The Earth’s biological resources are vital to humanity’s economic and social development. As a result, there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to present and future generations. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been as great as it is today. Species extinction caused by human activities continues at an alarming rate (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2010). Given the opportunities for income and job generation, and economic growth and development that can be derived from biodiversity-based resources, and the global risks associated with the accelerating loss of biodiversity, the implementation of Goal 15 requires both urgent attention and a holistic approach.
Biodiversity loss must be addressed and prevented, and the use of biodiversity-based resources must be managed in a sustainable, equitable and inclusive manner. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD (2013)
Regulatory frameworks and well-tested development programmes can be used to provide incentivizing policies and actions that will conserve biodiversity and ensure its sustainable use, rather than degrade and destroy it. Multilateral environmental agreements can play an important role in this regard.
Seven biodiversity-related conventions in particular set the framework for implementation of actions at the national, regional and international levels to reach shared goals of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity: (1) Convention on Biological DiversityThe Convention on Biological Diversity is a multilateral treaty intended to further the development of national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
more; (2) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
more; (3) Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)CMS, also known as the Bonn Convention, aims to conserve terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.
more; (4) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and AgricultureThe International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, also known as the International Seed Treaty, is a comprehensive international agreement consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity that aims at safeguarding food security.
more; (5) Convention on Wetlands or Ramsar ConventionThe Convention on Wetlands, also known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty providing a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
more; (6) World Heritage ConventionThe World Heritage Convention, is an international treaty adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1972.
more; (7) International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is an international agreement on plant health aimed at protecting cultivated and wild plants by preventing the introduction and spread of pests. The Convention was signed in 1951 by FAO and came into force in April 1952.
With specific objectives and shared targets, the biodiversity-related conventions have developed a number of complementary approaches (site-, species-, genetic resources- and/or ecosystem-based) and operational tools (for example, programmes of work, trade permits and certificates, multilateral systems for access and benefit-sharing, regional agreements, site listings, funds, and the like). A Liaison Group of Biodiversity-related Conventions was established in 2004 between the secretariats of the seven biodiversity-related conventions to enhance coherence and cooperation and foster closer linkages in supporting implementation of the global biodiversity goals, namely resulting in the Strategic Plan on Biodiversity 2011-2020The Strategic Plan on Biodiversity 2011-2020 was adopted in October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. This plan provides an overarching framework on biodiversity, not only for the biodiversity-related conventions.
more and the Aichi Biodiversity TargetsThe Aichi Biodiversity Targets are comprised of 5 goals and 20 targets.
more. This group will be instrumental in ensuring a coordinated approach towards the implementation of Goal 15.
The Inter-agency Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal indicators selected
Progress towards national targets established in accordance with Aichi Biodiversity Target 2 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 as the best indicator to measure progress for target 15.9. The Aichi Biodiversity Target 2 is
By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems. The secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity reports on progress for each of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. In its latest report (2014) the secretariat notes progress in mainstreaming the integration of biodiversity in national strategic plans, albeit uneven, but also highlights that quantifying progress is very difficult owing to the complexity of the target, stating that
there are no globally harmonized datasets that fulfil the data requirements to monitor this target. The report also notes that concrete measures to include biodiversity into subnational and local plans are less obvious, identifying fragmentation of decision-making, limited communication between stakeholders and the lack of economic valuation of biodiversity as reasons. The report also notes that despite many national legal requirements, many environmental impact assessments do not take into account the impacts on biodiversity or do so only partially. Many assessments are restricted to protected species and areas and do not consider wider ecosystems at all.
A major challenge to the inclusion of biodiversity in national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and decision-making processes, noted in the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity report (2014) are the manifold difficulties with valuation. Putting a value on biodiversity is a complex and multidimensional task. One approach is to use the total economic value15.3, which has the benefit of using a common monetary unit, making communications easier and comparisons or cost-benefit trade-offs possible. However, several aspects of biodiversity and ecosystems cannot be measured in monetary terms, such as spiritual importance or aesthetic value. Challenges regarding potential double counting, designing a single valuation methodology that works equally well across all ecosystems, and problems with regard to data availability all pose major problems when making comparisons. Other complications arise from the intrinsic multidisciplinarity of biodiversity and ecosystems, requiring a broad range of technical and scientific knowledge, and from the lack of research capacity to undertake robust valuation exercises. The choice of discount rateA discount rate is used to inform on how it is worth investing today in environmental conservation considering future benefits. The discount rate reflects the responsibility of the present generation to the future one.
more also remains a controversial issue, unsupported by technically objective guidelines on the appropriate rate. Finally, most economic valuation studies are based on marginal changes to ecosystems assuming that such systems are stable. However, little is known about the stability of ecosystems and their response to change - an unstable ecosystem may pass a critical threshold and trigger a structural change, at which point the marginality assumption and the valuation may no longer hold.
It is for this reason the experimental System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (United Nations, 2014) was published as the international statistical standard15.4. These accounts are coherent with the accounting concepts used in the System of National Accounts and are intended to provide
a better measurement of the crucial role of the environment as a source of natural capital and as a sink of by-products generated during the production of [hu]man-made capital and other human activities. In 2007, the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) carried out a global assessment of the implementation of environment statistics and environmental-economic accounting.
From the 100 respondent countries (52 per cent of the total), 90 per cent compiled some environment statistics and 50 per cent were producing an environmental-economic account - see figure 15.2 for 2006 regional implementation rates.
The focus of these accounts, however, is frequently quite different between developed and developing countries. For example, developed countries tend to focus on compiling accounts for energy and emissions, environmental protection expenditure and material flow/waste.
Most developing countries tend to compile accounts for water, energy and emissions, mineral assets and forestry (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014).
UNCTAD’s BioTrade Initiative15.5 is a good example of another long-standing programme which aims to harmonize trade with the sustainable use of biological resources, while respecting the principles of conservation of the Convention on Biological Diversity - sustainable use, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits. This initiative was launched in 1996 and is supplemented by independent national, regional and international BioTrade programmes. BioTrade entails the collection, production, transformation and commercialization of goods and services derived from native biodiversity, respecting the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability as expounded in the seven BioTrade principles: (1) conservation of biodiversity; (2) sustainable use of biodiversity; (3) equitable benefit sharing; (4) socioeconomic sustainability; (5) local compliance; (6) respect for actors’ rights; (7) clear land tenure and access to resources.
The BioTrade principles and criteria differentiate it from other trade and biodiversity initiatives, as all activities (downstream and upstream) along the value chain operate in compliance with these principles (UNCTAD, 2007).
The BioTrade Initiative seeks to develop tradable sectors through value chain development and facilitate trade of products and services that are derived sustainably from native species and ecosystems (UNCTAD, 2014b). Over 3,600 supply chains have been developed in such sectors as: personal care (essential oils, natural dyes, creams, cosmetics); pharmaceuticals (extracts and infusions from medicinal plants); food (fruit pulps, juices, snacks, sauces, spices, nuts, food supplements); fashion (leather from caiman or snake skins); ornamental flora and fauna (orchids, butterflies, and the like); handicrafts (jewellery, decorative objects based on native species); textiles and natural fibres (such as furniture based on natural fibres); and sustainable tourism (ecotourism, nature-based tourism, and the like) (Lojenga and Oliva, 2016).
Over 20 developing countries have been implementing BioTrade in Africa, Asia and Latin America (see figure 15.3) with the support of national, regional and international BioTrade partners, including ministries of environment and trade, trade promotion agencies and business associations, involving the public and private sectors. Partnerships have also been conducted with the Development Bank for Latin America, Helvetas in Viet Nam, PhytoTrade Africa and the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UNCTAD, 2012; 2013a; 2013b; 2014a; 2016). Around 5 million people were involved in BioTrade activities and the sales of companies in BioTrade amounted to €4 billion in 2015 (Lojenga and Oliva, 2016).