Biodiversity Day is rallying cry for urgent political action
As the world prepares to celebrate the diversity of life on earth, WWF and other NGOs are calling on governments to make fundamental changes to economic planning to avoid the collapse of the world’s life support system.
On Saturday, the world will mark the International Day for Biological Diversity, proclaimed by the United Nations in 1993 to “increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.”
Biodiversity and healthy natural ecosystems underpin human well-being and the economy by providing a range of benefits or ‘services’ such as clean air and water, protection from natural disasters, medicine and food. Experts estimate the global economic value of biodiversity to be as high as US$ 33 trillion per year.
“Governments rarely take the economic and social benefits of nature into account in their policies and activities,” said Rolf Hogan, Biodiversity Manager at WWF International. “This leads to the destruction of natural ecosystems and the undermining of our future. It is reaching a crisis point.”
Simultaneously, the world’s governments have failed to meet the promise they made in 2002 to significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity.
Recent studies, including the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, show that massive further loss of biodiversity is becoming increasingly likely. Several “tipping points” are approaching, in which ecosystems shift to less productive states from which it may be impossible to recover, according to the studies.
In a statement delivered to a scientific meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity earlier this week, 24 international NGOs including WWF - representing civil society, conservation and indigenous peoples - told governments that they have failed because they have “not addressed the underlying causes of biodiversity loss.”
“Current economic and governance systems and policies promote the over consumption of natural resources by some countries and segments of society,” according to the statement. “This is driving the destruction of habitats and undermining the rights and livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them.”
“We are at a turning point. Fundamental change is urgently required.”
“The International Day for Biological Diversity should act as a reminder that heads of state need to heed this call by NGOs to make concrete commitments when they meet at the United National General Assembly special session on biodiversity in September,” said Hogan.
“We cannot expect environmental ministries to take this on alone. Conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity must move from the political fringes and into the centre stage if we’re to prevent a catastrophic loss of biodiversity.”
The NGO statement also makes several recommendations, including that the true value of biodiversity and ecosystem services is integrated into economic planning and actions to fight against climate change, and that the rights of indigenous peoples are recognised.