Urgent policy action needed to curb biodiversity loss
We are still losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate, according to a new report prepared by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The report confirms that the world failed to meet the 2010 target to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss and calls for policy makers to take urgent, coordinated action to address the challenge of combating biodiversity loss and in so doing, address the linked challenges posed by climate change.
The report, which received financial support from the EU, identifies potential tipping points which could lead to severe losses in essential services provided by biodiversity. The report is based on an analysis of the fifteen indicators developed by the CBD to monitor losses in biodiversity, together with reviews of scientific literature, recent assessments and National reports from parties to the CBD. The tipping points include:
- Dieback of large areas of the Amazon forest resulting from climate change, deforestation and fires, which would cause widespread extinctions. This could have significant consequences for the global climate as well as regional rainfall.
- Eutrophication of freshwater lakes and other inland water bodies would lead to significant loss of fish as well as reducing their recreational potential. Eutrophication is caused by a build up of nutrients from sources such as agricultural run-off.
- Collapse of coral reef ecosystems, which would threaten the livelihoods of people directly dependent on coral reef resources. Coral reefs are threatened by ocean acidification, warmer water temperatures, overfishing and nutrient pollution.
A key recommendation from the report is that biodiversity policy is understood and prioritised by all government departments, at international, national and local levels. In many cases, those tasked with implementing biodiversity policy do not have the influence required to effect real change: decisions taken by environment ministries, for example, may be undermined by policies from other ministries who fail to prioritise biodiversity.
Biodiversity can no longer be seen as an issue separate from wider social concerns, such as tackling poverty and improving health, wealth and security, according to the report. Furthermore, both biodiversity and climate change policies benefit from being mutually supportive, whereas failure to acknowledge the relationship risks jeopardising efforts in both areas. Strategies that could be used to reduce the loss of biodiversity include:
- Intensify efforts to reduce pressures on biodiversity, including nutrient pollution, preventing the introduction of invasive species and introducing sustainable fisheries, forestry and agriculture.
- Expand protected areas and target vulnerable species and habitats.
- Use land, energy and fresh water more efficiently.
- Avoid perverse or harmful subsidies to reduce unsustainable use of resources and wasteful consumption.
- Maintain and restore ecosystems to safeguard essential services and increase ecosystem resilience.
- Increase awareness of the value of biodiversity and let individuals and communities know which steps they can take to protect it, through education and communication.
- Invest in ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation, thus achieving multiple benefits at comparable low cost. Payments for ecosystem services programmes, such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), may help align the goals of biodiversity and climate change policies.
The EU is committed to tackling biodiversity loss and the Environment Council in March agreed a post-2010 target which seeks to 'halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020'1
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