The international community is currently gathered in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt for the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – an international treaty to which every other country in the world apart from the U.S is a member. During this two weeks conference, discussions will majorly be centered on the various threats to the world’s wildlife and habitats that include, but are not limited to tropical rainforests and world’s oceans. The parties have a golden opportunity to ensure that the next gathering, which will be launched in Beijing in 2020, becomes more ambitious and effective in the protection of biodiversity.
Our planet is in the midst of an extensive and catastrophic biodiversity crisis. We are witnessing a huge loss of world habitats, species, and ecosystems that are crucial to our planet’s health. They are also important to the well-being of humanity especially the indigenous peoples and local communities that are directly dependent on healthy ecosystems for their livelihoods.
Alarming Downward Trend
Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services indicate that biodiversity continues to decline in every region of the world. This is significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being. This alarming trend endangers world economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere.
According to the reports, the extent of terrestrial and marine ecosystems that can still be considered intact and ecologically functional is significantly diminishing. Threats across the globe today are massive, and include environmental degradation and habitat loss. Others include illegal poaching and mysterious death of wildlife as recently witnessed in Kenya, illegal and unsustainable fishing as witnessed in West Africa’s waters, illegal and unsustainable forest logging as witnessed in the Congo Basin Forest, harmful mega-infrastructural and development projects such as Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway famously referred to as SGR that passes through the Nairobi National Park, climate change, and many more.
Africa is well endowed with immense natural resources and its diverse cultural heritage is among its most important assets for both human development and livelihood support. It’s the last place on Earth with a vast range of gigantic mammals, yet according to the IUCN’s Red list of threatened species, today there are more African indigenous plant species, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and large mammals that are threatened with extinction more than ever before by a range of both human-induced and natural causes. Africa is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and this will have adverse impacts for especially socially and economically marginalized rural populations.
Today, the sights of degraded derelict lands devoid of their natural biodiversity, vast large-scale industrial monocultures basically dominated by corporates, and largely empty seas have become all too familiar and all too dominant. The consequences on biodiversity are clear and dire – ballooning numbers of species facing extinction and the degradation of the critical ecosystem services that underpin the very health of our planet and our own survival. In a nutshell, we are slowly shifting from a serious erosion of biodiversity to a critical ecological crisis that will impact all of us.
A Call to Action
As the world seeks to adopt new targets to set the course of biodiversity conservation for the next decade and beyond, we need to endeavor to expand the scope of this critical work.
More than anything, all governments presently in Egypt must work collaboratively and commit to saving the planet’s last intact places – the only remaining boreal forests of Canada and Russia; the two largest remaining tropical rainforests of the Congo Basin and the Amazon Basin – commonly referred to as the lungs of the Earth; the remaining grasslands of Central Asia; and the remaining coral reefs found in the tropical belts worldwide. These are just some of the world’s most critical biodiversity strongholds.
These intact forests, grasslands, coral reefs, and other intact landscapes and seascapes must be prioritized for various obvious reasons; they are the most resilient to the adverse impacts of climate change and growing pressures of development, and offer the greatest potential for protection of biodiversity for future generations.
This calls for an urgent need for recognition that, for a business as usual scenario, a further loss of biodiversity is inevitable and that political goodwill is needed to make tough decisions aimed at protecting biodiversity. The future generations will ultimately be the judges of our present day actions. We need to commit ourselves to action and leadership to protect biodiversity now more than ever.