The International Day for Biological Diversity, celebrated each year on May 22, is an opportunity for the international community to reflect on the importance of conserving biodiversity for our planet’s health and for future generations, and think of the challenges ahead.
“This year is particularly special, since 25 years ago, in December 1993, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force, realising a project for sustainable development that had taken the world decades to achieve,” writes Cristiana Pașca Palmer, CBD Executive Secretary, in an article today in the Guardian GEF partner zone on the global commons.
“For a quarter of a century, Parties to the Convention - now numbering 196 - have undertaken national, regional and global commitments to achieve its three objectives: conserving biological diversity; using it sustainably; and sharing - fairly and equitably - the benefits arising from using genetic resources,” says Palmer. “But despite these efforts, biodiversity continues both to be threatened or in grave decline in all corners of the world.”
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been a financial mechanism for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) since 1996, and provides financial resources for developing countries and countries with economies in transition to implement the Convention.
“I would like to use this occasion to recognize the huge effort of the past 25 years by countries under the CBD to dramatically expand the coverage of protected areas both on land and in oceans,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson. “This is a great achievement of the CBD, and we would be in a much worse shape today in its absence. At the same time, we must also recognize that our efforts have not been sufficient. We are still losing biodiversity at alarming rates.”
During its current operational phase, GEF 6, the GEF’s biodiversity strategy has focused on helping countries implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and achieve the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. In the next four-year investment cycle, known as GEF 7, the strategy increases by almost 50% the targets for the protection of biodiversity and valuable ecosystems.
The strategy will focus on achieving the three objectives of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, 2011-2020, which are: (i) To Mainstream Biodiversity Across Sectors as well as Landscapes and Seascapes; (ii) Address Direct Drivers to Protect Habitats and Species and, (iii) Further Develop Biodiversity Policy and Institutional Frameworks.
In her Guardian article, Palmer continued, “The science is clear - the pressures that human systems put on natural ecosystems are endangering survival on our planet. The latest research shows that we are on the brink of crossing ecological boundaries and reaching tipping points in climate and ecosystems that might lead to an acceleration of planetary destruction. The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Risk Report lists ecological collapse and biodiversity loss among the top 10 risks in terms of impact. Humanity’s "Titanic" is moving faster and faster towards the iceberg.
We need to be aware of the broader implications for our wellbeing of losing biodiversity. Losing the bees and insects that naturally pollinate crops, for example, can gravely impact food production systems, affecting our economies, livelihoods, and health.
The pressures we put on our ecosystems are embedded in our societal structures, mostly in how we produce and consume, but also in our system of values and cultural dynamics. These interlinkages and interdependencies, inter-woven with economic and governance complexities, make protecting life on Earth an intricate global challenge.
Our efforts cannot therefore merely seek to remedy and soften the negative impacts of unsustainability. We need to address the root causes that have led to its symptoms. We need to re-design our societies into more sustainable ones.
“We need to forge the partnerships that will help transform the food, urban and energy systems in an integrated way. GEF-7 is designed to do just that,” said Naoko Ishii.
With an emphasis on addressing the drivers of environmental degradation, gender equality, and stronger collaboration with the private sector, the GEF is now poised to deliver even greater results for the environment, and better value for money.
Cristiana Pașca Palmer, said “The successful conclusion of the GEF-7 replenishment will contribute to the financial basis needed for addressing the tasks under the global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2010-2020 in its remaining years, and the first two years of implementation of the global framework that succeeds it. The biodiversity programming directions for the next GEF cycle are in line with the need for the transformational change required to achieve the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Protocols. I look forward to working with the GEF Partnership in the transition to the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.”
The protection of biodiversity and other pressing environmental issues will be on the agenda of the Sixth GEF Assembly when it meets in Da Nang, Viet Nam from June 28-29, 2018.