Monday, 8 November 2010

Facts? on Biodiversity

Facts on Biodiversity, A Summary of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Biodiversity Synthesis

This fold-out was produced by Green Facts in partnership with Countdown 2010 Save Biodiversity, The UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and with the kind support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, European Commission Directorate General Environment and Belgian Science Policy. This fold-0ut was brought to my attention as reading material to prepare for the Positive Visions for Biodiversity meeting in Belgium from 16 to 17 November 2010 and reinforces my believe that any meaningful accomplishment at the meeting will be an uphill struggle.

Facts on Biodiversity

The Millennium Assessment was launched by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2001 to provide scientific information concerning the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and options for responding to those changes. It involved over 1300 scientists from 95 countries and a partnership among several international organizations, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Convention on Migratory Species, five UN agencies, the World Bank, and IUCN. The Biodiversity Synthesis Report, one of the main products of this work, responds to requests for information received through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and provides an overview of the links between the state of our ecosystems and the biodiversity they contain.
It all sounds impressive, but here are a few of my comments about the content of the fold-out summary which show that I was not at all impressed or inspired to read the full assessment.

What would need to be done to significantly slow down biodiversity loss?  Even I can answer that one. We need a major change of attitude for many people – which would cost nothing, could be done immediately and would make 100% difference. The real question is, what would need to be done to inspire a change of attitude en masse?  Nature may come up with the answer to this one soon if we don’t come up with it first.

The importance of biodiversity is ignored by financial markets because there is no price tag on ecoservices. But what is the economic value of something that is in fact priceless? How can this be determined? What about creating another type of market?

There is a call for strong institutions. Central government and local government are to create and enforce suitable laws and policies. But since our governments have now progressed to being partners in the market, and there is no democracy in the companies that dominate the market, this would appear to be impossible.

“Many companies now show greater corporate responsibility.” Obviously ‘many’ is not ‘very many’ as they have not even slowed down biodiversity loss as shown below.

Trade-offs between promoting human well-being and limiting biodiversity loss are likely. Promoting biodiversity is promoting human well-being. What people call promoting human well-being which is destroying biodiversity is, for the most part, an illusion.

Finding 1
Human actions are blamed for biodiversity loss. But only the ones with bad attitudes are actually culpable.

Finding 2
Exploitation benefited some to the disadvantage of others. The point here is that not only are fish, bees, trees, etc being exploited (taken advantage of), but many people (especially the poor) are too, even in developed countries.

Finding 3
A precautionary approach would be advisable. Why is it not being implemented?

Finding 4
Among other things, climate change may contribute to biodiversity loss. But the real problem is the continued increase in consumerist attitudes.

Finding 5
It is claimed that many actions have been successful in limiting biodiversity loss. As much as I and others would like to take credit for our efforts, it boggles the mind how this statement can be made in the same short paper that also claims “[t]he current loss of biodiversity and the related changes in the environment are now faster than ever before in human history and there is no sign of this process slowing down.” Before this comment, there is the chart on wildlife species numbers with lines moving steadily downward from 1970 until 2000.

Finding 6
This paper was written in 2005 with a prediction that the 2010 target would not be reached. Since 2010 is nearly over, I think any prediction about a biodiversity loss target for this year can be safely written off. We can forget about 'unprecedented additional efforts', which were never going to happen anyway, especially since the United States is still not a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

This led me to my next reading assignment, the outcome documents from the Convention of Parties 2010 (COP10) in Nagoya (48 of them).