Coping with environmental challenges: Climate and biodiversity action in UNESCO designated sites

13 - Climate Action
15 - Life on Land

UNESCO side event at the High-level political forum on Sustainable Development

6 July 2021, 01:30-03:00 pm CEST
Registration | Programme

Climate change is a threat multiplier: the impacts of pandemics like COVID-19 are likely to be exacerbated by climate change, as are extreme climate events, biodiversity loss and the water crisis. In fact, the most prominent risks to humanity are climate action failure and extreme weather events, according to the 2021 Global Risk Report*. We cannot afford to fail, and thankfully we have solutions to put us on the right path.

We know that biodiversity and climate change are strongly interlinked: climate action must go hand in hand with biodiversity protection. UNESCO's unique global network of designated sites are important models for building resilience to climate change and reconciling people and nature.

Through them, UNESCO combines science, policy and concrete solutions, in addition to providing policy guidance to its Member States on the impacts of climate change.

This unique network of over 2,000 sites around the world (1,121 World Heritage sites, 714 Biosphere Reserves and 169 UNESCO Global Geoparks), covering 6% of the Earth’s landmass, is accelerating local sustainable solutions through participatory governance and the combination of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, education, culture and communication. 



6 July 2021, 01:30-03:00 pm CEST 

Using concrete examples, this side event will highlight solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation

  • based on inclusive, transparent, and empowering governance processes,
  • adapted to local conservation, social and economic needs,
  • based on evidence provided by its unique global network of designated sites.

The side event will begin with a discussion on how to address climate change and biodiversity on land and in the Ocean from a scientific perspective focusing on the outcomes of the IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop report: Biodiversity and Climate Change**.
This will be followed by a ministerial-level dialogue with government representatives from Costa Rica and Italy on climate action and global policies with a focus on the G20 and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Representatives from the MAB Youth Network and the Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN) will also take the floor as actors of change and part of the solution.
The side event will be concluded with an interactive discussion.

Detailed Programme

Welcome remarks by the moderator and Opening
UNESCO designated sites: model regions to cope with climate change

  • Shamila Nair-Bedouelle
    UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences

Addressing climate change and biodiversity from the scientific perspective

  • Co-benefits from biodiversity protection and climate action: Insights from the joint IPBES/IPCC workshop

Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner
Co-chair of the Scientific Steering Committee, IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop, IPCC, Co-Chair, Working Group II, Professor and Head of the Department of Integrative Ecophysiology at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany

Dr. David Obura
IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop on biodiversity and climate change-Expert, IPBES, Global assessment-Coordinating lead author, Director Coastal Oceans Research and Development – Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa, Kenya

  • The Role of Marine Ecosystems

Dr. Paula Cristina Sierra Correa
Head of Research and Information, Colombia Marine and Coastal Research Institute (INVEMAR), Colombia

Ministerial dialogue
Climate action and global policies - The role and responsibility of G20 and Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

  • Dr. Abdulla Naseer

    Minister of State for Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Maldives

  • Mr. Ottavio Di Bella
    Deputy Chair of the G20 Environment Deputies Meeting (EDM) and on behalf of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, Italy
  • Dr. Melania Brenes Monge
    Vice-Minister for Education, Costa Rica
  • Ms Beverly Wade
    World Heritage Focal Point, Belize

Youth as agents of change and part of the solutions

  • Ms Rabecca Laibich
    AfriMAB Youth & Spokesperson MAB 50th anniversary, Kenya
  • Ms Gabriela Martínez
    Global MAB Youth Network (Ecuador), Executive Secretary at Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network (YoU-CAN), Ecuador

The way forward: The link between science, policy and concrete action


Final remarks and future ways to engage

  • Shamila Nair-Bedouelle
    Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO


The evidence is clear: a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable, but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted, building on ambitious emissions reductions. Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature – such as moving away from the conception of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits.

Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the Scientific Steering Committee, IPBES-IPCC co-sponsored workshop

Through its designated sites and the related conservation and protection standards that their designation entails, UNESCO supports lifelong transformative education and learning. UNESCO also recognizes the important role of cultural and natural heritage for climate action, including the potential of intangible cultural heritage and diverse knowledge systems as enablers for community-based climate resilience and adaptation.

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme is articulated around biosphere reserves which are model regions for implementing sustainable development. This year, biosphere reserves in 129 countries demonstrate how sustainable development goals are interlinked and must be addressed together at local and regional scales, in the framework of the MAB programme’s 50th anniversary.


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