** This article was featured in the newest ECO Newsletter now available for download (PDF - 690KB) and was handed out during the CBD SBSTTA conference held in Niarobi, Kenya. **
As government representatives from around the world meet in Nairobi to address the biodiversity crisis, a major report will be unveiled today showing that the targets agreed in 2002 to achieve a significant reduction of the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 were not met.
The new CBD strategic plan must make sure that we put a price on the value of biodiversity, and that this price is accounted for in decision making.
The Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), together with a recent report published on Science and authored by the leading authorities on conservation, confirm what we already knew: regardless of efforts to conserve our planet, we are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate, while the pressures are quickly going up.
The report showed that -- even though many responses have been in the right direction, including the designation of new protected areas and the prevention of extinctions -- the efforts to address the loss of biodiversity need to be integrated across all parts of government and business to be more effective.
Overfishing, pollution and deforestation are pressures embedded in our economic system, which largely ignores the importance of the environment and the benefits it generates for people and nations. We are not talking about just clean air and drinking water, but also incalculable cultural, spiritual and aesthetic values.
IN DEPTH: Learn more about the threats to species
The new CBD strategic plan must make sure that we put a price on the value of biodiversity, and that this price is accounted for in decision making. Only then will we be able to address this problem. But how do we make this happen? We need financial and institutional frameworks that eliminate perverse incentives harmful to the environment and provide positive incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
Subsidies for industrial fisheries, for example, amount to US$15 to US$30 billion per year, and contribute to the depletion of fish stocks all over the world. In comparison, a network of Marine Protected Areas covering 20 to 30 percent of the oceans would cost about a third (US$5 to US$19 billion per year), and would deliver about 1 million jobs – more than the current number of jobs in the global fishing industry. Plus, it would help to sustain global fish stocks as a vital source of food.
We all know that the choice to protect biodiversity brings clear costs—whether because people are at times forced to choose between cutting down trees or feeding their families, or because funds to maintain protected areas are difficult to find—, but it also brings benefits that compensate the costs over the long term.
LEARN MORE: Find out how CI is working to benefit both people and nature though economic incentives.
At the global scale, the benefits of conservation, like a stable climate, clearly outweigh the costs, potentially by as much as 100 times according to The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) report. But at the national and local scales, the benefits of conservation are not often immediately palpable, while costs are apparent. So, one of the major challenges is to ensure that the costs of conservation are as equally distributed as the benefits are.
A broader spectrum of mechanisms for beneficiaries to share costs and to help make conservation an attractive and economically viable choice is needed. The former can be done through the recognition of local rights and the participation of communities in the management of protected areas as to maximize local benefits and minimize local costs and enforcement. Options to make conservation an economically viable choice include fees to capture willingness to pay for ecosystem service provision, national taxes to capture broadly distributed benefits, and mechanisms for international beneficiaries to share costs in developing countries.
If these and other mechanisms can be brought to bear at a sufficient scale, conservation will be a voluntary choice and everyone will be better off. Biodiversity is essential for human survival, and the natural processes made possible by the diversity of life underpin the economies of all nations, but are often forgotten as politicians focus on narrow, short-term agendas. All countries must recognize and integrate the value of biodiversity in their national accounts and economic development plans if we are to be successful in stopping the current steep loss in biodiversity. The new CBD strategic plan must recognize this if we want a different outcome in 2020 and beyond.
READ MORE: Why Species Matter