Biodiversity: What are the main challenges for private and public stakeholders?

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Biodiversity: What are the main challenges

The understanding that biodiversity is something we urgently need to protect is gaining momentum around the world. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) (the IPCC equivalent for biodiversity) recently publishing two reports on the sustainable use of wild species and on the various values of nature. At the Countdown to COP15: Landmark Leaders’ Event for a Nature-Positive World event in New York this week, world leaders reaffirmed their commitment to reverse biodiversity loss and secure a ‘nature-positive’ world by 2030.

However, while biodiversity is increasingly topical, it also highly complex and public levels of understanding vary greatly. Ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), Jeanne Barreyre, consultant and researcher in Nature-based solutions (NBS) at EcoAct, takes stock of the challenges of biodiversity and their implications for businesses and communities.

What exactly do we mean by “biodiversity”?

Although the subject of biodiversity covers a wide range of concepts, there is one commonly accepted definition. The Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, among others, terrestrial, marine and aquatic ecosystems, as well as the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, as well as between species and ecosystems”.

Biodiversity: What are the main challenges
Diagram showing the definition of biodiversity (EcoAct)

 

The emergency: The world-wide decline in biodiversity and our dependence on its services

The decline: The 2019 IPBES Global Assessment Report estimated that 75% of the terrestrial environment and 40% of the marine environment show “significant signs of degradation.” As a result, 25% of the species belonging to the animal and plant groups assessed are currently endangered, i.e., around 1 million species are threatened with extinction. Unfortunately, these figures are only increasing.

 

Biodiversity: What are the main challenges
Current global extinction risk in different species groups (IPBES, 2019)

 

The culprit: Human activity. To understand the origin of the decline, the IPBES has identified five major human-induced pressures that contribute to it: land and sea use change (e.g., deforestation, seabed degradation, etc.), direct exploitation of organisms (e.g., overfishing), climate change, pollution (e.g., neonicotinoids), and invasive species. Ranked by decreasing impact, neither climate change nor pollution are currently the main factors in the collapse of biodiversity. On a global scale, the destruction of habitats and the exploitation of species and ecosystems are the main factors causing the decline in biodiversity.

 

Biodiversity
Examples of declines in nature at the global level, highlighting the loss of biodiversity caused by direct and indirect drivers of change (IPBES, 2019)

 

Dependencies: Nature provides a wide range of ecosystem services that make human life possible by providing food and water, regulating disease and climate, contributing to pollination and soil formation, and providing recreational, cultural and wellbeing benefits.

As the IPBES points out in its latest report on the sustainable use of wildlife, humanity uses more than 50,000 wild species for food, fuel and medicine. However, the scientists behind the report estimate that only 34% of them are used sustainably. The report also highlights that one in five people depend on wildlife for food or direct income.

These figures demonstrate the high dependence of human activities on ecosystem services, which are being degraded by human pressures. And so, we come full circle!

 

Biodiversity: What are the main challenges for private and public stakeholders?
Links between the contribution to pressures on nature and the dependence of economic activities on ecosystem services (EcoAct).

 

According to the conceptual model of global limits[3], current trajectories are not consistent with the goals of conservation and sustainable use of nature. Today, six of the nine limits have been crossed, including the limit on biodiversity integrity. Thus, the targets for 2030 and beyond, which will be negotiated at COP 15 at the end of this year, can only be achieved through far-reaching economic, social, political and technological changes. These long-awaited negotiations are therefore likely to be complicated, given the complexity of biodiversity and the delay of the conference already incurred.

Biodiversity: complementarity with climate

There are strong complementarities between climate and biodiversity. Both are caused by human activities and reciprocally drive each other. Climate change has significant effects on the erosion of biodiversity, particularly through physical consequences such as droughts, rising water levels, floods, heat waves, etc.

However, biodiversity also influences the climate, especially in the context of the fight against climate change through its capacity to store and sequester carbon. Neither will be effectively resolved unless both are tackled together. The IPBES and the IPCC have called for a joined-up approach to biodiversity and climate change.

Engaging in climate action and preserving biodiversity has a double benefit: on mitigation by promoting natural carbon sinks, and on adaptation by using the functions of living organisms to strengthen the resilience of our territories to climate change. These solutions, also known as nature-based solutions or NBS, not only make it possible to limit global warming by contributing to the net-zero transition but also by increasing the resilience of cities, regions and countries by promoting the conservation and protection of biodiversity.

How can we meet these challenges?

The complexity of biodiversity means that despite the lack of standard tools and methods, both private and public actors have a role to play. Both must reduce their impact on nature and decrease their dependence on ecosystem services, especially those services most likely to be deteriorated over time.

Beyond this urgent mitigation, it is important to consider the means of adapting to and anticipating the risks linked to the erosion of biodiversity. To this end, initiatives and frameworks are emerging to guide both private and public organisations in considering the biodiversity dimension of their activities. Most of these initiatives are based on climate reference frameworks. Building on the work of the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) on climate change, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) has developed a step-by-step guide to setting science-based targets for nature. Inspired by the TCFD (Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures), the TNFD (Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures) is a global initiative. Its mission is to develop and provide a framework for managing and reporting on nature-related risks in order to influence their evolution.

There is much to be done and action is urgently needed to avoid the catastrophic impacts of both biodiversity loss and climate change. Progress is being made to help all actors to continue their climate mitigation efforts by reducing their contributions to pressures on biodiversity. We look forward to the outcome of COP 15 and hope to see more developments soon.

 

 

Sources:

Finance4Tomorrow (2022): Finance & Biodiversity: The French Ecosystem

IPBES (2019): Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. S. Díaz, J. Settele, E. S. Brondízio E.S., H. T. Ngo, M. Guèze, J. Agard, A. Arneth, P. Balvanera, K. A. Brauman, S. H. M. Butchart, K. M. A. Chan, L. A. Garibaldi, K. Ichii, J. Liu, S. M. Subramanian, G. F. Midgley, P. Miloslavich, Z. Molnár, D. Obura, A. Pfaff, S. Polasky, A. Purvis, J. Razzaque, B. Reyers, R. Roy Chowdhury, Y. J. Shin, I. J. Visseren-Hamakers, K. J. Willis, and C. N. Zayas (eds.). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany. 56 pages.

IPBES (2022): Summary for policymakers of the thematic assessment of the sustainable use of wild species of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION

IPBES (2022): Summary for policymakers of the methodological assessment regarding the diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature and its benefits, including biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services (assessment of the diverse values and valuation of nature)

Rockström, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, Å. Persson, F. S. Chapin, III, E. Lambin, T. M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, C. Folke, H. Schellnhuber, B. Nykvist, C. A. De Wit, T. Hughes, S. van der Leeuw, H. Rodhe, S. Sörlin, P. K. Snyder, R. Costanza, U. Svedin, M. Falkenmark, L. Karlberg, R. W. Corell, V. J. Fabry, J. Hansen, B. Walker, D. Liverman, K. Richardson, P. Crutzen, and J. Foley. 2009. Planetary boundaries:exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and Society 14(2): 32 [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss2/art32/

Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) (2020) Target-setting Tools and Guidance.

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