Helen Clark: Speech at Opening of High Level Segment Conference of State Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), COP-12

Oct 15, 2014

Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea

I am pleased to join you at the opening of the High Level Segment of this Conference of State Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

I thank the Government of the Republic of Korea for hosting this important conference, and for its strong partnership with UNDP, including through its support for the Millennium Development Goal Trust Fund.

Human survival and wellbeing depend heavily upon the earth’s biodiversity. Biodiversity loss not only has serious implications for our natural environment: it also undermines our livelihoods, health, and food and water security.

The appalling slaughter of elephants, rhinos, and other endangered wildlife species is a case in point. The one-off sum paid for killing an elephant by the criminal syndicates driving the illegal wildlife trade is minute compared to the value of a live elephant to a country and its ecotourism industry, which, in the case of Kenya, for example, is estimated at one million dollars over an elephant’s lifetime. Poaching thus undermines the prospects for communities and nations.

The Parties to the CBD have long recognized the importance of biodiversity for sustainable development. Four years ago, in Nagoya, they committed to take urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity, and laid out ambitious targets to be achieved by 2020.

Some progress has been made on the Aichi targets since Nagoya. For example, progress on meeting the target of conserving at least seventeen per cent of terrestrial areas is on track. Progress overall on the targets, however, has been neither comprehensive nor far-reaching enough for biodiversity loss to be halted by 2020 as intended.

So what can be done? 

A critical step is to recognize that maintaining biodiversity is related not only to direct conservation measures, but also to pursuing poverty reduction and human development in ways which are sustainable. This is of critical importance to the success of the post-2015 development agenda.

The UN General Assembly’s Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goal has emphasized the importance of biodiversity in its proposals. It has proposed two “stand-alone” goals for biodiversity: one on oceans, and another on terrestrial ecosystems. It also proposes including biodiversity targets in other goals, such as those on food security and poverty eradication.

An holistic approach to maintaining biodiversity is also taken in UNDP’s new Strategic Plan 2014-2017. Biodiversity is interwoven across our mandated areas of focus, building on the UNDP Global Biodiversity Framework launched at the COP in Hyderabad two years ago. This enables us to scale up support to countries to address biodiversity loss, and to do so in ways which join the dots between development and conservation. 

Through its current US$1.5 billion portfolio of biodiversity projects, UNDP is active in 132 countries, working to:

·      mainstream biodiversity into economic development planning and operations;

·      maximize the conservation and economic benefits from establishing protected areas; and

·      address climate change by reducing carbon emissions from forest loss and securing ecosystem services for climate change adaptation, such as the flood control services provided by intact wetlands and mangrove forests.

Our work has greatly benefited especially from our greatly valued partnership with the Global Environment Facility, and we also thank the other partners and funds which support our biodiversity portfolio.

We see the work which we are supporting getting results. In Indonesia, for example, we are working with the Government and other partners to combat land degradation and soil erosion by providing small grants to more than a hundred community-based organisations. With these grants, they can purchase livestock, install micro-hydropower plants, and/or capitalize revolving funds. In exchange for the grant, community members commit to undertaking land conservation activities. To date, more than a million indigenous trees have been planted, providing work opportunities, improving habitats, preventing soil erosion, and enhancing groundwater supplies.

One of UNDP’s current flagship programmes is “BIOFIN”, the Biodiversity Finance Initiative, which is supported by the EU, Germany, and Switzerland.

Through BIOFIN, we have developed a methodology for “bottom-up” assessment of the “biodiversity finance gap”[1], and are currently supporting nineteen countries to address this gap. This involves engaging Ministries of Finance and Planning in identifying areas of expenditure which may be having negative effects on biodiversity.
That work then lays the ground for estimating the cost of the actions needed to address biodiversity loss, while at the same time maximizing the human development benefits of those actions. When the analysis is complete, countries are better equipped to identify a range of funding sources—private and public, national and international—to fill the “biodiversity finance gap”.

This Conference will look at the important roles of both Official Development Assistance and domestic funding in filling in the biodiversity finance gap. UNDP strongly believes that this is not a matter of “either—or”. Unlocking the benefits of biodiversity for development calls for expanded financing on all fronts—including through domestic fiscal reforms, creative partnerships with the private sector, and continued support from international partners.

Another highlight of this Conference is the coming into force of the Nagoya Protocol—a crucial vehicle for facilitating shared access to genetic resources and benefits resulting from the use of those assets in research and product development. Working in partnership with the GEF, UNDP has supported more than twenty countries to prepare for the implementation of the Protocol, and to facilitate deals which see benefits begin to flow to countries and communities.

UNDP believes that such actions, when replicated, scaled up, and backed up by adequate finance, can make a significant contribution to biodiversity conservation and to sustainable and equitable development.  

In closing, let me emphasize that while big challenges remain, there have also been significant successes in biodiversity since the Nagoya COP. The vision of the Strategic Plan to halt the loss of biodiversity can be achieved if all States Parties and other stakeholders commit to making that happen.

I wish all participants a very constructive conference here in the Republic of Korea this week.


[1] This is a commonly used term, referring to the gap between what is currently being spent and what is needed to achieve the most cost effective solution to addressing biodiversity loss. Currently this is estimated at up to USD 150 billion per annum, although it could be reduced by addressing the drivers of loss.

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