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The Urgency of Transforming Biodiversity Governance


Biodiversity loss is generally attributed to the uncontrolled and large scale depletion of vital nature reserves, such as the commercial exploitation of the vast rainforests of the Amazon Basin and those in Southeast Asian countries.

By Salam Rajesh

The urgency to halt and reverse the alarming rates of biodiversity loss is grounded in the most comprehensive and up-to-date evidences, and has been translated into a forward-looking governance agenda for stimulating biodiversity conservation, writes authors Richard Van Der Hoff and Nowella Anyango-van Zwieten as part paper in Earth System Governance’s recent publication ‘Transforming Biodiversity Governance’ (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

Although the new challenges raised by the Covid-19 pandemic have postponed the development of the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework, they have also kindled debates on a reconfiguration of the global economic system through a “green recovery” that potentially benefits biodiversity conservation, and these developments underline that now is the right time for critically reflecting on how to maintain and enhance a biodiverse world, the authors stresses.

Biodiversity is threatened more than ever before in human history, and nature and its vital contributions to people are deteriorating worldwide. The risks of biodiversity loss are increasingly recognized among policymakers, academics and society at large. This sense of urgency on the risks to biodiversity loss forms the core discussion in the series of papers clubbed under the broad heading “The Urgency of Transforming Biodiversity Governance”, contributing to ESG’s alignment with the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Agreements and consensus on global relevance are expected to be achieved during the Post-2020 GBF discussions under the CBD negotiations slated to take place later this December at Montreal, with the several nations and international agencies speeding up on their paper works to be well in time for the heady negotiations.

Conceding that over fifty years of global conservation had literally failed to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, CBD negotiators are focusing on the need to transform the ways global community governs biodiversity. This, as negotiators say, would involve implementing five governance approaches – integrative, inclusive, adaptive, transdisciplinary and anticipatory governance – in conjunction and focused on the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and unsustainability.

Biodiversity loss is generally attributed to the uncontrolled and large scale depletion of vital nature reserves, such as the commercial exploitation of the vast rainforests of the Amazon Basin and those in Southeast Asian countries. The extractive fishing industry which has been reasoned for whale extinction and sharp decline in sea fish population, is another classic example of biodiversity loss as in the seas and oceans due to human activities.

Species extinction is said to lead to loss in related species, where understandably the break in the food chain of a species can lead to either depletion of other species or over-population of species which again can become a reason for break in the ecosystem. Biodiversity loss, therefore, is seen as a complex structure that can either break or accentuate multiple problems in the natural world.

Redefining the ‘urgency of transforming biodiversity governance’, lead authors Ingrid J.Vvisseren-Hamakers and Marcel T.J.Kok reaffirms that, “The worldwide deterioration of biodiversity is taking place despite over half a century of efforts to combat biodiversity loss by governments, civil society and, increasingly, business, at all levels of governance from the local to the global. Past and ongoing efforts are therefore not effectively supporting the conservation and sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity, and this worldwide failure to address biodiversity loss has created a growing consensus that fundamental, transformative changes are needed in order to reverse these trends, or bend the curve of biodiversity loss”.

Different negotiations had taken place across the several continents during the past decades but it appears that on ground things are not working out well as expected, despite collective decisions taken and millions of funds spent on conservation goals. The failure of the Aichi Targets was reflected in the Paris Climate negotiations, and this is being further pushed in the upcoming Montreal CBD negotiations.

There are negotiations on restoring and reviving ecosystems and species, and at the same time too there are disputes on how species are being reintroduced in ‘alien’ spaces. For instance, the reintroduction of the African Cheetahs recently in the Kuno National Park in India was seen in the background of the neglect on restoring the ecosystem of the landscape upon which the Asiatic lions are thriving in Gujarat’s Gir forests.

The basis of the argument is seen in the priority given to reintroducing a species lost with time while neglecting those that currently exist in a setting that is very much in a fair state of negligence. Forests and species restoration, therefore, should start where it exists in real time and largely under threat from different factors including human interferences.

Reflecting on this need basis, authors Ingrid and Marcel say that, “The focus of biodiversity policy has thus broadened over time, and the call for transformative change now recognizes the need for deepening such efforts. In this third era (counted since with the introduction of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in 2015), all three strategies are recognized as vital: stepping up protection and restoration of nature, broadening biodiversity efforts across society, and deepening effects to enable transformative change”.

The sense of the ‘urgency of transforming biodiversity governance’ thus has come about from the past experience of failures where targets have not been realistic, and where there is neither a working relationship between Governments and the local communities to achieve breakthrough in meaningful biodiversity loss prevention.

Like in many of the disputed sites across the globe, Manipur is no exception when it comes to disputes on ground over how conservation should be achieved in reality. The current scenario does not exemplify the process of conservation in the right direction, whereas, there are conflicts of interest in most pockets where there are proposals of declaring protected areas – wildlife sanctuaries, national park, conservation reserves, and even community reserves under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The game changer call is to devise strategies where there is a good sense of co-management between Governments and the local communities, especially those who are directly dependent on forest and wetland landscapes for their living. Conservation can take root in its true meaning when only there is full participation of local communities with the sense of ownership over territories that govern their lives – generations after generations.

On this note, the global assessment of the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) defines “transformative change” as ‘a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values’. Biodiversity values, therefore, should be inherently linked to human values in a common shared goal to restore nature in its near natural state.

(The author looks at environmental stories through the journalistic lens. He can be reached at [email protected])

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