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Massive Loss of Biodiversity Likely

…But Avoidable

UN call for urgent action as biodiversity approaches tipping points

The third edition of Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), produced by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), confirms that the world has failed to meet the 2010 Target of achieving a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss. But building on the lessons learned from this failure, GBO-3 also outlines a new strategy for reducing biodiversity loss when the world’s governments meet to create a post-2010 target at the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit in October.

The report is based on more than 110 national reports submitted by governments, and an analysis of the current status and trends of biodiversity carried out by the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP), a network of organisations which included BirdLife International. The BIP analysis was recently presented in the journal Science (Global Biodiversity: Indicators of Recent Decline). BirdLife’s Global Research and Indicators Coordinator, Dr Stuart Butchart, was lead author.GBO-3 warns that massive further loss of biodiversity is becoming increasingly likely, and that we are approaching several “tipping points”, in which ecosystems shift to alternative, less productive states from which it may be difficult or impossible to recover. The tipping points include the dieback of large areas of the Amazon forest, and collapse of many of the world’s coral reef ecosystems. Earlier assessments underestimated the severity of biodiversity loss, because the impacts of passing these tipping points was not taken into account.

GBO-3 argues that such outcomes are avoidable if effective and coordinated action is taken to reduce the multiple pressures on biodiversity. This includes addressing the underlying causes and indirect drivers, such as patterns of consumption, the impacts of increased trade, and demographic change. For a fraction of the money summoned up by the world’s governments to avoid economic meltdown in 2008-9, GBO-3 demonstrates that we can avoid a much more serious and fundamental breakdown in the Earth’s life support systems.

GBO-3 is likely to form the basis of discussion of the strategic plan currently being considered for the next decade of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and due to be agreed at the 10th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CBD in Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010. A major focus of the meeting will be to develop a biodiversity target and framework that succeeds the 2010 Biodiversity Target.BirdLife International believes that the key strengths of the 2010 Target include its wide political acceptance, its adaptability to different geographic levels, and its recognition of the links between biodiversity and poverty alleviation. On the other hand, the 2010 Target and indicators lacked a clear, logical structure linking the various elements of goals, sub-targets and indicators, lacked adequate implementation support (such as finance and incentives), and did not address important drivers of biodiversity loss (such as climate change).

“Nevertheless, the 2010 Biodiversity Target has helped to focus minds and motivated policy makers, communicated a sense of need for action, triggered action at policy level, and generated many success stories”, said Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Birdlife’s Global Policy Advisor and Chair of INGOS Group at CBD. “Therefore in the development of its successor, the CBD should preserve the strengths of the existing target while addressing its weaknesses.”

BirdLife believes that, building on the strategy outlined in GB0-3, the post-2010 target should include both a long-term 2050 Vision and a medium-term 2020 target. It should go beyond simply stopping biodiversity loss, by incorporating restoration as well as the enhancement and improvement of biodiversity. It should recognise both the intrinsic and utilitarian values of biodiversity, but at the same time, should have the desired state of biodiversity clearly expressed as its main focus, and not subsume this under ecosystem services or human well-being, important though it is to include the links to these two elements.GBO-3 concludes that we can no longer see the continued loss of biodiversity as an issue separate from the core concerns of society. We will be much more likely to achieve objectives such as tackling poverty and improving the health, wealth and security of present and future generations if we finally give biodiversity the priority it deserves.

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in his foreword to GBO-3: “To tackle the root causes of biodiversity loss, we must give it higher priority in all areas of decision-making and in all economic sectors… conserving biodiversity cannot be an afterthought once other objectives are addressed – it is the foundation on which many of these objectives are built.”

UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, adds: “Many economies remain blind to the huge value of the diversity of animals, plants and other life-forms and their role in healthy and functioning ecosystems from forests and freshwaters to soils, oceans and even the atmosphere. Many countries are beginning to factor natural capital into some areas of economic and social life with important returns, but this needs rapid and sustained scaling-up.”

The BirdLife Partnership has long recognised the intrinsic links between biodiversity conservation and sustainable economic development. BirdLife’s vision “is of a world rich in biodiversity, with people and nature living in harmony, equitably and sustainably”.

Around the world, BirdLife Partners are working with governments, businesses and local communities to seek ways of creating wealth and employment that protect and enhance biodiversity - the living resource base on which all economic development depends.

“BirdLife’s mission to conserve birds will only succeed if humankind can learn to live within the earth’s ecological limits, “ said Dr Marco Lambertini, BirdLife's Chief Executive. “As the basis for setting the post-2010 Biodiversity Target, GBO-3 offers the world what may be our one last chance to get this right.”

4th July 2014