Biodiversity leaders lament failure to reach the powerful

Communities need to own conservation initiatives, said Steiner. Copyright: ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity

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[NAIROBI] Poor communication has contributed to the failure to meet the 2010 global conservation targets, according to a major report released yesterday (May 10).

The world is nearing ′tipping points′ in which whole ecosystems could collapse, said the third Global Biodiversity Outlook, produced by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

But, though the importance of biodiversity loss has reached some parts of many governments around the world, it has failed to be absorbed by those with the power to act, the report finds.

The overall target, agreed in 2002, of significantly curbing the world’s biodiversity loss by 2010 has not been met, something that has been acknowledged for some time and was quantified in a paper published in Science last month.

None of the 21 biodiversity sub-targets has been met globally either, though a few nations and regions have met some of their targets, such as controlling the spread of invasive species and curbing degradation of land.

Species loss has reached 1000 times the background historical rate, with a fifth of all known mammals, nearly a third of amphibians and over a quarter of reef-building corals now listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The alarming ′tipping points′include nutrient-filled inland waterways becoming swamped with algae so they can no longer sustain fish, and the widespread death of coral reefs — both of which would have severe implications for survival of people, especially the poor.

"The CBD has very nearly universal participation from the world’s governments, yet those involved in its implementation rarely have the influence to promote action at the level required to effect real change," says the report.

"Thus, while the activities of environmental departments and agencies in tackling specific threats to species … has been and continues to be extremely important, they are easily undermined by decisions from other ministries that fail to apply strategic thinking on policies and actions that impact on ecosystems and other components of biodiversity."

The report calls for a strengthening of efforts to "communicate better the links between biodiversity, ecosystem services, poverty alleviation and climate change adaptation and mitigation" (see also Biodiversity loss matters, and communication is crucial).

"Through education and more effective dissemination of scientific knowledge, a much wider section of the public and decision-makers could be made aware of the role and value of biodiversity and the steps needed to conserve it."

But United Nations Environment Programme executive director, Achim Steiner, said communities should also take responsibility over preserving biodiversity.

"Policy makers have for a long time not understood the importance of biodiversity," he said.  "But the society at large is also responsible because it is the one that elects politicians into leadership positions."

The report was released at the start of a two-week meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, where governments will discuss new measures to tackle biodiversity loss in preparation for the CBD summit in Japan in October.

Link to full report ‘Global Biodiversity Outlook 3’

See below for a video of today’s discussion about the report with Professor Thomas E. Lovejoy, former chief biodiversity advisor to the World Bank: