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Saturday, April 1, 2023

Biodiversity: BirdLife flays outcome of Nairobi talks, clamours framework to curb species decline

Nature is in crisis and time is running out. The latest round of negotiations for a new Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) have just concluded in Nairobi, Kenya. This was set to be a critical step on the road to the biodiversity convention’s Conference of Parties in December in Montreal (COP15), hosted by China.

UN Biodiversity
Opening session of the at the fourth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) in Nairobi, Kenya

With nature declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history, with grave impacts particularly on vulnerable people and countries, a consensus has emerged that we must halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by 2030. We need to have more nature at the end of the decade than at its start – a nature-positive world for people and planet – with governments, businesses and society combining to ensure that biodiversity loss is reversed.

The text on the table at the end of these negotiations is inconclusive and woefully inadequate. We are leaving with many of the elements for a strong global deal on the table but needing further negotiations with difficult decisions still to come. We had hoped for more and nature needs more; however, we are far from the path towards a transformative deal at COP15.

Agreeing and adopting a truly transformative and inclusive GBF is a once-in-a-decade opportunity that should not be missed. A chance for all of us to be part of a historic moment, for nature and people, considering the precarious state of our planet’s biodiversity.

“The world needs to understand how critical it is that an ambitious agreement is adopted at COP15. Climate change and nature are inextricably linked – nature is impacted by climate change but is also part of the solution. We call on leaders to give the nature crisis the attention it requires. Most key elements of an ambitious framework are on the table and consensus is being built – but difficult choices remain, and ambition must build from Nairobi on the road to COP15 for a nature-positive deal that the world needs,” notes Melanie Heath, Director of Science, Policy and Information at BirdLife International.

“Governments and stakeholders have no better chance than now to put in place a framework that will transform the harmful way in which we live, to the detriment of biodiversity and ultimately ourselves. A business-as-usual approach is not an option. The new framework must contain bold, transformative elements including increased, predictable funding to support implementation,” notes Ken Mwathe, Policy and Communications Coordinator, BirdLife International Africa.

“The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework truly takes into account knowledge gathered from science and stakeholders over the last decades. This meeting in Nairobi, billed as a crucial avenue to get our acts together before COP15 in Montreal, provided a chance for Parties present to truly move past sentiments, and replace talk with action by producing text that is ambitious in all ramifications. Unfortunately, this remains to be seen,” says Yemisi Fawibe-Oke, Policy & Advocacy Manager, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (BirdLife Partner in Nigeria).

Human activities have led to the loss of 83% of animal species and 50% of plant species since the dawn of civilisation. Nature-positive means halting and reversing species loss, and BirdLife International has been at the forefront of addressing this on the African continent. An example is Morocco, where the Griffon Vulture is now breeding after 40 years, thanks to efforts by the BirdLife Partner organisation in the country. In Southern Africa, BirdLife Partners are working to save vultures whose populations have declined by up to 97%. Linked to this is the conservation of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) which contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity, across terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems.

Agriculture is a critical sector in Africa, employing over 60% of the continent’s workforce.  Biodiversity is one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss in Africa. Thus, an effective Global Biodiversity Framework should look at nature-friendly farming methods, which include reducing harmful pesticides and regenerative agriculture, while protecting useful organisms including pollinators and birds.

BirdLife International is calling for an ambitious framework in four areas in particular. First, we are calling upon the global community to put in place a framework to halt species extinctions and increase the abundance of species populations, through addressing factors that drive species towards extinction. Such action should reverse species declines so that we are nature-positive by 2030. Secondly, there is a need to effectively manage a scaled-up system of protected and conserved areas covering 30% of the planet’s land and ocean areas by 2030, which focus on KBAs and other areas of importance for biodiversity.

Linked to this is the critical role of Indigenous People and Local Communities (IPLCs), who number about 476 million people, approximately 6% of the global population, but inhabit about 85% of areas proposed for biodiversity conservation. Thus, IPLCs are critical partners in helping achieve ecosystem protection, conservation and restoration. By working with Partners and local communities through our ’local to global’ approach, we have demonstrated significant conservation success, and therefore welcome acknowledgement of the rights and critical role played by IPLCs in the Nairobi talks.

Finally, the new framework must have an effective mechanism and means for implementation.  This includes a clear monitoring and reporting framework and scaled-up predictable financing. Africa faces a huge shortfall in financing biodiversity conservation, estimated at about 700 billion dollars every year, so addressing this finance gap is critical.

Given the slow pace of negotiations witnessed in Nairobi, far more commitment and political support at the highest level is needed ahead of Montreal. Tackling biodiversity loss requires ambition, leadership, cooperation and political will from countries, without which the world would be staring at a bleak future. The clock is ticking, and the alarm is set: we must use the coming months wisely to work together to make sure that the final negotiations are a success.

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