Every year on May 22, people around the world celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity, a day aimed at increasing understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. From habitat loss and overexploitation to illegal wildlife trade and climate change, a whole host of very real and damaging threats is facing the planet’s incredible biodiversity. Combatting these issues lies at the core of IUCN’s work and feeds into the organisation’s mission of ‘a just world that values and conserves nature’.
The 2015 theme of ‘Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’ strikes a particular chord with IUCN. This is a key year for sustainable development and action on climate change, which started with an important meeting in Sendai on disaster risk reduction. It will continue with major decision-making events, with governments expected to reach a new agreement on climate change at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-21) in Paris. Conservation, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems generate nature-based solutions to climate change and sustainable development, yielding economic, social and environmental co-benefits.
“Biodiversity is the cornerstone of our very existence. The lives of generations to come will be determined by our ability to understand, respect and, most importantly, act on that knowledge,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “To achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals we have set ourselves, we must ensure that we are protecting our vital natural assets.”
The answer to a sustainable future lies not only in the tireless and dedicated work of scientists and on-the-ground conservationists across the globe, but in the decisions made and actions taken by all sectors. For instance, aside from contributing immeasurably to well-being, culture and human identity, nature provides some USD 72 trillion a year of ‘free’ support to the global economy, yet it is not accounted for in our economic systems. The failure to account for natural capital is a sure route to depleting the planet’s resources and could, in fact, cost businesses trillions. But is there a way of continuing to benefit from natural capital without driving it into the red? IUCN believes so.
“We are at a crossroads where business as usual is no longer an option. With this realisation comes a sense of responsibility. The pathway to achieving sustainable development must be paved and trodden urgently by all sectors, from government and science to business and finance,” added Ms Andersen. “IUCN’s key strength lies in its position as a global convener and leader on biodiversity data, diagnostics and metrics – through mobilising the Union, we believe that we can better account for nature, address the conservation finance gap and help to bring natural capital approaches to scale for a sustainable future for all.”