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Putting Biodiversity on the Front Line

It’s in the news ALL THE TIME: biodiversity is under fire and only humans are going to change the current trajectory we are headed in. There are all sorts of movements and campaigns happening on all levels of society from grassroots organizations like OC Habitats to global organizations like the Convention on Biological Diversity, and everything in-between. All of these efforts will culminate together to help protect the environment and the species, including people, that live there.

World leaders at the United Nations' Summit on Biodiversity. Photo from Convention on Biological Diversity.

On the larger scale of events, an environmental global summit on biodiversity, United Nations Summit on Biodiversity (Summit on Biodiversity), took place on September 30th, 2020, in New York. The summit brought together over 100 speakers, which included representatives from government, academia, faith-based organizations, indigenous peoples, youth, and more to discuss the future of biodiversity and sustainability on our planet. As we close out the year 2020, attending leaders acknowledge that the world has fallen short in achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets as set forth by the Decade of Biodiversity (2011-2020). The Aichi, which has a Japanese origin, means Light of Hope and its 20 target goals included:

  1. Awareness Increased

  2. Biodiversity values integrated

  3. Incentives Reformed

  4. Sustainable production and consumption

  5. Habitat Loss Halved or Reduced

  6. Sustainable management of marine living resources

  7. Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry

  8. Pollution reduced

  9. Invasive alien species prevented and controlled

  10. Pressures on vulnerable ecosystems reduced

  11. Protected areas increased and improved

  12. Extinction prevented

  13. Genetic diversity maintained

  14. Ecosystem and essential services safeguarded

  15. Ecosystems restored and resilience enhanced

  16. Nagoya Protocol in force and operational (equitable sharing of genetic resources)

  17. NBSAPs are adopted as policy instrument (National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans)

  18. Traditional knowledge respected and integrated

  19. Knowledge improved, shared and applied

  20. Financial resources from all sources increased.

The goal of the Summit on Biodiversity this past September was to put a fire under the upcoming 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (postponed from 2020 to 2021, Kunming, China) and to “accelerate” action for biodiversity, create and adopt effective and attainable post-2020 global biodiversity framework for the 2050 Vision of Living in Harmony with Nature Plan. The summit placed an emphasis on the urgency of change by 2030 to change the current course of degradation and potential biodiversity collapse on our natural world by developing a sustainable approach to all aspects of life on earth.

There were over 11 hours worth of discussions at the Summit of Biodiversity but some of the bigger takeaways included that pandemics like COVID-19 are due in part to the breakdown of biodiversity, breaking down the web of life and increasing chances of diseases to cross over from wildlife to humans. Organizations like The Independent are campaigning to stop poaching and illegal trade of wild animals in the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, gave statistics on the loss of biodiversity claiming humanity is waging war on nature by allowing mass extinction of species, degradation and loss of more than 60% of coral reefs due to overfishing, destructive practices, and climate change. China’s President, Xi Jinping, urged cooperation on climate change/carbon neutrality, while Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro, strongly defended the Amazon claiming international greed has caused most of the loss of habitat in this region. An indigenous activist from India, Soreng Archana, claimed that the most recent global pledge to protect 30% of land and seas could be hiding a potential land grab of indigenous and tribal lands. David Attenborough, a broadcaster and activist, called for increased annual funding and investment to halt the destruction of the natural world. He mentioned that Fauna & Flora International is leading the cause through its campaign supported by over 130 organizations to ask leaders to commit funding of $500 billion to protect nature. In another campaign effort, leaders from 64 countries created a Leaders’ Pledge for Nature which committed these countries and leaders to 10 overall goals (summarized):

  1. Green and Just response to current health and economic crisis

  2. Development and Implementation of ambitious and transformational framework post-2020 (2021-2030).

  3. Redouble efforts to end silo thinking and work together with other nations to face the loss of biodiversity challenges and other environmental issues.

  4. Commit to sustainable patterns of production and consumption, which include sustainable food systems

  5. Commit to aligning with the Paris Agreement on climate change

  6. Commit to ending environmental crimes

  7. Commit to mainstreaming biodiversity into relevant sectoral and cross-sectoral policies at all levels.

  8. Commit to integrating a “One-Health” approach

  9. Strengthen, transform and reform financial means of implementation and financial sectors to achieve human and planet health

  10. We commit to policies that are science-based, recognized traditional and indigenous knowledge, and will engage the whole society in this process.

With the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity to occur in the spring of 2021, it is clear that a coalition of organizations and governments are gearing up to make some hard decisions and big changes for the future. This conference will likely highlight what we failed to achieve in the last decade, how to remedy those failings and to make a significant, urgent and intense call to action for the coming decade. This is a heady task from any point of view but it is so necessary as the margin of error is slim at this point and damages may become irreversible in the near future. If the leaders and participants at these summits, conferences, and conventions can find ways that the majority, if not all, nations and peoples can understand, accept, and work together to implement sustainable and beneficial goals, the children of today will be more assured of a future that they can look forward to. Although our leaders are at the forefront of this movement, all people from all places need to take heed and be part of the solution. Our earth is at a crossroads and indecision, inactivity, and ignorance will not serve the survival of the people of this planet in the short, mid, or long term.

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