Representatives from more than 190 nations party to UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have gathered in Cancun, Mexico this week to advance efforts to integrate conservation of biological diversity within government departments and strategic national agendas. On Dec. 3, they agreed to intensify efforts to incorporate biodiversity conservation within their agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism agendas.
Adopting the Cancun Declaration, as it's known, was a step forward towards achieving the CBD's ¨Aichi Targets,¨ 20 guiding and informing goals for national biodiversity conservation agreed to in the Japanese city of the same name in 2010.
The effects of a warming climate on ecosystems and biodiversity are becoming increasingly clear and alarming, adding to the pressure, risks and threats human activities have been imposing on our ecosystems. Along with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the CBD serves as an institutional ¨pillar¨ that guides and informs international environmental governance and underpins the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, its strategic blueprint for the next 15 years.
Nipping a ¨Sixth Great Extinction¨ in the bud
Life on earth was nearly wiped out five times during its estimated 3.8 billion year history. Scientists assert that a ¨Sixth Great Extinction¨ event is underway. Alternatively dubbed the Holocene or Anthropocene Extinction, this time human population growth and activities are pegged as the main culprits.
Scientists estimate plant and animal species are being lost at a rate anywhere from 1,000-10,000 times as fast as the historical background rate. At this rate, they project as many as 30-50 percent of all species may be extinct by mid-century.
Climate change compounds the pressures and threats. Conserving biodiversity not only improves the chances species will survive, it helps us adapt to changing climate and mitigate the effects of rising carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Incorporating biodiversity conservation across government apparatus worldwide is a significant step in the right direction -- if CBD member nations deliver.
“For the first time, through the efforts of all parties, we are really speaking meaningfully to one another about the real value of biodiversity to tourism, to agriculture, to forestry, to fisheries – to the very lifeblood of our economies,” UN Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Erik Solheim said of the CBD's adoption of the Cancun Declaration.
Biodiversity amidst a changing climate
In addition to the Cancun Declaration, CBD member countries announced individual commitments to accelerate achieving the Aichi Targets in less than four years. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the establishment of four new biological reserves and five other protected areas that in total span some 160 million acres (65 million hectares).
In a press statement, the president's office highlighted that this is the largest area of land Mexico has ever designated as environmentally protected and places Mexico among a small group of nations that have met international commitments to protect maritime areas. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of Mexico's ocean waters are now protected, according to the president's office.
Extending outwards from government, 113 companies agreed to factor biodiversity conservation into their decision making, invest in protecting biodiversity, and other take other steps to help realize the Aichi Targets.
“Many businesses have realized that investing in biodiversity makes sense,” UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw stated. “The involvement of the private sector is something we need and we welcome.”
“We all want the same thing: a healthy planet that provides for all our needs and those of future generations,” CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias said during a press conference.
“We must use the conference to prepare for the transformation that is needed to achieve the Aichi Targets, the Sustainable Development Goals, and our long-term vision of living in harmony with nature.”
*Image credits: 1, 2): UN; 3) UNESCO