19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God

(Romans 8: 19-21).

The times we live in show that we are not relating to the Earth as a gift from our Creator, but rather as a resource to be used. And yet, there is hope…To hope…does not mean to stand still and quiet, but rather groaning, crying, and actively striving for new life amidst the struggles. Just as in childbirth, we go through a period of intense pain, but new life springs forth 

(Season of Creation 2024).

Intertwined crises

Life on Earth and the systems needed for life to flourish are at extreme risk. The intertwined crises of climate change and biodiversity loss pose the gravest threats to the ability of humans and much of the natural world to survive and flourish on Earth, God’s unique living creation.  The interplay between global warming caused by the continued burning of fossil fuels and unabated natural resource extraction and consumption is tearing apart the web of species and ecosystems that anchor all life, threatening livelihoods, health, food and water sources, as well as intensifying the impacts of natural disasters, harming the most vulnerable and increasing injustices globally. 

As we observe the increasing frequency and destructive power of extreme weather events – including the recent severe floods in southern Brazil, Kenya and the UAE, drought in Panama and southern Africa, and record-breaking heatwaves in the Sahel and across Asia – and the accelerating loss of species in many parts of the world, we are called to act now in hope and with creation!

Linking climate change and biodiversity

Responding to these challenges, two major global environmental conferences are scheduled to take place later this year: the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP16) happening in Cali, Colombia, on 21 October-4 November 2024, and the UN Climate Conference (COP29) happening in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 11-22 November 2024. These two events must be seen as interlinked in light of the close connections between the biodiversity and climate crises. 

On the one hand, biodiversity is a key factor in mitigating climate change as well as in alleviating its impacts. Healthy ecosystems serve as carbon sinks. This is estimated to have removed around 60% of global emissions since the Industrial Revolution.[1] In addition, biodiversity increases the resilience of ecosystems, reducing climate impacts (such as floods) on landscapes and communities. Therefore biodiversity protection and restoration are an essential dimension of climate action.

On the other hand, climate change is expected to severely disturb ecosystems and trigger further biodiversity loss. Studies estimate that the impact of global warming of 2 degrees Celsius could leave 5% of all species at risk of extinction.[2] At higher rises in temperature, climate change could drive half of the known species on Earth to extinction. While the destruction of forests and grasslands for agriculture is currently the foremost driver of biodiversity decline, climate change is the second biggest cause of biodiversity loss in the ocean and the fourth biggest cause on land.[3] With record and rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, climate change is expected to have a more significant impact on biodiversity in the near future. 

Both crises compound challenges regarding access to land, natural water sources, and food for millions of people around the world. Given the impact of these crises on access to these essential resources, we must address this nexus by developing integrated strategies to promote the sustainable use of resources, support ecosystems, and enhance food sovereignty and access to clean water. 

Addressing accelerated biodiversity loss and runaway climate change together is critical for ensuring a liveable planet that provides for peoples’ livelihoods and basic needs as well as promotes the flourishing of all life. Both demand urgent and systemic changes that will move us away from extractive economies seeking limitless profit and expansion toward more just, sustainable and caring models of living. However, progress by governments towards achieving the goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (2022)[4] and the Paris Agreement (2015) has been inadequate and too slow to meet the scale and speed of the crisis. Moreover, the ongoing commercialization of the climate change crisis through unrealistic interventions aimed at making profit instead of pursuing real solutions is putting the welfare of all creation at risk.

Focus on Colombia

Colombia, the venue of this meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) executive committee and of the upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference, is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. However, its biodiversity is plummeting due to unsustainable land use, particularly for agriculture, cattle ranching and mining. More than 10% of the 3,429 known animal species in the country – many endemic to Colombia – are threatened.[5] The country contributes only 0.6% of global CO2 emissionsbut is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, regularly experiencing damaging floods and droughts. However, deforestation appears to be slowing down in recent years, declining by 29% in 2022 as “a result of what is probably the first peace process in history to put the environment at the centre.”[6]

A focus on Colombia, together with other conflict situations on the agenda of the executive committee such as Gaza, Sudan and Ukraine, also serves to highlight the impact of war on the environment, both in terms of the direct environmental damage due to armed violence, and the CO2 emissions generated by the machinery of war – as well as the impediments that conflict anywhere poses to the urgently needed international cooperation to address these global crises.

Upholding human rights

Defending 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity, Indigenous communities play a pivotal role in biodiversity and climate protection. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework clearly links issues of biodiversity conservation with human rights, including rights of Indigenous Peoples to lands, territories, and resources; recognition of the values, knowledge, and contributions of Indigenous Peoples to biodiversity conservation; and access to justice and protection of environmental human rights defenders, many of whom are Indigenous.

The international community needs to keep human rights in the spotlight as Azerbaijan hosts the UN Climate Conference. Among other concerns, we recall the unlawful detention until today of 23 officials from Karabagh after the ending of the Lachin corridor blockade, adding to hundreds of other political prisoners in Azerbaijan. Moreover, with oil and gas making up nearly 90% of Azerbaijan’s export revenues, and with the government's strong ties to the oil and gas industry, domestic and international climate activists could face reprisals. 

Financing biodiversity and climate protection

Finance will be a bone of contention at both Biodiversity and Climate COPs. COP29 in particular is expected to establish a new climate finance goal.

Safeguarding biodiversity and the climate entails massive investments. According to various studies, the projected amounts required to respond to the biodiversity crisis and the climate emergency are USD 722-967 billion[7] and USD 2.4[8]-4.3 trillion[9] per year, respectively, by 2030. Such investments in the health of our planet do not only yield social and environmental benefits, but would also help to reduce the economic costs of climate change estimated to run up to tens of trillions of dollars annually.[10]

Founded on the polluter pays principle, wealthy nations who are more responsible for and have benefited the most from global development must help pay for global environmental crises, including funding biodiversity restoration, adaptation measures, and a just transition to a renewable energy-based economy in low-income countries, as well as contributing to the loss and damage fund being set up to support communities suffering the brunt of global warming. This is a matter of justice.

Debt cancellation for least developed countries and international tax reform can raise resources to meet the financing gap[11] and address inequalities that impede climate action. In particular, the creation of an international tax convention and a unitary tax system could support investment in environmental objectives. Eliminating subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and cutting military spending could also redirect financial flows towards biodiversity and climate protection.

In the spirit of hope and action with creation, the WCC executive committee meeting in Bogota, Colombia, from 6 to 11 June 2024:


Calls on churches to

  • Learn from Indigenous spiritualities and practices that safeguard biodiversity and climate.
  • Mobilize their constituencies and communities of faith to exert pressure and build political will for deep-seated and timely climate action without further degrading the ecosystem or imperilling the most vulnerable.
  • Hold governments accountable for reaching biodiversity and climate targets.
  • Support the Ecocide Law, the FFNPT and the ecumenical Zacchaeus Tax Campaign linking tax justice with ecological justice.
  • “Walk the talk” and take institutional actions to combat biodiversity decline and climate change through educational awareness, advocacy, liturgy and prayer (such as the Season of Creation Campaign), land regeneration, biodiversity restoration, climate-responsible financial practices, and exchange of success stories, among others. 

Calls on governments convening for the Biodiversity and Climate COPs to

  • Resist corporate lobbying and act courageously and with the urgency necessary to address the threat to God’s creation and all life posed by the biodiversity and climate crises.
  • Take a coordinated approach both at international and national levels to tackle biodiversity decline and climate change in a holistic way, and to make obligatory annual budgetary provision for climate action and biodiversity protection at the national level.
  • Define a clear pathway to a full, fast, fair and funded fossil fuel phase-out.
  • Step up Nationally Determined Contributions in line with meeting the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Promote community-rooted, nature-based solutions that both support biodiversity and help tackle climate change.
  • Place human rights at the core of the UN Biodiversity and Climate COPs especially by recognizing and protecting Indigenous Peoples’ rights and the rights of other vulnerable and marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities; fully respecting the rights of international and domestic climate activists; as well as realizing the rights to land, water, and food.
  • Intentionally integrate issues of land, natural water resources, and food in the UN Biodiversity and Climate COPs.
  • Recognize and protect the inherent dignity and right of all life, flora and fauna, to survive through the development and implementation of policies and legal frameworks such as the Ecocide Law.
  • Radically scale up targets for and deliver biodiversity and climate finance, primarily from wealthy countries and largest historical emitters of greenhouse gases, in line with the needs and priorities of poor and vulnerable countries, at the required scale, and in grants instead of loans.
  • Pursue debt cancellation for least developed countries and international tax reform to finance biodiversity and climate protection and to tackle inequalities.


[1] https://www.wur.nl/web/show/id=23100425/langid=2534858 

[2] https://www.wur.nl/web/show/id=23100425/langid=2534858 

[3] https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/how-are-climate-change-and-biodiversity-loss-linked.html 

[4] https://www.cbd.int/article/cop15-final-text-kunming-montreal-gbf-221222 

[5] https://earth.org/deforestation-in-colombia/ 

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jul/12/colombia-deforestation-amazon-rainforest-peace 

[7] https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-insights/perspectives/closing-nature-funding-gap-global-biodiversity-finance/ 

[8] https://www.sustainabilityenvironment.com/2024/02/08/negotiations-on-the-climate-finance-post-2025-begin-the-dossier-at-the-heart-of-the-cop29-in-baku/ 

[9] https://www.climatepolicyinitiative.org/publication/global-landscape-of-climate-finance-a-decade-of-data/ 

[10] https://www.pik-potsdam.de/en/news/latest-news/38-trillion-dollars-in-damages-each-year-world-economy-already-committed-to-income-reduction-of-19-due-to-climate-change 

[11] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-021-01619-5