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Point of view: Biodiversity Conservation: less talk, more action

May 17, 2017
May 22nd marks the International Day for Biological Diversity, an initiative brought into life by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2000. Martha Dunbar, Project Manager for Biodiversity and Landscape, fears that now in 2017 we are still treading water.
Image caption:
Martha Dunbar, project manager "Biodiversity and Landscape", CIPRA International © Caroline Begle

During the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio “Earth Summit”), which took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Convention on Biological Diversity was opened for signature. Since then, the term biological diversity, or biodiversity, has become widely spread. Also the Alpine Convention has made the conservation of alpine biodiversity a priority of the Multi-Annual Work Programme of the Alpine Conference. Twenty-five years after the Rio Summit and signing of the Alpine Convention we are still losing biodiversity at a remarkable rate. So why do we remain incapable of acting on this need?

 “Let us have the courage to look in the eyes of our children and admit that we have failed, admit that we continue to lose biodiversity at an unprecedented rate, thus mortgaging their future.” A clear message delivered by Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention for Biological Diversity at the time, at the follow-up summit in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates the rate at which species are becoming extinct to be up to 10,000 times the natural rate. In Europe, for example, every fourth mammal and every eighth bird are at high risk of extinction. In the Alps 45 percent of plant species will face extinction by 2100.

In 2017, it is safe to say that we will not achieve the goal of halving the rate of loss of natural habitats. Perhaps the future lies further away from national governments and international treaties and closer to the people: participatory approaches to environmental governance are on the rise. But this means shifting the power away from governments and towards the people. Do we have the necessary trust in local citizens to actively involve them in the decision making process?

This year’s May 22nd theme of “Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism” could not be further removed from the action needed to protect biodiversity. Under the pretence of pursuing the positive contribution of tourism to biodiversity awareness we continue to create new ecotourism destinations and other luxurious perversions of “sustainable” measures. Scientists and experts must have the facts and figures, but we all must be aware of the responsibility we carry. In collaboration with our partners we are working on raising the necessary awareness – on the International Day for Biodiversity, and on every other day of the year.