2023 International Biodiversity Day observed with determination to reverse trend of destruction

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Last Monday 22nd May, 2023, the global community observed the International Day of Biodiversity, with a determination to reverse the destruction of biodiversity worldwide. And this is a good development, because while there is no doubt that climate change is the highest issue in the current arena of international conversation, that of declining biodiversity is likely to overtake it.

Species, populations-reduction trend

The need to prioritise the conversation on biodiversity is of prime concern – especially in the wake of research findings that point to a reduction of more than half of species populations since 1970.

This grim news was published in WWF’s ‘Living Planet Index’ (LPI) 2022 Report, which analysed almost 32,000 species populations and declared that there has been “an average 69% decrease in monitored wildlife populations since 1970”. The Report provides the most comprehensive measure of how global biodiversity and health of the planet are responding to pressures in their environment. The LPI tracks populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Launched in October last year, one could argue that the LPI Report 2022 strengthened earlier compiled tangible evidence of biodiversity degradation, prompting delegates at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP 15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to adopt drastic measures to halt the trend of biodiversity destruction.

The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework

Happening on the heels of the LPI Report 2022 launch, the December 2022 COP 15 in Montreal, Canada, resulted in a global agreement on a new set of goals to guide global action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.

Adoption of the ‘Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework’ provided the basis for this year’s celebration of International Biodiversity Day, with a renewed sense of hope in addressing the key drivers of biodiversity or nature loss. This is essential to secure the health and well-being of humans alongside that of the planet. Besides, nature is critical to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.

So, this year’s International Day for Biodiversity is a reminder to the global community – that now the world has an agreement, the focus must quickly shift to its implementation. Hence the theme ‘From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity’.

The Framework outlines four overarching goals to be achieved by 2050, focusing on ecosystem and species health including to halt human-induced species extinction; the sustainable use of biodiversity; equitable sharing of benefits; and closing the biodiversity finance gap of US$700billion per year.

Additionally, the Framework prioritises 23 targets to be achieved by 2030. They include 30% conservation of land and sea; 30 percent restoration of degraded ecosystems; halving the introduction of invasive species; and a US$500billion per year reduction of harmful subsidies.

And there is much to be done if these goals and targets are to be attained within the set time-frame. First, all governments must not only develop their national targets but also put in place the laws, policies and programmes necessary to achieve them. Then, businesses need to assess and disclose impacts and revert to or introduce sustainable practices.

Also, the efforts of indigenous peoples and local communities in protecting biodiversity must be recognised and protected. There is a need for all and sundry to reduce waste and shift to more sustainable consumption. And finally, there is an urgent need to raise the necessary finance to facilitate these actions.

MESTI to step-up required actions in Ghana

Ghana’s Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, pledged the nation’s commitment to reviewing its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBACP) to align with the Framework and take steps to achieve the set national targets. He therefore entreated all actors to participate in the processes and implement activities that seek to build back biodiversity for the sustainable development of Ghana and the planet.

In a statement issued to commemorate the Day, Dr. Afriyie urged Ghanaians to be determined in contributing their quota to biodiversity restoration, conservation and sustainable use. He charged them to be mindful of the fact that “our very existence depends on our biodiversity resources; which is also the answer to several development challenges, considering its role in nature-based solutions to climate change, health issues, food and water security, as well as sustainable livelihoods”.

Call to reverse drivers of biodiversity loss in Ghana

Experts agree that Ghana is very rich in genetic, species and ecosystem biodiversity; and boasts over 3,500 species of plants, over 700 species of birds, over 220 species of mammals, and many species of fish and insects. “And the truth is that we still don’t know their exact number,” says the Founder and former Director of the Institute of Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS) at the University of Ghana, Professor Chris Gordon.

In an interview, he expressed his dismay at the unfortunate situation with the general state of decline for the country’s biodiversity in our forests, in our dry and semi-arid savannahs, in our marine environment along our coasts, and in our inland waters. Professor Gordon explained the implications of this decline on the nation. “The fact is that the loss of biodiversity is causing the loss of ecosystem goods and services, which has an impact on Ghana’s gross domestic product and its economy.”

He pointed out that the about-16 percent of land under protection in Ghana is unfortunately now becoming fragmented – due to encroachment and misuse of resources within them, and mentioned some challenges that biodiversity faces nationally.

“We have weak integration of biodiversity issues at the local level, especially those at the level of Districts concerning invasive species, invasion of agrobiodiversity and the uptake of traditional knowledge into biodiversity protection.”

Professor Gordon added: “We do not have a complete biodiversity assessment of Ghana, so basically we do not know what we have. There is also a lot of encroachment on biodiversity hotspots in the country; and these are all coupled with the fact that there is a lack of budgetary allocation and lack of financial resources for biodiversity-related activities, including those which cover climate-related impacts”.

However, he was quick to point out that: “These problems are not unique to Ghana, and in fact are part of developing countries’ challenges when it comes to biodiversity and its protection”.

But Professor Gordon is certain that Ghana can learn from countries such as Colombia and Malaysia, which are managing to conserve their biodiversity and at the same time pursuing a positive development agenda.

To this end, he made several proposals: First is that “We should reduce and reverse those direct and indirect drivers causing the decline in biodiversity. We need to reverse and halt the loss of biodiversity causes like sand-winning, illegal mining – both small- and large-scale, and over-exploitation.”

Secondly, “We need to apply systems that will restore and regenerate biodiversity to a safe state; and given that many individuals rely on biodiversity for well-being, we need to provide alternatives so that the biodiversity is not over-exploited.” Thirdly, “We also need to uphold and respect the rights and responsibilities of all communities, including rural communities who are so dependent on natural resources and biodiversity for their survival”.

 

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