To mark the opening of the fourteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP14), Cyrie Sendashonga, IUCN Global Director for Policy and Programme shares with us her views on IUCN’s contribution to this meeting
The date of 29 December 2018 will mark 25 years of the entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity(CBD). This anniversary will be commemorated in conjunction with the COP 14 which is taking place from 17th to 29th November 2018 in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt.
IUCN has been part of the CBD journey from the very beginning. In fact, the CBD came to be as a result of a Resolution adopted in the IUCN Members’ Assembly of 1981 which called for a global arrangement on conservation of biodiversity. This Resolution and related subsequent ones were echoed in the decision by the Governing Council of UNEP (today UN Environment) which mandated an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop such a global treaty in 1988. IUCN was instrumental in this process, supporting the negotiations with technical and legal inputs. The text of the CBD as we know it was adopted on 22 May 1992 (I was privileged to be in the room when this landmark moment happened), and opened for signature and subsequent ratification at the Rio Earth Summit of June 1992.
After 25 years of existence of the CBD, more than a dozen of meetings of the COP and even many more meetings of its standing technical subsidiary bodies and ad hoc expert groups set up to advise on a variety of issues, the story that emerges from all authoritative reports, including those based on data mobilized through IUCN such as the Red List Index, is one that tells us that, unfortunately, biodiversity continues to decline in an alarming fashion. Some speak of a 6th mass extinction now under way in the history of Planet Earth.
"We are convinced that there is still an opportunity to turn the tide of biodiversity loss, and we are at a crucial moment to achieve this because awareness about the importance of biodiversity as a solution to many other global challenges facing humanity has reached an unprecedented threshold."
Why then should IUCN continue to be involved in CBD processes, including sending a large delegation to the upcoming meeting in Sharm El Sheikh? There are 2 reasons for this: first, biodiversity is too critical for life and livelihoods on Earth that championing the cause of its preservation is – and will remain - a non-negotiable for IUCN (our ‘heartland’); and second, we are convinced that there is still an opportunity to turn the tide of biodiversity loss, and we are at a crucial moment to achieve this because awareness about the importance of biodiversity as a solution to many other global challenges facing humanity has reached an unprecedented threshold. Biodiversity is now recognized as an indispensable part of the mix of solutions to climate change, with ecosystem-based approaches estimated to provide up to 37% of the mitigation measures required to attain the 2°C temperature rise cap set in the Paris Climate Agreement. There is also now a widely agreed view that biodiversity underpins sustainable development as a whole and that the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals will be compromised if biodiversity and ecosystems services continue to deteriorate.
The theme of COP 14 “Investing in biodiversity for people and planet” is, in a way, a translation of this growing collective conscience that our own survival as a species is intrinsically tied to our ability to protect biodiversity - the natural infrastructure that supports the web of life on Earth.
IUCN has to be at the table where these important discussions continue to take place. IUCN is assisting the process by providing a number of important knowledge tools and technical guidelines which help Governments in many ways, e.g., on how to operationalize difficult concepts such as ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ (OECMs) in relation to achieving Aichi Target 11 on protected areas; to improve ecosystem management based on robust information about risks to ecosystems enabled by the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems; to increase efforts to stop land degradation, halt deforestation and restore degraded ecosystems supported by the Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology. This would support both Aichi Targets 14 and 15. IUCN is also helping addressing new emerging issues such as synthetic biology and its potential impacts of biodiversity conservation by sharing the preliminary findings of the assessment of this technology which will underpin the development of a draft policy to assist various Governments and other stakeholders in conducting their own review of the technology if they so wish.
These are a few of the contributions that IUCN will take to Sharm El Sheikh. They may not have been cited in flashy headlines but they will make a difference for substantive discussions at the meeting. As we like to say, we at IUCN have the CBD in our DNA – this symbiotic relationship will continue for as long as the loss of biodiversity continues to be a problem that needs to be tackled until the CBD’s 2050 vision of ‘humanity living in harmony with nature’ is achieved - and will probably continue beyond.