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Biodiversity is becoming more prominent

Preserving biodiversity, protecting habitats: the agreement reached at the Biodiversity Conference in Montreal in December 2022 is showing results.

Text: Friederike Bauer

The topic of biodiversity has reached the international stage. It has long played a subordinate role in the sustainability debate – the focus in recent years has been on climate action. This is gradually changing, as Silke Spohn observes. She is head of the Biodiversity-Environment-Oceans sector project at GIZ.

In fact, nature conservation was a priority area at this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai. Whereas climate and biodiversity have largely been treated as separate topics in the past, there is now a general consensus that the two areas constitute a double crisis, mutually reinforce each other – both positively and negatively – and therefore need to be addressed together.

Interaction between biodiversity and the climate

Biodiversity loss can accelerate climate change. If forests or moors are lost, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released. If they remain intact, they serve as natural carbon sinks, which is why preserving biodiversity is also crucial in the fight against rising temperatures. Conversely, climate change can accelerate species loss. An example of this are coral reefs, half of which could die by 2035 unless swift action is taken.

The link between biodiversity and climate change, which remained almost overlooked for a long time, is now part of the international debate. ‘The topic has clearly gained greater attention, both in the political realm and among the general public,’ says Silke Spohn.

Silke Spohn privat

Silke Spohn is head of the Biodiversity-Environment-Oceans sector project at GIZ

Historic agreement in Montreal

Silke Spohn sees the new Global Biodiversity Framework, adopted by the international community in December 2022, as one of the reasons for this increased awareness. The fact that the framework was achieved and contained 23 relatively specific targets to be reached by 2030 was regarded as a great success at the time.

Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke spoke of a ‘powerful agreement’ when it was signed, while the Canadian press even called it a historic deal. GIZ, too, regarded the agreement as groundbreaking. The two most prominent passages include the target of designating 30 per cent of the Earth as protected areas (which is roughly equivalent to a two-fold increase in land areas and a four-fold increase in marine areas) and the target of restoring 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems.

A year has since passed and a lot has happened behind the scenes. As Spohn reports, most countries are working on their national biodiversity strategies because, as the name suggests, the Global Biodiversity Framework adopted in Canada provides a framework, the content of which needs to be translated into strategies and action plans. Germany is also in the process of adapting its biodiversity strategy and aims to adopt it next year.

Objective: joint action to preserve biodiversity

A Global Biodiversity Framework Fund has also now been established. The international community set it up in ‘record speed’, according to Spohn. Germany also played a significant role in this, providing start-up funding of EUR 40 million to date, with the fund becoming operational after further contributions were made by Canada and the United Kingdom. A total of USD 20 billion is to be contributed from public and private sources by 2025 to support developing countries with nature conservation. This is because the greatest biodiversity and important ecosystems are largely found in these countries, for example in the Congo Basin and in Amazonas.

However, there is still plenty to do: for example, it is still not clear how the achievement of the targets is to be verified and what indicators this will require. What counts as a protected area? How can we measure whether degraded ecosystems have been restored? A committee of experts is currently working on this and will hopefully be ready to present results at the next Conference of the Parties in October 2024.

It is also not clear how the private sector might be involved more closely in preserving biodiversity, but this is seen to be a crucial aspect. Some people are now talking about ‘biodiversity credits’, which could be issued like CO2 certificates for investors, but the discussion around the criteria, counting and tracing is still in its infancy, says Spohn.

Nature conservation: a good start but still much to do

There are ‘strong dynamics’ in international policy-making in this area, according to Spohn, but we are still far from reaching answers and large-scale, practicable solutions to these huge challenges. She adds that although these results are positive, they stand in stark contrast to the urgency facing the world. ‘We need to act fast and not allow violent conflicts such as those in Ukraine and Gaza to halt our work on global nature conservation,’ she warns.

Under the microscope: Biodiversity

Biodiversity or biological diversity is a measure of the abundance of different life in a given habitat. A distinction is made between three levels: diversity of species, diversity within species, and diversity of ecosystems. All three categories are currently dwindling drastically.

Fiery-throated Hummingbird –
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