Biodiversity crisis must be urgently addressed

May 22, 2023
China Daily

Of the estimated 100 billion planets within our galaxy, there is only one we know of that is capable of sustaining life — our own.

The Earth is a cosmic miracle. It has given birth to millions of species, including humankind.

But this miracle is a fragile one, and it is under threat. Ten million hectares of forest are destroyed each year. Two-thirds of the planet's oceans are now affected by humans. And by the end of today, as is the case every day, another 200 species will have gone extinct.

In December, the United Nations' Biodiversity Summit of COP15 (the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity), presided over by China, successfully concluded in Montreal. In a critical alignment of global priorities, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was endorsed by all parties. Twenty-three targets and over 60 resolutions were adopted to protect nature and help secure the future of humanity and the planet.

But this framework is only a guiding blueprint to establish what the world must collectively strive to achieve.

In order to see real change, the framework needs to translate into urgent action.

Indeed, that is why the theme of this year's biodiversity day is "From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity". In the next decade, actions must be accelerated to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution with a rapid pivot to concerted implementation.

In particular, the connection between biodiversity conservation and climate action must continue to be strengthened and underpin policy decisions, as they are two sides of the same coin. Healthy ecosystems are not only home to millions of species of plants and wildlife, but they also absorb emissions by acting as carbon sinks. To solve the climate crisis, we have to work with nature, not against it.

In addition, we have to drastically increase biodiversity financing, as $824 billion is needed annually to sustain biodiversity, but the world currently directs only $142 billion toward conservation efforts. That's just around 0.1 percent of global GDP. It is imperative that we do better.

The 1.5 billion yuan ($211 million) Kunming Biodiversity Fund, established by China during the first part of COP15 to support conservation efforts in developing countries, is a step in the right direction. But we urgently need more initiatives such as this all around the world if we are to close the massive biodiversity funding gap.

The UN Development Programme is working globally to protect biodiversity and ecosystems, and to advance the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Through our Nature Pledge, we are committed to supporting countries around the world to turn the blueprint of the Global Biodiversity Framework into reality, and to put nature at the heart of sustainable development.

For example, last year, in cooperation with other UN agencies, we launched three global programs to support more than 138 countries in updating their National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans in line with the Global Biodiversity Framework, and to accelerate the mobilization of resources. Our global Biodiversity Finance Initiative also works to increase the amount of public and private financing for conservation and nature-positive investments.

In China, we are proud of our joint achievements in biodiversity protection fostered together with government partners, at both the national and local levels, over more than four decades. This shared commitment to the protection of China's vibrant ecosystems has been critical in ongoing efforts to reverse environmental degradation so that biodiversity can recover and flourish.

The UN Development Programme stands ready to continue building on this collective work, and to leverage our global network and expertise to support the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework in China.

In doing this, it will be critical to step up cooperation and coordination on biodiversity protection efforts across different sectors and regions, as biodiversity does not have obvious thematic or geographic boundaries. In addition, consolidating conservation strategies across land, water and sea so that they support each other is essential.

We will also work to help redirect financial flows from nature-negative to nature-positive. Investments that harm biodiversity, including the billions spent globally on agricultural subsidies, should be channeled toward the protection of habitats and ecosystems.

Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to biodiversity, in particular marine life, with 14 million metric tons of plastic ending up in oceans every year.

With only seven years remaining to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, what we do to protect nature will determine the future of people and the planet.

With the Global Biodiversity Framework, we have a plan in place. Now is the time to turn it into reality through concrete actions. Working together, we can ensure that our miracle of a planet can thrive and support humanity and all species for generations to come.

Beate Trankmann is UNDP resident representative in China

Published in China Daily