by Andrew Starc

The latest United Nations report on biodiversity has highlighted the failure of the world’s leaders to enact measures to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss within their own nations and across the globe.

In his forward to the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 report, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon declares that the world’s leaders, who in 2002 had agreed upon a range of objectives to reduce biodiversity loss by 2010, have failed to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level.

“Having reviewed all available evidence, including national reports submitted by Parties, this third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook concludes that the target has not been met. Moreover, the Outlook warns, the principal pressures leading to biodiversity loss are not just constant but are, in some cases, intensifying,” states Ki-Moon.

The report details several areas in which rate of biodiversity loss can be addressed . Some of the more salient points are summarised below:

  • Many actions in support of biodiversity have had significant and measurable results in particular areas and amongst targeted species and ecosystems. However, action to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity has not been taken on a sufficient scale to address the pressures on biodiversity in most places. There has been insufficient integration of biodiversity issues into broader policies, strategies and programmes, and the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss have not been addressed significantly. Actions to promote the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity receive a tiny fraction of funding compared to activities aimed at promoting infrastructure and industrial developments. Moreover, biodiversity considerations are often ignored when such developments are designed, and opportunities to plan in ways that minimise unnecessary negative impacts on biodiversity are missed. Actions to address the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss, including demographic, economic, technological, socio-political and cultural pressures, in meaningful ways, have also been limited.

  • The linked challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change must be addressed by policymakers with equal priority and in close co-ordination, if the most severe impacts of each are to be avoided.

  • Better protection of biodiversity should be seen as a prudent and cost-effective investment in risk-avoidance for the global community. The consequences of abrupt ecosystem changes on a large scale affect human security to such an extent, that it is rational to minimise the risk of triggering them – even if we are not clear about the precise probability that they will occur.

  • Scientific uncertainty surrounding the precise connections between biodiversity and human well-being, and the functioning of ecosystems, should not be used as an excuse for inaction.

  • Effective action to address biodiversity loss depends on addressing the underlying causes or indirect drivers of that decline, with a focus on undertaking:

Ø Much greater efficiency in the use of land, energy, fresh water and materials to meet growing demand.

Ø Use of market incentives, and avoidance of perverse subsidies to minimise unsustainable resource use and wasteful consumption.

Ø Strategic planning in the use of land, inland waters and marine resources to reconcile development with conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of multiple ecosystem services.

Ø Communication, education and awareness raising to ensure that as far as possible, everyone understands the value of biodiversity and what steps they can take to protect it, including through changes in personal consumption and behaviour.

  • The real benefits of biodiversity, and the costs of its loss, need to be reflected within economic systems and markets. Through regulation and other measures, markets can and must be harnessed to create incentives to safeguard and strengthen, rather than to deplete, our natural infrastructure.

  • Better decisions for biodiversity must be made at all levels and in all sectors, in particular the major economic sectors, and government has a key enabling role to play. National programmes or legislation can be crucial in creating a favourable environment to support effective “bottom-up” initiatives led by communities, local authorities, or businesses.

  • The action taken over the next decade or two, and the direction charted under the Convention on Biological Diversity, will determine whether the relatively stable environmental conditions on which human civilization has depended for the past 10,000 years will continue beyond this century. If we fail to use this opportunity, many ecosystems on the planet will move into new, unprecedented states in which the capacity to provide for the needs of present and future generations is highly uncertain.

You can view the entire report here: