Investing to Save Earth’s Vanishing Biodiversity

Executive Secretary of the Conference on Biological Diversity addresses the High-Level Segment of the conference taking place in Egypt this month. November 14, 2018, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt (Photo courtesy Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity)

Executive Secretary of the Conference on Biological Diversity addresses the High-Level Segment of the conference taking place in Egypt this month. November 14, 2018, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt (Photo courtesy Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity)

By Sunny Lewis

SHARM El SHEIKH, Egypt, November 15, 2018 ( News) – “Investing in Biodiversity for People and Planet,” is the theme of the UN Biodiversity Conference taking place in Egypt from now through the end of November. Officials from 190 countries have gathered to halt the loss of animals and plants and protect the ecosystems that support the livelihoods of billions.

Voluntary public and private commitments, with a review mechanism to ensure accountability, are encouraged, to step up the implementation of biodiversity targets.

This year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), will be the last opportunity to assess progress towards the achievement of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

It allows two years to identify effective actions and tools for implementation of the Plan before its final evaluation in 2020, when a new global biodiversity framework will be adopted.

Back in 2010, in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity adopted a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for the 2011-2020 period, including the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

This revised and updated Plan provides an overarching framework on biodiversity, not only for the biodiversity-related conventions, but for the entire United Nations system and all other partners engaged in biodiversity management and policy development.

The first of the Aichi targets is simple: By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.

The second Aichi target is more complex: By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.

The 20th and last Aichi target is the most important for accomplishment of all the rest: By 2020, at the latest, the mobilization of financial resources for effectively implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Mobilization should increase substantially from 2010 levels.

Today at the Biodiversity Conference in Egypt, CBD Executive Director Cristiana Pașca Palmer opened the High-level Segment. “More than 80 ministers attended and I invited them to collaborate and be bold and visionary when it comes to the execution of our common vision: Living in Harmony with Nature by 2050.”

“I underscored that we need to save the planet to save ourselves, and for that we need to place biodiversity at the core of all economic and political decisions,” said Palmer.

Representing the European Union at the High-Level Segment, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said, “Biodiversity – nature – is our life-support system. The current rate at which we are losing our wildlife and ecosystems is an existential threat as worrying as climate change.”

“I am encouraged by the growing awareness of the links between the two, also at high-level international events such as this one and the upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Poland. Protecting biodiversity on land as in the ocean is important for future generations, but also for our current wellbeing,” said Vella.

Contributing more than €350 million per year on biodiversity in developing countries, the EU is the world’s biggest donor for the protection of biodiversity.

The European delegation, headed by Commissioner Vella, will aim to bring biodiversity policy to the political forefront to prepare for an ambitious and united outcome at the Conference of the Parties (COP15) in China in 2020.

The EU will call for integrating nature objectives in the sectors of industry, mining, energy and infrastructure.

All the parties are expected to adopt a joint Declaration to that end.

Commissioner Vella also will sign the EU’s joining of the Coalition of the Willing for Pollinators, as foreseen in the recent EU Initiative on Pollinators, to support a strong, coordinated international response to the decline of pollinators.

There are many signs that the diversity of life on Earth is being pushed to the brink of extinction by human activities.

Since 1964, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has maintained the Red List of Threatened Species, the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.

Currently there are more than 96,500 species on The IUCN Red List, and more than 26,500 are threatened with extinction – 40 percent of amphibians, 34 percent of conifers, 33 percent of reef building corals, 25 percent of mammals and 14 percent of birds.

In its review of the Aichi targets, the IUCN said in a position paper for the CBD conference, “Despite many positive actions, most of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets are not on track to be achieved by 2020.”

“Less than two years before the 2020 deadline, IUCN emphasizes that focused, concerted and strategic action is urgently needed,” the organization warns.

But there are hopeful signs that conservation efforts can have positive outcomes.

Conservation action has brought renewed hope for the Fin Whale and the Mountain Gorilla, according to a November 14 update of The IUCN Red List. The Fin Whale has improved in status from Endangered to Vulnerable following bans on whaling, while the Mountain Gorilla subspecies has moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered thanks to collaborative conservation efforts.

Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General said, “These conservation successes are proof that the ambitious, collaborative efforts of governments, business and civil society could turn back the tide of species loss.”

“Unfortunately,” said Andersen, “the latest update also underlines how threats to biodiversity continue to undermine some of society’s most important goals, including food security. We urgently need to see effective conservation action strengthened and sustained. The ongoing UN biodiversity summit in Egypt provides a valuable opportunity for decisive action to protect the diversity of life on our planet.”

In another sign of the continuing decline of biodiversity, the global conservation group WWF issued its biannual “Living Planet Report – 2018: Aiming Higher,” compiled with the Zoological Society of London, on October 29.

It shows that populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have, on average, declined in size by 60 percent in just over 40 years.

The WWF report shows that the biggest drivers of the current biodiversity loss are overexploitation and agriculture, both linked to continually increasing human consumption.

The global population of giraffes is decreasing. Native to East Africa, the Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchii), also called Kilimanjaro giraffe, is the largest subspecies of giraffe. October 22, 2018, Naivasha Lake, Kenya. (Photo by Linda De Volder) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

The global population of giraffes is decreasing. Native to East Africa, the Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchii), also called Kilimanjaro giraffe, is the largest subspecies of giraffe. October 22, 2018, Naivasha Lake, Kenya. (Photo by Linda De Volder) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Marco Lambertini, director general WWF International, writes in his foreword to the report, “We have known for many years that we are driving the planet to the brink. The astonishing decline in wildlife populations shown by the latest Living Planet Index – a 60 percent fall in just over 40 years – is a grim reminder and perhaps the ultimate indicator of the pressure we exert on the planet.”

“The nature conservation agenda is not only about securing the future of tigers, pandas, whales and all the amazing diversity of life we love and cherish on Earth. It’s bigger than that. There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilized climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all.”

“In the next years, we need to urgently transition to a net carbon neutral society and halt and reverse nature loss – through green finance, clean energy and environmentally friendly food production. We must also preserve and restore enough land and ocean in a natural state,” wrote Lambertini. “Few people have the chance to be a part of truly historic transformations. This is ours.”

Featured image source: Mountain Gorilla, Virunga National Park, Rwanda, December 2, 2009 (Photo by Bradford Duplisea) Creative Commons license via Flickr.


167 Nations Act to Protect Biodiversity

phpg4fstmBy Sunny Lewis

CANCUN, Mexico, December 20, 2016 ( News) – To safeguard the full spectrum of diverse living creatures, the UN Biodiversity Conference opened December 2 with a call to governments and businesses to integrate biodiversity into their practices.

By the time the final gavel struck early Saturday morning, governments from 167 countries had agreed on actions to integrate biodiversity considerations into the forestry, fisheries, agriculture and tourism sectors and to achieve the UN’s 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

Governments followed through on the commitments in the Cancun Declaration made by ministers at the high-level segment of the meeting held December 2 and 3.

Parties agreed to advance mainstreaming biodiversity, the main theme of the meeting proposed by the government of Mexico.

They will work to further capacity development and the mobilization of financial resources as well as actions on specific themes: protected areas, ecosystem restoration, sustainable wildlife management and others.


A plenary session during the two-week Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, Mexico, December 2016. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

Parties agreed to employ an integrated approach that would promote cross-sectoral linkages and links among efforts to implement national biodiversity strategies and action plans and Sustainable Development Goal strategies and plans.

Governments demonstrated their commitment to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and showed that the biodiversity agenda is central and essential to the global sustainable development and climate change agendas,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, executive secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

With the integration of three meetings addressing the Convention and its two Protocols, the world community also realized the importance of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing in effectively contributing to the Targets and sustainable development,” said de Souza.

We received impressive commitments from governments, including excellent ones from the government of Mexico, in support of many of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets which gives us the momentum we need to achieve our goals by 2020,” de Souza said.


On the final day of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the leaders take pride in their accomplishments, from left: David Cooper, deputy executive secretary, CBD; Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, COP 13 president; and CBD executive secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, December 18, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

Mexico’s Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Rafael Pacchiano Alamán said, “The agenda of mainstreaming biodiversity provided Mexico with the momentum to conclude agreements which had eluded us for decades, such as the alignment of agricultural subsidies to preserve forests, or the protection of a vast proportion of our seas.

In Cancun, the Mexican government announced the creation of a 5.7 million hectare biosphere reserve that will be the country’s largest natural protected area. The Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve will take in virtually the entire coast of the state of Quintana Roo.

For the next two years, Mexico will work with countries to translate the principles of the Cancun Declaration into legislation, policies and actions to meet the commitments we made,” Pacchiano said.

The Parties agreed on an action plan (2017-2020) that will enhance and support capacity-building for the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols based on the needs of Parties with a focus on strengthening the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

All stakeholders were encouraged to improve conservation and management of pollinators, such as bees, address drivers of pollinator declines, and work towards sustainable food production systems and agriculture.

COP 13 adopted a short term plan of action on ecosystem restoration, as a contribution to “reversing the loss of biodiversity, recovering connectivity, improving ecosystem resilience, enhancing the provision of ecosystem services, mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, combating desertification and land degradation, and improving human well-being while reducing environmental risks and scarcities,” the Secretariat observed.

Parties welcomed a new set of areas described from regional workshops as ecologically or biologically significant marine areas in the Seas of East Asia, the North-West Indian Ocean and the North-East Indian Ocean.

Parties adopted a voluntary specific work plan to maintain and enhance the resilience of ecosystems in cold water areas within the scope of the Convention.

Parties noted the voluntary practical guidance on preventing and mitigating the impacts of marine debris on marine and coastal biodiversity and habitats. The guidance contains actions to enhance understanding of the scale and impacts of marine debris, improve waste management and recycling, reduce the production and consumption of plastics, increase production of environmentally friendlier materials and other actions.

COP 13 adopted a decision that welcomes the Paris Agreement on climate and encourages Parties and other governments, when developing their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INSCs) , to fully take into account the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems. It encourages Parties to take biodiversity into consideration when undertaking climate change mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures.

The Parties requested the Executive Secretary to prepare, in collaboration with relevant organizations, voluntary guidelines for the design and effective implementation of ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

COP 13 took steps to ensure that traditional knowledge relevant to conservation and sustainable use is protected and its use is encouraged with the consent of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Naoko Ishii, chief executive officer of the Global Environment Facility, the financial mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity, was pleased with the progress made in Cancun.

We applaud and support the global community’s commitment made during this COP to integrate biodiversity considerations into the activities of other critical sectors of our economies: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism; and value it’s natural capital for sustainable development, as expressed in the Cancun Declaration,” she said.

We also feel encouraged by the strong support of many donor and recipient countries to maintain consistency with our current biodiversity programming strategy with integrated approaches in response to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, while seeking out new innovative and creating financing opportunities,” said Ishii.

Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 196 Parties so far, the Convention has near universal participation among countries.

The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing are supplementary agreements to the Convention.

The Cartagena Protocol, which entered into force on September 11, 2003, seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. To date, 170 Parties have ratified the Cartagena Protocol.

The Nagoya Protocol aims at sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies. It entered into force on October 12, 2014 and to date has been ratified by 93 Parties.

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