Major conference on biodiversity warns against ‘business as usual’ behaviour, consumption

A young child plants a seedling in the dirt. (Image used under license from Shutterstock.com)

A young child plants a seedling in the dirt. (Image used under license from Shutterstock.com)

New York, 6 October 2014 – The parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity began meeting today as a new United Nations report on the status of biodiversity warned that much more efficient use of land, water, energy and materials are needed to meet globally-agreed targets by 2020.

“Bold and innovative action is urgently required if governments are to meet the globally-agreed Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its Aichi Targets by 2020,” the Montreal-based Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) said referring to the 20 biodiversity goals agreed upon in 2010 in the Japanese city of Nagoya in Aichi prefecture.

“The challenge of achievement of many of these targets stem from the reality that based on current trends, pressures on biodiversity will continue to increase at least until 2020 and that the status of biodiversity will continue to decline,” according to this latest progress report by the CBD.

The report, Global Diversity Outlook 4 was released today at the start of the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, known as COP-12, in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.

The report tracked progress made to date on the 20 targets and drew attention to the implications on broader sustainable development this century.

It also cautioned “that continuing with ‘business as usual’ in our present patterns of behaviour, consumption, production and economic incentives will not allow us to realize the vision of a world with ecosystems capable of meeting human needs into the future.”

Creating a strategy to substantially increase the resources available for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use is one of the key outcomes expected from the COP, expected to be part of a collection of decisions referred to as the “Pyeongchang Road Map”.

At the COP-12 opening, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner called for increased financial investment and policy action to protect biodiversity.

“Studies show that it will be difficult to reach the full set of the Aichi targets if we remain within the current trajectory, due to accumulated and increased pressures on the natural world,” he noted.

This meeting “provides a critical opportunity to inject renewed impetus into our commitment to the Aichi Targets – which remain within reach – and to shape the Sustainable Development Goals by revisiting national strategies and plans,” Mr. Steiner said in a UN interview on the sidelines of the meeting.

“We need to do more – and do it fast – to protect the very fabric of the natural world,” he added.

Mr. Steiner is one of about 20,000 representatives from 194 countries attending the conference, which through 17 October, will focus on “Biodiversity for sustainable development.” The participants will address agenda items that include a midterm evaluation of the 2011-2020 strategic plan for biodiversity and the application of the biodiversity goals to the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets contributes significantly to broader global priorities addressed by the post-2015 development agenda, the report has said, namely, reducing hunger and poverty, improving human heath, and ensuring a sustainably supply of energy, good and clean water.

In the report’s forward, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underlined the link between biodiversity and sustainable development, urging Members States and stakeholders everywhere to take the report’s conclusions into account in their planning and “redouble efforts” to achieve the targets.

The Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, said: “Our efforts can and must be strengthened by combining actions that address multiple drivers of biodiversity loss and multiple targets.”

“Measures required to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets also support the goals of greater food security, healthier populations and improved access to clean waters,” he added.

While the report shows “significant progress” towards meeting some components of the Aichi targets, the report notes that “reaching these joint objectives requires changes in society, including much more efficient use of land, water, energy and materials, rethinking our consumption habits and, in particular, major transformations of food production systems.”

According to the report, progress is reported in targets 11 (protected areas), 16 (Access and Benefit sharing of Genetic Resources) and 17 (Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan).

“Where more effort is required” were identified to reach targets 5 (Halving the Rate of Loss of All Natural Habitats including Forests), 8 (Reduction of Pollution), 10 (Reduction of Multiple Pressures on Ecosystems Vulnerable to Climate Change, Ocean Acidification such as Coral Reefs), 12 (Seeking to Prevent Extinction of Known Threatened Species) and 15 (Ecosytem Restoration and Development Resilience).

The report concluded that “with progress achieved to date, plausible pathways exist for realizing an end to biodiversity loss, along with achieving global goals relating to addressing climate change, land degradation and sustainable development.”