18 May 2016 Story Biosafety

Biodiversity - the foundation of life

We need to mainstream biodiversity to sustain people and their livelihoods

Biodiversity is the foundation of life and the essential services provided by ecosystems. It underpins peoples’ livelihoods and sustainable development in all areas of activity, including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism. By halting biodiversity loss, we are investing in people, their lives and their well-being.

More and more people realize that the variety of life on this planet, its ecosystems and their impacts form the basis for our shared wealth, health and well-being. But significant challenges lie ahead, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has noted:

Despite numerous commitments, biodiversity loss continues to accelerate in all regions.  Only 15 per cent of countries are on track to achieve the Aichi Targets on biodiversity by the target date of 2020.  In addition, the anticipated expansion of sectors that both depend on and affect biodiversity – including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – will pose a significant challenge to halting biodiversity loss in the coming decades.

The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD) is marked every year on 22 May to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on 22 May 1992.

The next meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CBD - due to be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 4 to 17 December 2016 - will focus on the mainstreaming of biodiversity within and across sectors.

Also taking place in Cancun at the same time will be the eighth meeting of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and the second meeting of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization.

What’s new?
The CBD Subsidiary Body on Implementation, at its meeting in Montreal, Canada ending on 6 May 2016, recommended strategic actions on mainstreaming biodiversity within and across sectors with a particular focus on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, and tourism.

It recommended mainstreaming measures which cut across all sectors, such as the use of economic valuation tools, and environmental assessments which evaluate potential impacts on biodiversity as well as ecosystem services.

Parties recognized the close linkages between the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and urged governments to ensure that biodiversity is included in the implementation of all relevant sustainable development goals.

There were also provisions on the role of indigenous peoples and local communities, business and of subnational and local governments for the achievement of the Strategic Plan, as well as the role of gender.

Rethinking our consumption habits
Plausible pathways exist for achieving the 2050 vision for an end to biodiversity loss, in conjunction with key human development goals, limiting climate change to two degrees Celsius warming and combating desertification and land degradation.

However, reaching these joint objectives requires changes in society including much more efficient use of land, water, energy and materials, rethinking our consumption habits and in particular major transformations of food systems.

Analysis of the major primary sectors indicates that drivers linked to agriculture account for 70 per cent of the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity. Addressing trends in food systems is therefore crucial in determining whether the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 will succeed. Solutions for achieving sustainable farming and food systems include sustainable productivity increases by restoring ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes, reducing waste and losses in supply chains, and addressing shifts in consumption patterns.

Meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets would contribute significantly to broader global priorities addressed by the post-2015 development agenda; namely, reducing hunger and poverty, improving human health, and ensuring a sustainable supply of energy, food and clean water. Incorporating biodiversity into the sustainable development goals, currently under discussion, provides an opportunity to bring biodiversity into the mainstream of decision making.

What is UNEP doing?


  • Through its Division of Environmental Law and Conventions, helping member states to meet their obligations under multilateral environmental agreements, including those dealing with biodiversity.
  • Working to promote and implement the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
  • Highlighting an integrated ecosystems management approach which focuses on sustaining ecosystems to meet both ecological and human needs.
  • Promoting a shared vision of desired outcomes by integrating social, environmental and economic perspectives into managing our ecological foundation.
  • Seeking to reconcile competing demands and interdependencies in order to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Supporting over 80 countries to revise, update and review post-2010 National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans (NBSAPs).

On the occasion of IDBD, UNEP will be screening the IMAX film Beautiful Planet in Nairobi. Interested in attending? Please contact Stephen Odundo ([email protected]) by noon 20 May 2016. First come, first served.

For more information on the Convention on Biological Diversity and other Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs), visit the United Nations Information Portal on Multilateral Environmental Agreements ("InforMEA"). InforMEA harvests COP decisions, news, meetings, membership, national focal points and reports from MEAs: https://www.informea.org/en