Bolstering biodiversity
G7 Summit

Bolstering biodiversity

The benefits of biodiversity are far-reaching, and the G7 leaders are uniquely positioned to embed biodiversity indicators, incentives and investments in policymaking for the benefit of all, writes Cristiana Paşca Palmer, executive secretary, UN Biodiversity

This year’s G7 summit in Biarritz, France, provides a unique platform to further position biodiversity conservation and nature-based solutions at the centre of the global agenda, emphasising their fundamental role in climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as food security, poverty reduction, and more inclusive and equitable development, among other critical global issues.

On the margins of the G20 summit in June, the foreign ministers of France and China, with the United Nations secretary-general, emphasised the link between climate change and biodiversity, and the need for a prompt global response to biodiversity loss. They reiterated their determination to contribute to the comprehensive and participatory process of developing the next global biodiversity framework. They stressed the need to scale up financing for nature-based solutions, especially considering major international challenges such as climate change and sustainable development.

As the G7 environment ministers stated in their landmark Metz Charter on Biodiversity in May 2019, “biodiversity, in addition to having intrinsic values, plays a vital role for maintaining life-sustaining systems, and therefore is of paramount importance to all life on Earth, including human beings”. They issued initiatives to fight inequality through protecting biodiversity and the climate. While these are important, more still needs to be done to accelerate and expand this momentum to slow down biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The scientific case has become clearer and more convincing and connected with other significant findings. Current trends and business-as-usual scenarios show continued loss of biodiversity, with one million species threatened with extinction. This will have major negative consequences for human well-being, including changes that may soon be irreversible.

The global comprehensive report on biodiversity and ecosystem services, launched in May 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, scientifically documented the extent of the crisis and boldly called for transformative change.

If we do not halt and reverse our current trajectory, the global economy will suffer enormous negative consequences in addition to the incalculable and intrinsic loss of nature itself.

The case for action

Also in May, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development issued a report making the finance, business and economic cases for biodiversity action: the most comprehensive global estimate suggests that ecosystem services provide benefits of $125–140 trillion per year. This constitutes more than one and a half times the size of global gross domestic product. Globally, the world lost $10–30 trillion per year in ecosystem services from 1997 to 2011 due to land-cover change and land degradation. Potential financial investments that could arise through nature-based solutions signal opportunities for greener sustainable development pathways. Conserving and restoring biodiversity offers unprecedented opportunities for eco-innovators and eco-entrepreneurs, and for traditional businesses, to garner the rewards of mainstreaming biodiversity into all sectors of the economy.

The connection between biodiversity and sustainable development is clear. Without effective measures to conserve and restore biodiversity and use its components sustainably, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achievable.

At the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, in 2020, governments will have the primary task of adopting the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that charts the actions to reach the vision of ‘Living in Harmony with Nature by 2050’. The transformative nature of the new framework should support national goals and policies on multiple tracks, including species and ecosystems conservation, ecosystem management and restoration, and the mainstreaming of biodiversity concepts, objectives and safeguards into economic and business models. How we address consumption and production patterns will be pivotal to ensuring the safe operating space for the planet and all life forms on it, including humankind.

The benefits of biodiversity extend far beyond the economy alone. They affect all peoples, especially Indigenous peoples and local communities, who are directly connected to the land and whose traditional knowledge and practices can pave the way forward, as well as women and youth, who have the most at stake in the future.

The G7 leaders have a global platform to embed biodiversity indicators, incentives and investments in policymaking at all levels. Yet the scale of transformation requires action by all stakeholders. This is why, together with the governments of Egypt and China, the CBD Secretariat has launched the Sharm El-Sheikh to Kunming Action Agenda to Nature and People, which catalyses, collates and celebrates actions taken on behalf of biodiversity and its sustainable and equitable use by all sectors.

This year’s G7 summit represents a critical moment on the pathway to COP15 in 2020. I invite the leaders and all participants at Biarritz to continue to join in this growing, transparent and participatory movement to develop, adopt and swiftly implement an agreement that safeguards the future for our planet and all peoples. As France’s President Emmanuel Macron has stated, “the challenge of our generation is to act, act faster and win this battle against time and against fatalism, to put forth concrete actions which will change our countries, our societies and our economies”.