Call For “Another ‘Paris’ Moment to Mobilise Action on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development” – SDGs for All

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The writer is Secretary-General of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS)

BRUSSELS (IDN) – 2020 marks the end of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011 – 2020) and the 20 global biodiversity targets (Aichi targets). The mission of the Strategic Plan was to “take effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity in order to ensure that by 2020, ecosystems are resilient and continue to provide essential services, thereby securing the planet’s variety of life and contributing to human well-being and poverty eradication.”

In 2020, notwithstanding the restrictions and disruptions brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic, negotiations are ongoing to develop the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The Framework will be adopted at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity), which will be hosted by China, in May 2021.

The post-2020 global biodiversity framework will enable the achievement of the Convention’s long-term vision of “living in harmony with nature”, whereby 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystems services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.

Climate change exerts additional stress on ecosystems, people and their livelihoods. Accordingly, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change – warns that climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further at 2°C. The COVID-19 pandemic is an additional constraint to society and life in general, with an impact on human health, the economy and by extension, the environment.

It is against this backdrop that the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity is held this year, on September 30, 2020 – convened by the President of the General Assembly as a virtual event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, – with the participation of Heads of States and Government. The theme this year is “Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development”.

Where are we now?

The fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5) report was launched at a virtual event on September 15, 2020. The report points out that none of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets will be fully achieved despite some partial progress in six of the Targets. It points to the poor alignment of national targets and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets as part of the reason for the slow progress: “The information from the national reports, therefore, suggests that there have been gaps in both the level of ambition of the commitments of countries to address the Aichi Biodiversity Targets nationally, as well as in the actions to reach these commitments.”

The report highlights the urgent need to address biodiversity loss, acknowledging that a decline in biodiversity will affect all people, but mainly indigenous people, local communities, the poor and vulnerable due to their reliance on biodiversity for their wellbeing.

The non-inclusion of local and indigenous knowledge (LIK) and knowledge holders in processes and discussions to develop national biological strategies, was highlighted as a missed opportunity, by one speaker during the virtual conference launch event. The speaker sighted that the absence of LIK was partly to blame for the underachievement of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, with a call to include LIK at the heart of the Biodiversity 2050 Vision of living in harmony with nature.

The report further outlines eight transition areas to reverse the current trend, stressing that such actions “are fully consistent with, and indeed crucial components of, the goals and targets set out under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Change Agreement.”

The way Forward

The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report (GRR), ranks biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five risks in terms of likelihood and impact in the coming 10 years, showing the intricate link between protecting biodiversity and ensuring sustainable economic development. The loss of biodiversity negatively impacts the natural resources that we depend on for our food and livelihoods.

As the onus of protecting biodiversity lies with all countries at the international, regional and national levels, efforts will thus be required from all stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, civil society and local and indigenous communities, to effectively address the drivers of biodiversity loss and ensure a reversal of the noted decline.

The Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) was instrumental in the passing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 through multilateral action with its long-standing partner, the European Union. Through the 11th European Development Fund, the OACPS supports a number of programmes dedicated to environmental conservation and biodiversity protection, to the tune of over EUR 250 million.

The Secretariat of the OACPS sees the Biodiversity Summit as an opportunity to encourage its 79 Member States to not only continue, but to enhance their efforts to contribute to the implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and have, in this context, issued several recommendations:

The Paris Agreement was a triumph for multilateralism and a testament to what can be achieved through a joint effort. The COVID-19 pandemic has in its own way, reinforced that global problems call for global solutions. The framework has been put into place and if we are to achieve the long-term vision of “living in harmony with nature”, we need to create not just a Paris moment, but a global movement to mobilise action on biodiversity for sustainable development. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 September 2020]

Photo: Georges Rebelo Chikoti, an Angolan diplomat, who served as Angola’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2010 to 2017 before taking over on 1 March 2020 the post of the Secretary-General of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS). CC BY 2.0.

IDN is flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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