“It is the lesser known of the two framework conventions that emerged at the Rio Earth Summit of 1992; it also deals with a concept more difficult to comprehend. But the Convention on Biological Diversity is the international agreement that protects life on earth, and thereby, should be the base for all environmental discussions.
In 2012, India will host the most important meeting relating to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) — the 11th Conference of Parties (COP-11) — at Hyderabad, from October 8-19. This fact is hardly known outside environment circles.
This is the first COP of the CBD process, after the United Nations declared 2011 to 2020 as the ‘Decade for Biodiversity’. Judging by past records, COP-11 and its preceding meetings can attract as many as 5,000 participants, including around 100 environment ministers. In addition to chairing the current COP, India will retain the presidency of the CBD process till the next COP in 2014.
Unlike the build-up to the COPs of the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there is less media and public attention for COPs related to CBD. Each of the COPs related to the Climate Change Convention gets significant media and public attention. The Climate Change COPs in the recent years — held in Bali in 2007, Copenhagen in 2009, Cancun in 2010, and Durban in 2011 — got universal attention.
Though scientific opinion is still shying away from making conclusive connections between extreme weather events (which have been increasing in frequency in the recent years) and climate change, public opinion across countries has started making this connection. For instance, in August 2010, there were two major events happening simultaneously — floods in Pakistan and fires in Russia. The events were heavily reported, and there were references to climate change in the public discussions.
Public perception on biodiversity is much less clear. Though there is a vague understanding of the multiplicity of species on planet earth, there is no clarity on how this diversity gives stability to life, and also provides ecosystem services to villagers and city-dwellers. In India, this situation is ironic, since the country was the first to have a Biodiversity Act in 2002.
Starting almost immediately after the Rio Summit of 1992, the process of developing India’s Biodiversity Act went through much public discussion. It legislatively reaffirmed that the biological diversity in the country was its sovereign property. It was built on the three goals of the CBD — conservation of biodiversity, encouraging its sustainable use, and making sure that the benefits arising from its use are equitably shared with those who helped in conserving the biological wealth in the first place.
The Biodiversity Act also put in place a three-tier structure to manage the biological diversity. The National Biodiversity Authority was established in Chennai in 2003. There are 26 state biodiversity boards, and biodiversity management committees in many local bodies.
In comparison, the institutions on climate change are more recent in India. The National Action Plan on Climate Change was released in June 2008 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to work on eight national missions.
Only in January 2010 did the Government of India constitute an expert panel to develop low-carbon strategies for inclusive growth. The panel, headed by Planning Commission Member Kirit Parikh, was supposed to submit its interim report by April 2010, and the final report by September in that year. However, its interim report was made public only in May 2011, and the final report is still awaited.
Perhaps, the reason why biodiversity isn’t so well-discussed as climate change is because the economic linkages of the biological wealth aren’t so well articulated in the public domain. The economic costs of a flood or drought are visible, measurable. Deforestation in the Western Ghats, leading to the loss of a few species that are seen only in that location, isn’t so tangible.
There have been international attempts at measuring the economic benefits from biodiversity. The report of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) review process estimates benefits of US$ 3.7 trillion from avoiding greenhouse gas emissions through the conservation of forests. And this is just one ecosystem service function from biodiversity.
Even without complicated economic analysis, it is possible to feel the ecological and economic services from biodiversity in our day-to-day lives, wherever we are….”
Please read the full article….
via Business Line : Opinion : Biodiversity not adequately understood.
“With all eyes fixed on the latest global share prices and bond yields, there was relatively little interest in the most recent figures published in the annual red list.
This is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. It shows that 25% of all mammals and one in three of the world’s amphibians are at risk of extinction.
While these trends are not as turbulent as the global financial markets, the steady decline of the world’s biodiversity could be just as critical to long-term economic success and prosperity.
This is because the loss of biodiversity causes ecosystems to stress, degrade or even collapse altogether. This reduces the environment’s ability to deliver the goods and services that nature provides for free, such as clean air, water, soils and waste disposal, as well as the raw materials that industry depends upon.
As a result, it is evident that the protection of biodiversity, while complex to value and quantify accurately, is essential for future well-being and economic development.
Policy will inevitably have to rise to this challenge and businesses must look ahead to what this might mean for them and how they should act responsibly.
That is why the Aldersgate Group, an alliance of leaders from business, politics and society, has recently convened a series of discussions on how to make this agenda more tangible for key decision makers. The findings were published today at the Business of Biodiversity Symposium with government ministers and leading chief executives.
It became immediately evident from our dialogue that the value of biodiversity must be reflected in prices and policy appraisal. We cannot take for granted the services that ecosystems provide for free – such as regulating the climate, absorbing pollution and reducing flooding.
The UN estimates that these services deliver to humankind over $72tn a year – comparable to World Gross National Income – but nearly two-thirds of the globe’s ecosystems are considered degraded. The global importance of understanding, measuring and capturing the value of nature is undertaken by the UN through TEEB, a major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity.
The endeavour to reflect environmental values in prices is an essential one, but for complex challenges such as biodiversity loss, some tipping points exist beyond which damage to human welfare is irreversible. Already in certain coastal areas there are “dead zones”, where coral reefs and lakes are no longer able to sustain aquatic species.
Inevitably, there are limits to pricing the priceless. For example, how can you put a value on a species of Himalayan yew tree, on the brink of extinction, that is used to produce Taxol, a chemotherapy drug used to treat cancer?
That is why good resource management requires a combination of price, regulation and information to achieve the desired behavioural change, and caution is required when there is uncertainty about nature’s thresholds.
As policy develops, what should businesses be doing to address these risks and take advantage of the potential opportunities?
It is evident that many businesses are assessing their dependency on biodiversity and integrating measures for the sustainable use of natural resources into their corporate strategies. This is vital as all businesses, directly or indirectly, depend upon biodiversity and ecosystem services for their ongoing commercial success and should therefore address the significant risks and opportunities relating to their impact on nature.
In the first instance, an organisation needs an efficient method for determining the materiality of biodiversity to its operations and stakeholders. While a number of reports claim that there is an increased awareness from communities, NGOs, customers, consumers and shareholders on biodiversity issues, the evidence is mixed.
And businesses also struggle to communicate the more technical language of biodiversity and ecosystems to their customers, who are much more familiar with concepts of nature, place and landscape.
Despite improvements, the measurement of biodiversity remains challenging and identifying the implications for decision making can be complex. This is why it is often treated superficially in company reports.
However, that has not stopped forward-looking businesses leading the way. The Aldersgate Group’s upcoming report illustrates case studies from a range of companies in a variety of sectors such as M&S, PepsiCo, Puma, Willmott Dixon, InterfaceFlor and The Co-operative Group.
One example is Wessex Water which has undertaken an initiative to protect water quality upstream rather than pay for removing pesticides downstream – achieving bottom-line savings of more than 80%.
The failure to address risks can lead to significant costs. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill, for example, demonstrates how a major oil company was suddenly faced with society’s valuations of marine and coastal ecosystems, and forced to internalise the costs of environmental damage.
As more businesses begin to address such impacts, it is essential that biodiversity rises up the political and boardroom agenda. While we might be some way off the chancellor presenting a natural capital budget alongside the fiscal budget, more attention on the long-term implications of the red list would be a good start.
Andrew Raingold is executive director at the Aldersgate Group, an alliance of leaders from business, politics and society that drives action for a sustainable economy.”
via Natural capital: putting a price on the priceless | Guardian Sustainable Business | guardian.co.uk.
A road we dont want to cross or put it another way….we have a choice as to which road we will take in respect of biodiversity.
“At some point, probably in the 1980s, probably in a small brackish lagoon near Chichester, the last Ivell’s sea anemone in the whole world died. That species, like many others, lived out its last days on this planet, in England, in the last few decades.
So what? I have a job and an iPad and a busy life, why should I care about one less sea anemone?
Species extinctions may seem peripheral to modern life, but they matter. They matter to me and they matter to a surprising number of people who believe society has a duty to protect the wondrous diversity of life on Earth.
Why? Because the health of our natural environment is vitally important for our economy and our wellbeing. And that’s not me talking, it comes from government’s chief scientist Prof Bob Watson, who on Thursday signalled a new way of thinking about our natural habitats and the life that lives there, in the first ever UK National Ecosystems Assessment (NEA).”
via The future of conservation is at a crossroads | Martin Harper | Environment | guardian.co.uk.