This meeting marks the mid-point to the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets. It offers a unique opportunity to take stock and evaluate progress to ensure we are on track in achieving common goals. The outcome of the meeting will also contribute to the discussion around the critical links between biodiversity and long-term human development, in the context of the post-2015 development agenda.
I would like to begin by sharing with you a rather simple reflection; one which, in many ways, underpins the purpose of our mission: what distinguishes Earth is that it is the only planet in our solar system that harbours life. And what is extraordinary about life is its diversity: More than 90 million types of plants, animals and other life-forms inhabit the planet. So do 7 billion people, soon to grow to 9 billion.
There is ample evidence that the pressure humanity is placing on the planet has exceeded life’s support systems. Species’ extinctions are continuing at up to 1,000 times or more the natural rate, according to IUCN figures.
Global Biodiversity Outlook 4, which offers a thorough assessment of the state of the world’s biodiversity, reveals that despite increased financial investment in protecting biodiversity, it will be difficult to meet the Aichi targets due to accumulated and increased pressures on the natural world.
Unless we do more – and do it fast – our actions will continue to dismantle the very fabric of the natural world.
Species will continue to disappear at an alarming rate; the functioning of ecosystems and their ability to provide society with the goods and services they need to prosper will be altered, and our natural capital will diminish.
18,788 species out of 52,017, so far assessed by IUCN, are threatened with extinction.
From habitat destruction and climate change to land degradation and pollution, the drivers of biodiversity loss continue to grow in severity.
Habitat loss and degradation are identified as the main threat to 85 per cent of all species described in the IUCN’s Red List.
Decreasing wetland extent and declining coral cover reflect large-scale habitat loss.
More than 500 million people globally depend on coral reefs for protection against sea level rise and for their livelihoods, yet, 70 per cent of reefs are threatened or destroyed.
And while around half of all original forests have disappeared, the remaining forest cover is being removed at a rate 10 times higher than any possible level of regrowth.
Ecosystem services losses in SE Asia from the predicted destruction of mangroves from 2000 to 2050 are estimated at more than US$ 2 billion.
The clearance of 17 million hectares of tropical forest annually puts the lives of at least half of the Earth’s species – which inhabit these forests – in great danger.
We are witnessing what is by far the greatest biodiversity loss, comparable in its magnitude only to when dinosaurs disappeared from the face of the planet 65 million years ago.
The impacts of biodiversity loss are irreversible and pose a serious threat to human well-being, and to life on earth.
These facts should not be interpreted in the context of a ‘doom and gloom’ scenario, but should be seen as elements of the challenge that we need to bravely confront and effectively manage.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is up to us – here and now – to build momentum, strengthen political will and take decisive measures to keep the Aichi Targets on track.
Evidence shows that the Aichi targets are still within reach and substantial progress is being made on a number of them, for example:
Each of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, however, cannot be tackled in isolation. Actions towards certain targets will have an especially strong influence on the achievement of the rest.
UNEP is delighted to be supporting many countries in developing their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, contributing to their efforts to identify appropriate indicators and design associated monitoring schemes to reach the Aichi Targets.
We are pleased to see that biodiversity-related treaties, like the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), are feeding into the process. We also continue to work with important partners such as the Global Environment Facility, UNDP and, of course, the CBD Secretariat.
With the progress achieved so far, it is clear that plausible pathways exist to end biodiversity loss and acheive global goals in areas such as climate change, land degradation and sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The current sustainable development agenda provides an opportunity to bring biodiversity into the mainstream of the broader development agenda.
Meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets would contribute significantly to the broader global priorities addressed by the post-2015 development agenda, namely; reducing hunger and poverty, improving human health and ensuring a sustainable supply of energy, food and clean water.
But to achieve those objectives we need to use natural resources more efficiently and to rethink and transform our consumption patterns.
Without pre-empting the UNGA process, in particular the Ad Hoc Open Ended Informal Working Group for Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, countries need to continue to progress towards a decision that will ensure the conservation and wise use of biodiversity in areas that most of us will never visit, but are key to our survival. Oceans are the next engine for sustainable economic growth which can only be realised if biodiversity, features prominently and allows for wise management for humankind.
It is true thousands of species are teetering on the edge of extinction. But whether or not they tip over depends in large part on our actions today.
This meeting is a critical opportunity to inject renewed impetus into our commitment to reach the Aichi Targets and to shape the Sustainable Development Goals by revisiting national strategies and plans that have been designed to ensure more efficient use of land, water, energy and materials.
This meeting should act as a timely reminder to all that ‘business as usual’, in our present patterns of behaviour, will not get us to the vision of a world with ecosystems capable of meeting human needs into the future.
We now have a valuable opportunity to renew our support for policy, legislation and international conventions that will help us reach our common goals for a more equitable and sustainable future.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Korea, especially Prime Minister Jung Hong-won and Minister Yoon Seong-kyu, for their unwavering commitment and efforts towards the success of this event.