2010 — International Year of Biodiversity Loss?

  • by Marguerite A. Suozzi (united nations)
  • Thursday, April 29, 2010
  • Inter Press Service

In 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, leaders have not only failed to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, 'but biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems,' said Dr. Stuart Butchart of the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre and BirdLife International.

Butchart is also a co-author of a paper in the journal Science this week entitled 'Global Biodiversity: Indicators of Recent Declines'. It is the first article to assess the commitments made to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss in 2002 through the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The publication of the paper coincides with the Ninth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), which has focused on the impact of development projects on indigenous lands, where biodiversity is also being threatened.

This stands in seeming contrast with the theme of International Biological Diversity day, which will take place on May 22, under the title 'Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation'. How development projects and the maintenance and protection of biological diversity can coexist will be a challenge for international organisations, governments, NGOs and civil society to confront in coming years.

'Our water is being poisoned, our woods are being cut down,' said a speaker from the Andean Platform of Indigenous Organisations at a panel discussing the 'devastating' role of logging, mining, and other 'mega development' projects on indigenous land as part of the Forum.

Manuela Ima, the president of the Association of the Waorani Women of the Ecuadorian Amazon (AMWAE), told IPS that oil-extracting companies threatened the environment and her community in the Pastaza region of the Amazon.

'In Ecuador, there are seven oil companies,' Ima told IPS. 'There is so much pollution - noise pollution, trash, the river is contaminated, so is the air. We do not want this.'

The targets established in 2002 as part of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, aim to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by conserving genetic diversity, protecting ecosystems and species, promoting sustainable use, consumption and traditional knowledge, and addressing the challenges to achieving these goals.

According to the CBD website, the main threat to biological diversity is human activity, manifested in different ways through demands for food, water, energy and materials.

One industry where this challenge is manifested particularly clearly is the food and agriculture sector, which place enormous pressures on the natural environment to produce sufficient yields to cater to human consumption. The CBD advocates for the incorporation of biodiversity considerations into trade policies and poverty reduction strategies.

'Since 1970, we have reduced animal populations by 30 percent, the area of mangroves and sea grasses by 20 percent and the coverage of living corals by 40 percent,' said Prof. Joseph Alcamo, the United Nations Environment Programme's chief scientist.

'These losses are clearly unsustainable, since biodiversity makes a key contribution to human well-being and sustainable development, as recognised by the U.N. Millennium Development Goals,' he said.

Another challenge facing the successful achievement of the targets established in 2002 is the seeming inability of the Convention to hold accountable those leaders and countries who have committed to achieving these goals.

'Our data show that 2010 will not be the year that biodiversity loss was halted, but it needs to be the year in which we start taking the issue seriously and substantially increase our efforts to take care of what is left of our planet,' said Butchart.

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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