Despite efforts to mitigate biodiversity loss, global species extinction continues to accelerate at an unprecedented rate, climate experts have warned ahead of the world’s largest gathering of environment ministers on biodiversity .
“The biggest challenge to biodiversity, of course, is climate change (and, in the ocean, its evil twin, ocean acidification),” said Robin Craig, professor of environmental law at the University of Southern California, to China Daily.
The second part of COP15, or the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), will be held in Montreal (December 7-19).
China is the president of COP15, and Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Huang Runqiu will chair discussions at the conference, which is themed “Ecological Civilization – Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth.”
The conference will see the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which outlines what countries should do over the next decade or beyond to achieve the CBD’s global vision of “living in harmony with nature” by 2050.
However, various factors prevented the goals from being achieved. Issues such as pollution, agricultural expansion, unsustainable hunting, illegal wildlife trade, and climate change are causing a rapid decline in the natural ecosystem around the world.
The oceans absorb human emissions of carbon dioxide. But as the level of CO2 in the atmosphere increases, the ocean absorbs more CO2 and subsequently becomes more acidic, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Ocean acidification could threaten marine life and impair human health, according to NOAA.
In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the equivalent of the United Nations Panel on Climate Change, warned that humanity had severely altered three-quarters of the earth’s surface and that one million species were threatened with extinction.
The report also notes that past and ongoing declines in biodiversity will jeopardize countries’ achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which all UN member states have pledged to achieve by 2030.
“Although climate change has not been the main driver of biodiversity loss to date, in most parts of the world it is expected to become as important or more important than the other drivers of change,” said Robert Watson, former president of IPBES. in 2019.
Watson stressed the need for ministries around the world to work together, noting that biodiversity loss is not just an environmental issue, but also a development, economic and security issue.
COP15 takes place just weeks after COP27, the UN Climate Change Conference. Although climate change is currently getting more attention from world leaders, there is a growing need for integrated solutions between the two problems, experts have said.
“Among other things, climate change complicates efforts to provide species and ecosystems with the opportunity to thrive, as they both shift their ranges and rearrange their interactions due to warmer temperatures,” said Craig.
It is imperative to get climate change under control and to limit the total increase in global average temperatures as low as possible, “for the good of biodiversity in addition to the self-interest of humans”, she said.
Craig said the greatest achievement of the global community in terms of enhancing biodiversity is “the many recognitions that habitat preservation is of critical importance”.
“National and international protected areas — especially protected areas that limit human intrusion — give other species places to live,” Craig said.
These protections are the result of international commitments, as well as national, regional, state and local commitments to create and protect various types of parks and reserves, she said.
The CBD was adopted at the Earth Summit in Brazil in 1992 and entered into force in 1993. It currently has 196 member states. The United States is the only UN member state that has not yet ratified the agreement.
In 2002, parties to the CBD adopted the 2010 biodiversity target which aimed “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss”.
The objective was not achieved. In 2010, the parties adopted a ten-year plan subdivided into 20 targets known as the Aichi targets. But according to a 2021 UN assessment, the international community has not fully met any of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
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