Banking on Biodiversity

07 July 2009 | News story

The members of the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation met in Honiara from 28 June to the 2 July 2009 to discuss the state of the Pacific Islands environment and review commitments to the Pacific Islands Action Strategy for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas. “Banking on Biodiversity” is the product of those discussions and a call to action in response to the growing threats to the Pacific Islands Region.

For most Pacific Island communities and nations, biodiversity in the form of our marine, freshwater, forest and agricultural plants and animals is the main source of income, revenue and foreign exchange. In rural communities especially, our biodiversity is also the primary source of food, medicine and shelter.

Thus, our island biodiversity is our most significant capital fund. It represents a living bank account, which, if managed well, will continue to grow and pay dividends in products and services that are critical for the survival of our island lifestyle, communities and nations. If this bank account is managed unwisely, our islands will be committing themselves to bio-bankruptcy and our people will suffer dire consequences to their health and livelihoods and our way of life. This issue has become increasingly clear in light of the current world economic crisis where nations, companies and communities mismanaged and squandered their capital.

Amid the global economic turmoil, our living island bank account is also increasingly under threat from natural disasters, climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, overharvesting and invasive species. Because small islands are particularly vulnerable to species loss and extinctions, the time is critical to find creative solutions through innovative programs, funding and stronger partnerships. In this effort, the Roundtable members call for programs that promote and support local and national ownership and leadership of sustainable development and conservation initiatives, and programs that apply the best modern and traditional science to address these alarming trends.

The Roundtable hereby commits to the following principles to protect our rich island lifestyles by investing in and banking on our biodiversity:

  • Recognize that the foundation of national planning and growth strategies is based upon ensuring continued availability of natural resources and environmental services;
  • Protect healthy ecosystems and restore degraded ones in order to maintain ecosystem services on which our people depend for sustainable development and livelihoods;
  • Maintain populations of plant and animal species that are critical drivers of ecosystem functions in order to increase resilience to climate change, which threatens important services such as clean water, food security and storm protection;
  • Urge Pacific countries to support a responsible Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) regime in a post-Kyoto dialogue as a strategy for climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • Support major regional initiatives to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable development, such as the Coral Triangle Initiative, Micronesia Challenge, Regional Invasive Species Program, and the Pacific Ocean 2020;
  • Encourage partners to the regional initiatives, including donors, to align with national priorities, including National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), and to ensure engagement of local communities;
  • Emphasize that most natural resources in the Pacific are owned and used by indigenous and local communities and the Pacific approach to conservation is based on sustainable resource use, community property rights and decision-making practices, and local aspirations for development and well-being.
  • Build capacity for leadership, direction and ownership within Pacific governments to enable long-term sustainable management and conservation of biodiversity and bio-capital;
  • Encourage donors to consider well-managed endowments in environmental trust funds at a national or regional level to ensure strengthening and staffing of Pacific government departments, national organizations and institutions, and community-based organizations; and
  • Encourage donors and actors in the region to adopt the nine principles of the Action Strategy for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas in the Pacific Island Region 2008-2012.

As part of this effort, the Roundtable members commit to fully support, participate and promote the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

Lastly, the Roundtable wishes to acknowledge the excellent progress made by the Solomon Islands through their engagement on environmental issues. The Roundtable expresses sincere appreciation to the Hon. Gordon Darcy Lilo, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology, Mr. Rence Sore, the Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology, the Solomon Islands government, The Nature Conservancy and Solomon Islands Development Trust for hosting the event.