greenhouse gas emissions. Activities include: enhancing collaboration among governments, communities, and the private sector to improve management of protected areas important to chimpanzees and other forest-dependent species; developing conservation-compatible livelihoods in surrounding communities; and strengthening land and resource rights through land tenure recognition processes. By improving the management and conservation of forest landscapes, these measures will reduce emissions from deforestation and increase carbon sequestration in the region. 

Through finance, partnerships, and scaling up of existing programs, USAID is strengthening its engagement with marginalized communities to advance Global Action for Climate Equity. USAID’s Natural Wealth activity supported the Government of Colombia to map natural resources and update land use plans in the Caribbean and Orinoquía regions. Engaging with Indigenous Peoples from the Arhuaco, Caño Mochuelo, and Yukpa communities ultimately led to the creation of Colombia’s first three Indigenous and Community Conservation Areas (ICCAs). ICCAs are areas that are governed, managed, and conserved by custodian Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Partnering with Indigenous People to conserve critical ecosystems such as dry forest and flooded savannas help to sequester or avoid greenhouse gas emissions and protect ecosystem services depended on by local communities. In Brazil, when Indigenous Peoples have legally recognized control of their territories, rates of deforestation are reduced by as much as 66 percent. 

Recognizing the intertwined nature of the biodiversity and climate change crises, USAID and its partners are finding solutions that support both biodiversity and climate change goals, while also achieving humanitarian and development objectives across sectors.