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Climate Change & Environment Nexus Brief: Biodiversity and Sustainable Development

This nexus brief explores key challenges and issues related to biodiversity and the intrinsic linkages between ecosystems and sustainable development.
Multiple Authors
Interactions between biodiversity, climate change and land use  Source UNEP (2021b)
Figure 1. Interactions between biodiversity, climate change and land use Source: UNEP (2021b)


A healthy natural environment is critical to human health, well-being and prosperity, and underpins sustainable development. We depend on nature directly for the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Human activity has caused the loss and deterioration of habitat, and increasing risk of species extinction. Biodiversity loss is much more than an environmental problem – it is an urgent development challenge. It challenges development gains in many ways, such as through reduced nutritional security, poorer pollination and less productive and resilient agricultural systems, all of which jeopardise the challenge of reducing poverty. Biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other (Fig 1). Neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together.

This nexus brief* sheds light on key challenges and issues related to biodiversity, on the intrinsic linkages between ecosystems and sustainable development, and on the implications for development cooperation. It highlights some of the work of the SDC in promoting biological diversity and fostering socio-economic development around the world.

*This weADAPT article is an abridged version of the original text, which can be downloaded from the right-hand column. Please access the original text for more detail, research purposes, full references, or to quote text(This brief is available in Spanish and French under Further Resources below).

Key Messages

  • Biodiversity and the multitude of essential services we receive from ecosystems are central to our economies, societies and well-being. Biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history and we are currently using these ecosystem services at a pace more than 1.6 times faster than the rate nature can sustainably provide. Given the estimate that more than half the world’s gross domestic product is dependent on nature, the loss of ecosystems has already become a significant threat to the global economy and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Climate change is increasingly a driver of biodiversity loss and addressing the climate and biodiversity crises in a coordinated way – such as through ecosystem restoration or agroforestry – contributes to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to the conservation of biodiversity at the same time. In addition to this coordinated, holistic approach, the scaling-up of nature-based solutions is essential in the effort to reverse the trend of environmental degradation.
  • Development cooperation can make a difference in this effort through the mainstreaming of biodiversity and ecosystem services into policies and plans, through targeted project activities and through the support of multilateral funding vehicles. A growing number of projects testify to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation commitment to mainstream biodiversity and promote nature-based solutions.

Relevance for development cooperation

Development partners are key in leveraging finance and technical capacity to support biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. On the one hand, development cooperation can support biodiversity by direct activities such as agroforestry or protected area projects. On the other hand, development cooperation can support biodiversity mainstreaming in policy frameworks and in specific sector policies, plans and projects.

The Swiss government provides funding to various environment-related financing mechanisms for developing countries – the Global Environment Facility, the Green Climate Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund, the Special Climate Change Fund and the Adaptation Fund – and provides core contributions to WWF and to an IUCN programme on the integration of healthy ecosystems into the SDGs.

On the project or programme level, the SDC has integrated biodiversity as a cross-cutting issue in the framework of natural resource management in some cooperation strategies and programmes and in Global Programmes. For example:

  • Support for the development of sustainable and resilient organic agriculture in the context of climate change in Tunisia (BIOREST)
    • the project will apply principles of climate-smart agriculture for the sustainable development of climate change resilient agricultural systems, and thus leading to job creation and food security for Tunisian citizens.
  • Enabling development through landmine clearance in the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, Zimbabwe
    • the project will help clear a contaminated landmine area in the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, supporting wildlife conservation, creating usable agricultural land and educating communities about landmine risks.
  • Gulf of Mottama project, Myanmar (final phase)


Authors: Madeleine Guyer (INFRAS), Myriam Steinemann (INFRAS), Nina Saalismaa (Zoï Environment Network)

Review and inputs by: Patrick Sieber (SDC), Philippe Brunet (SDC), Simon Dünnenberger (SDC), Henning Nohr (IUCN)

Design and Layout: Zoï Environment Network

Suggested Citation

Guyer M., Steinemann M., and Saalismaa N. (2022), Biodiversity and Sustainable Development. Climate Change & Environment Nexus Brief. Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation: Bern, Switzerland.

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