The ocean and aquatic ecosystems provide critical services necessary for sustaining life on Earth. Photo: fdastudillo/iStock
By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated each year on 22 May, is an opportunity to not only acknowledge the crucial role healthy biodiversity plays in the survival of the planet but also to assess the nature crisis.
With the theme ‘From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity,’ this year’s Day follows the historic adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework by 196 nations at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022.
Hailed as critical to halting and reversing nature loss, the framework is a landmark agreement that contains global targets to be achieved by 2030 and beyond to safeguard and sustainably use biodiversity – while protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
Financial resources, political will and strong policymaking will be pivotal to the framework’s successful implementation, meaning a whole-of-society approach is needed, experts say.
“Biodiversity is the complex web on which human existence depends,” says Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is our global plan to repair this web and sustain all life on Earth, including ours. With only seven years to implement the framework, we must all act now. And we must continue to act until our web of life is secure.”
As nature and the benefits it provides deteriorate at an unprecedented rate worldwide, Biodiversity Day provides a reminder of the urgent need for action across food systems, finance and ecosystem protection and restoration to address the nature crisis.
Ecosystems ensure the stability of Earth. They generate oxygen, provide drinking water and regulate the climate. Healthy ecosystems also provide critical services, including natural medicines, pollination and fertile soil for food production.
But nature both on land and at sea is declining faster than at any other time in history, with an estimated 1 million animal and plant species threatened with extinction.
To prevent large-scale biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, the framework calls for the effective conservation and management of at least 30 per cent of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas and ocean, as well as the restoration of 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems by 2030.
Global food systems are highly dependent on nature –the ocean is the primary source of protein for more than 3 billion people.
Food systems account for the largest portion of land-use change and habitat conversion. They are the number one driver of biodiversity loss and are responsible for 80 per cent of deforestation and 70 per cent of freshwater use.
The framework calls for areas under agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry to be managed sustainably, global food waste to be cut in half, and a significant reduction in overconsumption and waste production.
UNEP research shows that the state of nature underpins how the global economy and financial system can flourish. Nature is a vital capital asset that provides many essential goods and services, with US$44 trillion of economic value.
Sustainable food production improves food security and supports the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo: Alex Hudson/Unsplash
Investing in nature offers the opportunity to generate US$10 trillion in business value and create 395 million jobs. While financial institutions are now realizing the long-term perils of fossil fuels and projects that harm the environment, an ambitious framework could further scale up private capital towards a nature-positive economy and drive alignment of financial flows with global biodiversity goals.
Investments in nature, however, are not increasing at the scale required to address biodiversity loss. To help address the funding gap, the framework calls for at least US$200 billion per year in domestic and international biodiversity-related funding from both public and private sources to be mobilized by 2030. It also calls for the phasing out of subsidies that harm biodiversity by at least US$500 billion per year by 2030.
Ultimately, experts hope that Biodiversity Day will help drive the action needed to implement the framework and build upon existing momentum to protect and restore nature.
“Every government, every business, every investor and every individual must do what they can: to protect and restore nature, to address climate change and to massively reduce pollution and waste,” says Andersen. “UNEP is building alliances to join everyone together in true collective action and end to the triple planetary crisis once and for all.”
The planet is experiencing a dangerous decline in nature. One million species are threatened with extinction, soils are turning infertile, and water sources are drying up. The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework – adopted by world leaders in December 2022 – sets out to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030. To address the drivers of the nature crisis, UNEP is working with partners to: take action in land- and seascapes, transform our food systems, and close the finance gap for nature.