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CBD at 25: Amid progress, more action needed to safeguard life on Earth

Opening with a traditional greeting from Charles Patton, a respected elder in the Mohawk Community of Kahnawa:ke, the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was celebrated on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 in Montreal at an event gathering together senior officials from the Government of Canada, the province of Quebec, the City of Montreal, representatives of the diplomatic corps and dignitaries from around the world.

cristiana pasca palmer
Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). She has urged all Parties to the Biosafety Protocol that have yet to do so, to ratify the Supplementary Protocol as soon as possible

Entering into force on December 29, 1993, the CBD, or UN Biodiversity Convention, is the global treaty that provides the framework for international action on biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth. For the past 25 years, Parties and a global community of diverse stakeholders and partners have undertaken significant actions to achieve the three objectives of the Convention:  to conserve biodiversity, use it sustainably, and equitably share the benefits from the use of genetic resources. The CBD Secretariat is based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, UN Assistant Secretary-General and CBD Executive Secretary, said: “On the International Day for Biological Diversity we celebrated the excellent progress made by Parties and partners.  We have much to celebrate.  Significant areas of the world are now being conserved as part of protected areas. We have seen enormous improvements in governance models and sustainable use approaches to manage key natural resources. The value of biodiversity for society, our social and economic needs as well as our own health and well-being, are now widely recognised. Furthermore, biodiversity lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

“But we need to approach conservation in a more innovative manner, to create new incentive models and to engage with relevant actors to help redirect behavioural choices to mitigate biodiversity losses and generate greater safeguarding values to our natural assets. Biodiversity continues to decline in every region of the world. This destruction of biodiversity and natural capital compounds and accelerates other global challenges – such as climate change, water security, food security and public health.”

Around the world, governments held celebrations marking their accomplishments in support of the Convention. In China, Huang Runqiu, Vice Minister of Ecology and Environment, said China would raise public awareness of the importance of biodiversity and strengthen biodiversity conservation supervision and biodiversity research to protect important natural ecosystems and wildlife. Huang added that the protection of biodiversity had been included in the ecological protection framework of local governments and results have been good.

In the United States, California Governor Jerry Brown issued a proclamation declaring May 22, 2018 as “International Day for Biological Diversity.” California has been designated a global biodiversity hotspot. It is home to more species of animals and plants than any other state in the United States.

Since the entry into force of the Convention, membership has become near universal with 196 Parties ratifying the agreement. Almost all Parties have created National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans which are the focus of national efforts to implement the Convention. The next few years present a major opportunity to galvanise global action to increase attention to biodiversity.

Despite the worrying scientific data regarding the destruction of nature and biodiversity, this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity and the months ahead, represent a unique window of opportunity for the global community to engage on a transformative path in the way we relate to nature. With the end of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 rapidly approaching, countries will begin laying the groundwork for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Egypt later this year to design an ambitious agenda for nature and biodiversity after 2020.

Messages of congratulations were received from around the world.

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said: “This year, Parties to the Convention will begin work on a new action plan to ensure that, by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used for the benefit of all people. The entire world needs to join this effort. On this International Day for Biological Diversity, I urge governments, businesses and people everywhere to act to protect the nature that sustains us. Our collective future depends on it.”

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment, said: “Perhaps the biggest achievement of the Convention on Biological Diversity is that we no longer see biodiversity conservation as a barrier to development. We can have development and take care of planet Earth in the same policies. The global development agenda aims to leave no one behind, to bring everyone out of extreme poverty. But if we don’t protect and value biodiversity we will not achieve this goal. UN Environment has been so proud to support this Convention over the years.”

European Union Commissioner, Karmenu Vella: “The Convention has delivered but much remains to be done to halt biodiversity loss. It is as much of a global threat as climate change. We need to make certain the CBD becomes as relevant as the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement. Discussions on a new post-2020 framework provide an opportunity for this challenge. An opportunity we cannot afford to miss.”

In Montreal, the celebrations were held at the summit of Mont Royal, a protected area in the heart of the city. A ceremonial tree planting featuring students from Montreal was held. Representatives from all levels of government participated and marked the occasion.

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Canada, said, via video message:  “Today, our resolve to address biodiversity loss and our commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity, remains as firm as it was 25 years ago.  The future will require all of us to work together to develop a vision for a new post-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, one that strengthens the world’s resilience to climate change, makes our green economies more stable, and conserves our natural habitats for generations to come.”

Christine St-Pierre, Minister of International Relations and la Francophonie, said: “On this International Day for Biodiversity, it is useful to remind ourselves that despite all the progress made by the Convention, the challenges that the international community faces with regards to protecting biological diversity requires urgent additional efforts together with strong international cooperation. Therefore, we will need to double our efforts in the actions we undertake, and we will need to do so in close collaboration with our partners.”

Isabelle Melançon, Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change Management, said: “in order to celebrate the International Biodiversity Day, it is important to realize that the numerous pressure points on biodiversity in general and the degradation of natural ecosystems will lead to the loss of essential ecological services meant to ensure the population’s well-being, general health and security. Some of these ecological services are essential to fight against climate change and to help us adapt. Nature is generous towards us human beings and it contributes largely to our well-being in different ways. It is our responsibility to continue developing our overall knowledge and to act in the way that ensures the conservation of nature.”

Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montréal, said: “The 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity is a nice opportunity to remind ourselves that we are all affected by biodiversity, one way or another. Cities are on the front line, playing a more and more important role in the protection of natural sites and biodiversity. I am really pleased to see the many delegations from different countries present here today in Montréal to discuss this important issue. I remain very excited at the idea that together, we can act for the benefit of our citizens and the citizens of our planet.”

The Day’s celebrations demonstrated that, while much is at stake, there is a unique window of opportunity for the global community to define an ambitious new deal for nature and biodiversity post-2020, according to the CBD.

It adds: “Time is of the essence. Science has been signalling the alarm with a call to urgent action, as biodiversity remains under threat, a threat that jeopardises the well-being and livelihood of everyone on Earth. For the UN Convention on Biodiversity, investing in data and science is crucial in the lead up to 2020. As the world embarks on developing the building blocks for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, there is a need for cross-pollination between different fields of study, and sectors dependent on biodiversity in order to collectively safeguard, invest and value this natural life-saving asset.”

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