Valuing nature the way to protect it, WWF advises biodiversity summit

Posted on October, 15 2010

Nations now gathering in Nagoya, Japan for the most crucial meeting in a decade of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) need to not only agree on new targets for halting biodiversity loss but also set up the mechanisms and commit the resources to achieving them.
Nagoya, Japan - Nations now gathering in Nagoya, Japan for the most crucial meeting in a decade of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) need to not only agree on new targets for halting biodiversity loss but also set up the mechanisms and commit the resources to achieving them.

“What the world most wants from Nagoya are the agreements that will stop the continuing dramatic loss in the world’s living wealth and the continuing erosion of our life support systems,” said Jim Leape, WWF International Director General.

“First and foremost, we need to ensure that the immense value provided by healthy, functioning and diverse ecosystems is factored into economic decisions. We need to put the price tag on nature’s role in providing the clean air and water for our cities, the healthy soils and fisheries for our food and the genetic secrets and chemistry for our health.”

WWF will therefore strongly urge adoption of a proposed target to incorporate the values of biodiversity into national accounts, development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes.

WWF earlier this week documented the scale of humanity’s demands on earth and the impacts on biodiversity with the release of a Living Planet report showing we are using one and half planet’s worth of resources while the Living Planet Index – a long established and well regarded measure of the health of biodiversity – has plummeted by 30% globally since 1970 – and by 60% in the tropics.

“The Living Planet Report is a health card for the planet and a measure of the pressures on it. It is showing us there is a real biodiversity crisis in the tropics that is undermining the development prospects of the world’s poorest countries,” Jim Leape said.

The 193 parties to the CBD – nearly all the world's nations – agreed in 2002 to “significantly reduce” the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, in part by protecting a representative 10 per cent of habitats on a national basis. But a May 2010 CBD Secretariat report found that the 21 global goals to protect biodiversity had not been met. This includes no protection for the habitats of a fifth of all threatened species and less than one percent protection for the open oceans.

“Our prosperity and indeed our survival depend on healthy ecosystems.” Jim Leape said. “The Earth’s forests, oceans and rivers are the very foundation of our society and economy. Even in purely economic terms, it is far, far more cost effective to conserve or restore healthy ecosystems than to artificially provide natural services that we currently take for granted.”

“Governments could make huge gains simply by ending the subsidies that drive over-exploitation of natural resources.”

For instance, the global fishing fleet is two and a half times the capacity that oceans and coasts can sustain, with the World Bank estimating lost profitability of $50 billion a year, 27 million jobs at risk and the well-being of more than one billion people affected.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, investing around $8 billion a year rebuilding and greening the world's fisheries could raise catches and improve food security and income for hundreds of millions. Phasing down and phasing out fishing subsidies which could be more than three times that amount could help in cutting over-fishing while providing some of the funding for fisheries protection and restoration.

WWF is promoting a target of “20 per cent by 2020” for protected areas that nationally, would secure the survival and the richness of all terrestrial and coastal ecosystems and would include multi-national agreements for a similar proportion of protection to cover biologically rich open ocean areas outside national jurisdiction.

As well as mainstreaming biodiversity considerations into decision making and planning, WWF is also specifically pushing for limits on water abstraction to the levels rivers and groundwaters can sustainably provide. Biodiversity threatening “perverse” subsidies need to be slashed and a major international effort is needed to make fishing sustainable.

“Climate change is a key contributing factor to biodiversity loss. And it is diverse, healthy ecosystems that are the most resilient in the face of climate change impacts,” said Jim Leape. “This meeting has an opportunity to bridge the divides between the international agendas on biodiversity, development and climate – most clearly and immediately through support to a 2020 target of zero net deforestation.”

Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) programmes – already on the table in climate talks – could play a major role in countering forest loss currently running at the rate of about 36 football fields a minute in the tropics.

“REDD initiatives present an unprecedented opportunity to fund one of the important services provided by tropical plants – sequestration of carbon. Nations in Nagoya have the opportunity to create the safeguards needed to ensure that programmes to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation in tropical forests also protect the extraordinary biodiversity of those forests and the interests of the communities who depend upon them,” said Jim Leape.

WWF will also be urging progress on one of the CBD's original three objectives, establishing a fair basis for sharing the benefits of genetic resources. The 2008 CBD meeting gave a direction for a Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) to be finalised at Nagoya.

“An ABS Protocol that recognizes the interests of the biodiversity-rish countries and ensures the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge is long overdue,” said Jim Leape.

Pincushion flower (Leucospermum cordifolium), Fynbos -species of Cape floral kingdom, Cape of Good Hope, Republic of South Africa.
© WWF / Martin HARVEY