Biological diversity is the foundation for livelihoods and sustainable development. Biodiversity provides basic needs such as food, energy and medicine, other essential services, recreational and cultural benefits. Since ancient times, humankind, living in harmony with nature, has benefited in a multitude of ways from biological resources.
However, the progress of human civilization followed by the advancement of technology, population growth, industrialization and urbanization has accelerated the decline and extinction of species as well as the degradation of ecosystems. The losses are due to a range of pressures driven by a range of socio-economic drivers, including climate change, ecosystem degradation, illegal trade and unsustainable use.
To halt biodiversity loss, the international community developed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in time for the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The CBD has become one of the world’s most important multilateral environmental agreement and a key tool for sustainable development with over 196 country member states and over 6000 participants meeting over 25 years since its entry into force to deliberate and come up with policies for the protection of biodiversity.
Welcoming participants at the opening ceremony of the ongoing 2018 United Nations Biodiversity Conference with the theme ‘Investing in biodiversity for people and planet’ in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El Sisi said the conference came at a time when biodiversity is facing real challenges and reflected the need to mainstream biodiversity in all sectors, adding it was to ensure safe environment and preserve the rights of future generations so they could benefit from natural resources.
“Egypt reiterates its desire to work alongside all parties involved in order to achieve its goals which is to create awareness on the importance of biodiversity and the dangers that we face due to the continued degradation of our natural resources which entails all stakeholders to take action now in order to preserve biodiversity,” El Sisi added.
The 2018 UN Biodiversity Conference comprises the 14th meeting of the conference of the parties to the convention (COP 14), the 9th meeting of the conference of the parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the 3rd meeting of the conference of the parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Nagoya protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, taking place concurrently as well as a number of different parallel side events.
Government delegates were joined by representatives of civil society, subnational and local authorities, the academia, the private sector, youth, indigenous leaders, development agencies and parliamentarians in discussions and parallel summits that have, as their goal, support for achievement of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and its protocols at the meeting.
In her remarks, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, said the meeting was of critical importance for the parties’ collective journey to protect and safeguard life on the planet.
She averred that parties have failed to curb the ongoing loss of natural biodiversity on earth despite the meaningful progress on the conversation, sustainable use of biodiversity and also the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetical resources, since the CBD entered into force 25 years ago.
“A fundamental work distinction process is happening as we speak. This is deepening every year and securely impacted by but also serving as a driver for further climate change. As a specie we now have the stark options, one hand we can stay on the path we are right now and accelerate the destruction of nature. But we have to know that this path holds many negative consequences for nature, the ecosystem and also the climate.
“This also holds negative consequences to humans from the global economy, health and availability of water, food and even security. Or we can choose another path. Together all of us as a convention and as a larger group of movement, we can decide to choose a path of conservation, restoration and transformation of our practices and our economic models.
“This choice is fast upon us because if we do not act now, we may soon reach a tipping point that may cause even more damage and destruction to nature and ultimately human lives. So, I think the choice is very clear, by 2020 we want to accelerate achievement of the global target on Aichi Biodiversity Targets and enact a new post 2020 biodiversity framework. By 2030 we must bend the curve of biodiversity loss or risk more damage. By 2050 we must achieve our vision of living in harmony with nature,” she said.
Palmer added that one of the most important objectives of the UN Biodiversity Conference 2018 was to lay the groundwork for the process of developing the successor of the current global framework for biodiversity which marked the end of the Global Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.
In her remarks, the Egyptian Minister of Environment, Dr. Yasmine Fouad, said the conference which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the convention would provide an excellent opportunity to exchange perspectives on nature-based solutions to environmental problems, e.g. how biodiversity loss and climate change are linked, how biodiversity can contribute to adaptation and mitigation of climate change.
Similarly, the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, Dr Amina Mohammed, pointed out that the human race was losing biodiversity at an alarming rate, threatening its ability to leave no one behind, observing there’s still time to act and delay was not an option.
“Our sustainable future depends on your work now and the lead up to 2020. The process for the first 2020 global biodiversity framework, the new deal for nature and people to be decided at this COP and adopted in 2020 is absolutely critical. I urge you to be bold in your deliberations and in taking the necessary decisions to action on the tough choices we need to make for people and planet. Let us work together towards rising to our collective responsibility for future generations,” she added.