“Humans are part of nature’s rich diversity and have the power to protect or destroy it,” the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said in summarizing the Year’s main message, with its focus on raising awareness to generate public pressure for action by the world’s decision makers.
“Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on. Human activity is causing the diversity of life on Earth to be lost at a greatly accelerated rate.
These losses are irreversible, impoverish us all and damage the life support systems we rely on every day. But we can prevent them.”
The Convention – which opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, entered into force at the end of 1993 and now has 193 Parties – is based on the premise that the world’s diverse ecosystems purify the air and the water that are the basis of life, stabilize and moderate the Earth’s climate, renew soil fertility, cycle nutrients and pollinate plants.
“A wide variety of environmental goods and services that we take for granted are under threat, with profound and damaging consequences for ecosystems, economies and livelihoods,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
Looking at the economic costs of action or inaction, a recent UN-backed Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study estimated loss of natural capital due to deforestation and degradation at between $2 trillion and $4.5 trillion every year – “a staggering economic cost of taking nature for granted.
“It is estimated that for an annual investment of $45 billion into protected areas alone, we could secure the delivery of ecosystem services worth some $5 trillion a year,” it said. “When compared to current financial losses on the markets, this is not a big price to pay. Sound ecosystem and biodiversity management, and the inclusion of Natural Capital in governmental and business accounting can start to redress inaction and reduce the cost of future losses.”