Biodiversity In Peril
Sustainable development, and increasingly the stabilization of climate, depend more on biodiversity than we realized even a decade ago. Extinction, deforestation, overfishing, and pollution all restrict human abilities to nourish the planet.
At a meeting in Aichi, Japan, representatives of 194 nations formalized these global priorities. A report called Global Biodiversity Outlook 4, released this week, demonstrates that “with concerted efforts at all levels,” we can still achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. If we do, we will also “significantly contribute to the broader global priorities of eliminating poverty, improving human health and providing energy, food, and clean water for all.”
The world diversity plan report came at an especially important time: the start of a huge worldwide biodiversity meeting in South Korea, with 20,000 government officials, environmentalists, and business people attending.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has urged all countries and stakeholders to include biodiversity in planning, recognize that biodiversity contributes to solving development challenges, and increase our efforts to achieve biodiversity goals. He noted that recognition and follow-up, as outlined in the world diversity plan, could help lead to a meaningful, legal climate change agreement by the critical Paris conference next December.
Braulio de Souza Dias, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, told Alister Doyle of Reuters:
“There has been an increase in effort [by governments]… but this will not be enough to reach the targets…. Despite individual success stories, the average risk of extinction for birds, mammals, and amphibians is still increasing…. Many big companies still refuse to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their supply chain.”
The Global Biodiversity Outlook reports significant progress on some components of the Aichi targets. The goal of protecting at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water areas in parks or reserves, for example, is right on target. Targets missed so far include cutting the rate of natural habitat loss by 50 percent and preventing extinctions of species known to be threatened.
In most cases, current reports indicate that we will not be able to meet the 2020 objectives of the world biodiversity plan without taking additional action. Five broad goals represent target strategies here:
- Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society.
- Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use.
- Strategic Goal C: Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity.
- Strategic Goal D: Enhance benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services.
- Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management, and capacity-building.
Each involves a number of subgoals. The report shows that only 10% (five of the 53 total objectives) is on target or ahead of schedule. It’s important to note that none of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets can be tackled alone. Many strongly depend on some or all of the other goals of the world biodiversity plan being implemented.
Agriculture and its collateral activities make up 70% of the projected terrestrial biodiversity losses. We need to assertively address sustainable farming and current trends in food systems. By restoring ecosystem services in agricultural areas, reducing waste, cutting losses in supply chains, and paying close attention to shifts in consumption patterns, we may be able to reach the point of sustainable farming and raise food system productivity to a level that will support a burgeoning world population.
Below, we list key potential actions for accelerating progress toward each target at the end of this article. Overall, important targets relating to the underlying causes of biodiversity loss (Strategic Goal A contains most of these) are developing national implementation plans for the Aichi targets (Target 17), and mobilizing financial resources (Target 20). The world’s price tag for reaching the 2020 biodiversity goals is now estimated at between $150-440 billion a year.
Keys To Saving Biodiversity
Strategic Goal A
- Coherent, strategic and sustained communication efforts, strategies and campaigns to increase awareness of biodiversity and its values, and of ways to support its conservation and sustainable use.
- Better use of the social sciences, including an understanding of the social, economic and cultural drivers motivating behaviour and their interplay, in order to improve the design of communication and engagement campaigns and of relevant policies.
- The further compilation of environmental statistics and building environmental-economic accounts, including developing and maintaining national accounts of biodiversity-related natural resource stocks (such as forests and water) and where possible, integrating these into national financial accounts.
- Developing and implementing policy plans, including priorities and timelines, leading to the removal, phasing out, or reform of harmful subsidies in cases where candidate incentives and subsidies for elimination, phase-out or reform are already known, taking timely action.
- Better targeting and integration of agri-environmental schemes and other policy instruments towards desired biodiversity outcomes.
- Strengthening partnerships among companies and industry associations, civil society and government agencies, in an accountable and transparent manner, to promote sustainable practices that address biodiversity.
Strategic Goal B
- Developing integrated policies to address habitat loss and degradation, covering positive and negative incentives; engagement with sectoral groups, indigenous and local communities, landowners, other stakeholders and the general public; effective protected area networks and other area based conservation measures; and enforcement of relevant regulations and laws.
- Making greater use of innovative fisheries management systems, such as community co-management, that provide fishers and local communities with a greater stake in the long-term health of fish stocks combined with the elimination, phasing out or reform of subsidies that contribute to excess fishing capacity, phasing out destructive fishing practices and further developing marine protected area networks.
- Making agriculture more efficient, including through improved targeting and efficiency of fertilizer, pesticide and water use, reducing post harvest losses and minimizing food waste, and promoting sustainable diets.
- Reducing nutrient pollution by improving nutrient use efficiency in agriculture to reduce losses to the environment, enhancing treatment and recycling of sewage and industrial waste water, eliminating phosphates from detergent’s and the conservation and restoration of wetlands.
- Increasing efforts to identify and control the main pathways responsible for species invasions, including through the development of border control or quarantine measures to reduce the likeli- hood of potentially invasive alien species being introduced, and making full use of risk analysis and international standards.
- Sustainably managing fisheries on coral reefs and closely associated ecosystems, combined with managing coastal zones and inland watersheds in an integrated manner in order to reduce pollution and other land-based activities that threaten these vulnerable ecosystems.
Strategic Goal C
- Expanding protected area networks and other effective area based conservation measures to become more representative of the planet’s ecological regions, of marine and coastal areas (including deep sea and ocean habitats), of inland waters and of areas of particular importance for biodiversity, including those that contain unique populations of threatened species.
- Improving and regularly assessing management effectiveness and equitability of protected areas and other area-based conservation measures.
- Developing species action plans aimed directly at particular threatened species.
- Ensuring that no species is subject to unsustainable exploitation for domestic or international trade, including by actions agreed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
- Promoting public policies and incentives that maintain local varieties of crops and indigenous breeds in production systems, including through increased cooperation with, and recognition of, the role of indigenous and local communities and farmers in maintaining in situ genetic diversity.
- Integrating the conservation of the wild relatives of domesticated crops and livestock in management plans for protected areas, conducting surveys of the location of wild relatives, and including this information in plans for the expansion or development of protected area networks.
Strategic Goal D
- Identifying, at the national level, with the involvement of relevant stakeholders, those ecosystems that are particularly important in providing ecosystem services, with particular attention to ecosystems upon which vulnerable groups are directly dependent for their health, nutrition and general well-being and livelihoods, as well as ecosys- tems that help to reduce risks from disasters.
- Reducing the pressures on and, where neces- sary, enhancing the protection and restoration of those ecosystems providing essential services (for example wetlands, coral reefs, rivers and forests and mountain areas as “water towers” among others).
- Identifying opportunities and priorities for restoration, including highly degraded ecosys- tems, areas of particular importance for ecosystem services and ecological connectivity, and areas undergoing abandonment of agricultural or other human-dominated use.
- Where feasible, making restoration an economically viable activity, by coupling employment and income generation with restoration activities.
- Putting in place, by 2015, legislative, administrative or policy measures and institutional structures for implementing the Nagoya Protocol; and undertaking associated awareness-raising and capacity building activities including by engaging with indigenous and local communities and the private sector.
Strategic Goal E
- Ensuring that national biodiversity strategies and action plans are up to date and aligned with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for example by setting national targets with corresponding indicators and monitoring mechanisms, with the participation of all stakeholders.
- Promoting initiatives that support traditional and local knowledge of biodiversity and promote customary sustainable use, including traditional health care initiative, strengthening opportunities to learn and speak indigenous languages, research projects and data collection using community based methodologies, and involving local and indigenous communities in the creation, control, governance and management of protected areas.
- Strengthening and promoting the further mobilization of and access to data by, for example, encouraging the use of common informatics standards and protocols, promoting a culture of data sharing, investing in digitization of natural history collections and promoting citizen scientists’ contributions to the body of biodiversity observations.
- Establishing or strengthening monitoring programmes, including monitoring of land-use change, providing near-real time information where possible, in particular for “hotspots” of biodiversity change.
- Developing national financial plans for biodiversity, as part of national biodiversity strategies and action plans, aligned, where possible, with national annual and multi-annual financial planning cycles.
- Increasing national and international flows of resources for biodiversity, broadening biodiversity funding sources including by exploring innovative financial mechanisms, such as subsidy reform and payment for ecosystem services schemes, recognizing that a range of funding sources will be needed.