On biodiversity day, ‘becoming part of the plan’

All of humanity which has direct and indirect stakes in biodiversity should be a part of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework

Published - May 22, 2024 04:10 pm IST

‘Without biodiversity’s innumerable goods and service supports, we cannot imagine our life in this universe’

‘Without biodiversity’s innumerable goods and service supports, we cannot imagine our life in this universe’ | Photo Credit: K. MURALI KUMAR/THE HINDU

Today, May 22, is ‘International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB)’ or ‘World Biodiversity Day’, authorised by the United Nations to address biodiversity issues. Biodiversity issues are one of the most critical challenges the world faces today. The theme this year is ‘Be part of the plan’, which demands action from all stakeholders to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by supporting the implementation of the ‘Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)’ or ‘the biodiversity plan’.

The context

The GBF was adopted during the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) after a four year consultation and negotiation process. This historic framework, supports the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and builds on the CBD’s previous Strategic Plans. It aims to have an ambitious pathway to reach the global vision: ‘a world living in harmony with nature by 2050’. The key elements of the framework include four biodiversity conservation related goals for 2050 and 23 targets for 2030.

The implementation of the Kunming-Montreal GBF will be guided and supported through a comprehensive package of decisions, which were also adopted at COP-15. This package includes: a monitoring framework for the GBF; an enhanced mechanism for planning, monitoring, reporting and reviewing the implementation steps; necessary financial resources for implementation; strategic frameworks for capacity development and technical and scientific cooperation, and, agreement on digital sequence information on genetic resources.

In brief, the biodiversity plan offers opportunities for cooperation and partnerships among diverse actors with a desire that everyone has a role to play, thereby becoming a part of the plan. The actors/stakeholders include: local and indigenous communities (who are the custodians of biodiversity), government and policy makers, and biological/genetic resources-related industrialists. In a broader sense, all of humanity which has direct and indirect stakes in biodiversity, which supports its life and livelihood, should be a part of the plan.

Biodiversity, a lifeline

Biodiversity is the life and livelihood of humanities. Without biodiversity’s innumerable goods and service supports, we cannot imagine our life in this universe. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the many life-saving medicines we depend on during illness, and a number of biological resources-based consumer products which make our life comfortable are from biodiversity. Besides, biodiversity’s contributions in climate control, ecosystem stabilisation, regulation of hydrological and nutrient cycles, disease control, recycling of biodegradable wastes and purification of contaminated air and water are significant.

Even if biodiversity is essential for our existence, it is doubtful to what extent we realise this fact. And it is unbelievable that biodiversity degradation/depletion is primarily due to anthropogenic reasons. Mass land use change (replacing ecologically sensitive areas with buildings), over-extraction of renewable natural resources (water, forests and marine resources, soil quality) more than its regeneration, indiscriminate discharge of solid and liquid wastes from domestic and industrial sectors, climate change impacts (floods and droughts) and proliferation of ‘Invasive Alien Species’ which destroy native flora and fauna are the major drivers of biodiversity degradation.

The recent Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report reveals the gravity of the global species loss in the last decade and its consequences on nature and humans. If this trend continues, human existence in this universe itself will be under threat. The COVID-19 pandemic has a strong connection with biodiversity degradation and ecosystem disequilibrium. A mass public awareness and political will in this regard is required.

A recent study by the UNDP initiated Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) claimed that $52 billion is spent on biodiversity a year globally. This is against an estimated annual financing need of between $150-$440 billion. This funding gap is a challenge in achieving the CBD’s Strategic Plan and the SDGs. However, the report concludes on an optimistic note: ‘it can be overcome, it is between just 0.2[%]-0.6% of global GDP. No doubt mobilizing this much money is a herculean task’.

Here, the CBD’s objective ‘Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS)’ has much scope. After the emergence of the CBD, a transformation of biodiversity from a ‘global public good’ to the ‘sovereign right of the nation’ happened; this is the base for ABS. ABS is a classical innovative financial mechanism for biodiversity management through community participation. This philosophy claims that when accessing genetic/biological resources for commercial utilisation, prior permission in the form of a legal agreement is required. Further, the company should share a portion of its benefit/profit (as per the assigned legal norms) with the local/indigenous communities, through enforcement agencies, and assume that it acts as an incentive for the community to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity. Biological resources-based industrial sectors are divergent and include pharmaceuticals or modern drugs, botanical medicines (AYUSH), agricultural seeds, ornamental horticultural products, crop protection products (bio-fertilizers and pesticides), health and personal care products, cosmetics, and food and beverages.

Now, parties (193 countries) to the CBD, including India, are coming up with legal, administrative and institutional measures to implement the ABS. India enacted the Biological Diversity Act (2002), which was amended in 2013, and Rules (2004), came up with the ABS Guidelines (2014) and many notifications in implementing the ABS. For enforcing the Act, a three-tier institutional measure has been taken which includes a national biodiversity authority at the national level, State biodiversity boards (State level), and the biodiversity management committees at the local body level. India also ratified the Nagoya Protocol on ABS during 2014. India has mobilised around ₹160 crore through the ABS and has been using the money for biodiversity conservation.

What the government must do

What is needed now is that the government should bring all genetic/biological resources-based industrial sectors within the ambit of the Biological Diversity Act, mobilise the money and use it for biodiversity conservation and its sustainable use. Here, cooperation from the business community is essential. It should realise the fact that biodiversity conservation through ABS will ensure the raw-material security for industry for ever. The voluntary involvement of industrialists in ABS is essential as they engage in Corporate Social Responsibility. Finally, as citizens, each one of us should follow our responsibility to ‘reduce the damage on nature and biodiversity’. We should ensure its restoration’ genuinely and depend on nature for our need and not for our greed. If it is a need-based dependency in harmony with nature, there is no doubt that nature’s renewable capacities will safeguard us from many of the biodiversity challenges we now face.

Prakash Nelliyat is Former Fellow, Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law at the National Biodiversity Authority, Chennai, and the co-author of the book, ‘Biodiversity Conservation through Access and Benefit Sharing’

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