Being Part of the Plan: An Integrated Approach for Global Biological Diversity Conservation

The International Day for Biological Diversity, observed annually on 22nd May every year, serves as a poignant reminder to recognize and promote the importance of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. The day was recognized to commemorate the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992, a comprehensive international agreement aimed at conserving biological diversity, promoting sustainable usage of its components, and sharing the benefits arising from genetic resources fairly and equitably. Global warming and climate change have exacerbated the vulnerability to biodiversity in recent years, with three-quarters of terrestrial environments and approximately 66% of ocean ecosystems undergoing substantial alterations.  The 2022 Living Planet Report by the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has outlined a 69% reduction in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians since 1970. The failure of previous policies, rising geo-political challenges, and climate change alarmingly solidify the requirement for transformative measures to contain biodiversity loss. 

Figure 1: Interlinkage of Biodiversity and Life

Source: World Economic Forum 

Each year, the day is centred around a specific theme to focus global efforts and discussions on aspects of biodiversity conservation. The theme for 2024, ‘Be part of the Plan’, has been conceived to unite all the stakeholders in support of implementing the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The GBF, also called the ‘Biodiversity Plan,’ has been meticulously projected as a comprehensive and ambitious global policy framework that aims to address the degradation of biodiversity and encourage sustainable practices and endeavours to cultivate a balanced relationship between humanity, the economy, and the natural environment. The GBF aims to materialize transformative actions of halting and reversing the existing biodiversity losses by intending to achieve four overarching goals and 23 targets by 2030 and beyond. With the history of earlier policies failing to achieve expected targets, there is a need to raise awareness, highlight the biodiversity crisis, promote global agreements, and catalyze urgent action to protect the planet’s diverse ecosystems. 

GBF: The Need for Consolidation

The GBF has explicitly recognized the requirement for multilateral cooperation in several of its targets, especially regarding the availability of financial resources and strengthening capacity-building, development, technology transfer, and scientific collaboration from all sources to implement the framework. In addition, the GBF highlights the urgent need to reduce pressures on biodiversity and decrease environmental degradation to lower the health risks and encourage conservation. Achieving this will require significant shifts in sectors like agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, which are responsible for much of the world’s biodiversity loss. However, a substantial change in these sectors can create an adverse effect not only on the population but also on other global development expeditions. Though the GBF framework has conceived targets to stall biodiversity degradation, effectively navigating the trade-offs between conservation efforts and development pursuits remains an enduring challenge.

Biodiversity conservation efforts are often fragmented across different sectors and policies, leading to inefficiencies and conflicting actions. The entrenched disparities in national priorities, resources, and capabilities can present a formidable challenge to the global coordination of efforts based on GBF. The non-binding nature of the GBF framework also challenges coordination efforts as it diminishes enforceability and accountability for non-compliance. Interestingly, notwithstanding their overarching objectives in mitigating climate change impacts and preserving biodiversity, the Conference of Parties on Climate Change (most recent being COP28) and the Conference of Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity (recently COP15) have historically operated with limited coordination and independently from each other. 

As per the assessment by COP15, the global community needs to allocate at least US $200 billion annually until 2030 to finance biodiversity protection programs worldwide. However, this remains a significant concern as spending on biodiversity conservation has been estimated to range between $124 billion and $143 billion per year in 2019, with only a limited number of donors. In contrast, the world requires an estimated budget of around $722 billion to $967 billion annually. Though the Global Biodiversity Framework Fund (GBFF) has been conceived to raise funds through private, philanthropic, and government investments rather than relying on limited donors like its predecessor, the financing gap is too huge to bridge. As per the State of Finance for Nature, released by the UN Environment Programme in 2021, the financing gap for biodiversity is expected to be around $ 4.1 trillion by 2050. 

Way Forward

Effective implementation of the GBF requires coordinated arrangements across the environment, health, agriculture, policy, and other sectors. Here, ‘One Health’ becomes one of the instrumental factors for GBF as it also encourages cross-sectional actions promoting biodiversity conservation, emphasizing the interconnectedness of human, animal, and ecosystem health. The integrated approach pursued by One Health mobilizes diverse sectors, disciplines, and communities to collaborate in fostering well-being and mitigating threats to both human health and ecosystems. It also addresses the collective imperative for access to clean water, energy, air quality, safe and nutritious food, climate action, and sustainable development. One Health’s strategies to contain zoonotic diseases that disrupt human and wildlife ecosystems, promote biodiversity conservations encompassing health considerations, promote sustainable agriculture, preserve crop diversity, and build resilience to climate change perfectly align with CBD and GBF for biodiversity.

Achieving targets related to the sustainable use of wild species, spatial planning to limit human-wildlife contact, preventing over-exploitation that can potentially cause zoonotic disease transmission, and restoring ecosystems will prompt comprehensive outcomes to the vision of GBF. Integrating the One Health approach into national biodiversity conservation action plans will help countries maximize health and sustainability benefits. Countries need to incentivize flexibility in GBF while implementing their biodiversity action plan based on national priorities. As per the latest data, 194 out of 196 Parties have formulated at least one National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), and 178 countries have effectively revised their NBSAP per the 2011–2020 Strategic Plan. However, with GBF requiring a new or updated NBSAP to implement the framework at the national level, CBD needs to ensure that shortfalls of Aichi Biodiversity Targets are not repeated.

Global platforms like G20, which have committed to an integrated and inclusive approach towards GBF and One Health, must be incentivized for consolidated transformative actions that complement one another’s vision. Additionally, consolidated actions involving other international and regional institutions can support lower and middle-income countries in enacting their national plans. More regional initiatives like the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), which helped to address transboundary environmental challenges and promote the conservation of Amazon forests, need to be encouraged for the biodiversity conservation of larger regions. Other developed states should also be engaged in collaborative endeavours similar to the joint initiative involving Namibia, Zambia, Germany, and China to improve the quality of protected area management and governance in African countries. The experience of international financial institutions, including the IMF and World Bank, can be leveraged for finance, development, and policymaking to support countries in achieving the ambitious goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Furthermore, sustainable living initiatives like the Lifestyle for Environment (LiFE) launched by the Indian G20 presidency can be further used to develop a sustainable framework for national biodiversity conservation. Efforts must be undertaken to foster more significant synergies between COP 15 and COP 28 as the potential stakes to achieve together remain higher with the emergence of joint initiatives and collaborative frameworks at both international and national levels.

[Image by visa vietnam from Pixabay]

Anirudh Prem is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Diplomacy, Department of Global Health Governance, Prasanna School of Public Health, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Karnataka, India.

Kiran Bhatt is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Health Diplomacy, Department of Global Health Governance, Prasanna School of Public Health, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) Manipal Karnataka, India. He has an MA degree in Geopolitics and International Relations from MAHE.

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