|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Third Global Biodiversity Outlook
Launching the third Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) in New York today, a senior United Nations development official warned that, without swift action and renewed political will, current “alarming” biodiversity declines would continue, and some life-giving ocean and rainforest ecosystems would spiral towards collapse, threatening sustainable development and human well-being.
“The projections are dire,” Delfin Ganapin, Global Manager of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme, said during a Headquarters press conference on the results of the GBO-3, which was also being launched in a number of other cities around the world today, including Alexandria, Bonn, Brasilia, Chamonix, London, Manama, Montreal, Nairobi, Panama and Tokyo.
He went on to say that the Outlook, based on more than 110 national reports submitted by Governments to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and compiled in close cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), warned of “massive” biodiversity loss with consequences that were much worse than previously thought.
Earlier Outlooks were published in 2002 and 2006. The current Outlook, which was made available to reporters, presents stark choices for human societies: while on one hand the pressures driving the loss of biodiversity show few signs of easing, on the other, the options for addressing this crisis are wider than was apparent in earlier studies. The survey concludes that concerted and targeted responses, with actions applied at appropriate levels to address both direct pressures on biodiversity and their underlying causes, can in the long term stop or even reverse the continued decline in the variety of life on Earth.
Mr. Ganapin said that the GEF, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was the Convention’s financial mechanism, providing grants to developing countries for projects related to biodiversity, international waters, climate change, land degradation, and persistent organic pollutants. The GEF aimed to promote human development and sustainable livelihoods and was very concerned about the report’s findings, especially the revelation that not a single Government could claim to have definitively met the targets agreed in 2002 to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.
“This report is saying that we are reaching what’s called ‘tipping points,’ where irreversible damage is going to be done to the planet unless we act now,” he continued, stressing that extinction rates for some animal and plant species, especially amphibians, were reaching historic highs — up to 1,000 times those seen before — affecting not just tropical species, but biodiversity that was “closer to home”, such food crops and livestock.
He cited three key tipping points, saying that deforestation in the Amazon and other rainforest ecosystems was harming the global climate, cutting short regional rainfall and wiping out plant and animal species; freshwater lakes, rivers and other inland bodies of water were becoming polluted and contaminated by algae, starving them of oxygen, killing off fish and affecting local livelihoods; and coral reefs were suffering alarming collapse, due to combined pressure from overfishing, pollution and warming oceans.
“But all this could be addressed with urgent, appropriate action, and requisite political will,” he said, adding that devoting just a fraction of the trillions of dollars mobilized to global economic stimulus packages over the past year to biological conservation would be a big step in the right direction.
In addition, he said it was urgently necessary to begin linking biodiversity matters to the global efforts to tackle climate change strategies. Reducing direct pressures on natural systems, including through more efficient energy programmes and better land-use strategies, was key. For example, he said that New York had spent $1 billion to rehabilitate and protect the Delaware-Catskill watershed and that initiative was estimated to be saving the City between $4 billion to $6 billion for water treatment and transport.
He also urged focusing on biodiversity as the key to sustainable development for all. And, in that effort, stakeholders should draw on the traditional know-how and expertise of traditional and indigenous communities, while at the same time obtaining free, prior and informed consent of those communities. Raising awareness about the importance of biodiversity was another area where immediate action could be taken, he added.
Responding to a question, he acknowledged that, while there had been an increase in efforts to designate protected land and ocean areas, such projects were not enough to curtail rapid habitat loss and species extinction. He reiterated that mangroves and other wetlands were being lost at an alarming rate, triggering unprecedented species loss. Indeed, wasteful energy and water use alone could outstrip the most conscientious conservation programmes. One of the real tragedies of biodiversity loss was that many species disappeared before the scientific community became aware of their decline, he added.
On criticism of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) and REDD+ initiatives — carbon offset and forest preservation programmes that many indigenous people felt were actually threatening their cultures and livelihoods and threatening their communities with displacement — he said that the United Nations was aware of the controversy and very concerned about the effects of such projects on local communities.
With that in mind, he said the UN-REDD programme had pressed for seeking prior, informed consent of indigenous peoples and local communities before such projects were launched. The focus was on social acceptability and viability, as well as equity in benefits sharing.
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