Biodiversity refers to the variety of species on earth at all trophic levels from genes to ecosystems, and includes the ecological, evolutionary, and cultural processes that continue to support life. It includes the animals, plants and microorganisms that work together in a complex web to maintain balance within ecosystems to ensure the continuation of life on Earth. Ecosystems are responsible for cleaning air and water, providing medicine and food.
As such, healthy communities rely on well-functioning ecosystems and well-functioning ecosystems are dependent on maintaining their biological diversity. However, in recent years global biodiversity loss has been occurring at an anomalous rate. This a crisis that is occurring under the radar and has the potential to endanger our food and water supply as well as our air quality and the existence of invaluable genetically diverse species and their contribution to medicine and other fields of science.
For instance, we can turn our attention to the Amazon Rainforest which is home to over a quarter of the world’s terrestrial species and is directly responsible for the control of the climate in the southern hemisphere. Biodiversity loss in the Amazon will affect the water cycle, resulting in a calamitous “die-back” of the forest that might convert large portions of the rainforest into savannahs, resulting in even more biodiversity loss.
In addition, we risk the discovery of new species and the loss of the potential benefits that species could provide to our continued survival on Earth. Recognising this, several environmental conventions have been negotiated with the intention of protecting species diversity and their habitats.
What is Convention on Biological Diversity?
Multilateral Environmental Agreements popularly known as MEAs are legally binding treaties by Governments to address or mitigate environmental issues experienced globally; in this case the loss of biodiversity. These agreements are no easy feat since they take considerable efforts and extended negotiations for sovereign nations with variegated interests to commit to environmental actions that have the potential to alter their economic and social development.
It is recognised, however, that countries dependent on the same ecosystems cannot make unilateral decisions regarding environmental management as the earth’s biological resources are finite, complexly connected and crucial for economic and social development. As such, environmental conventions are important because they support worldwide cooperation to address environmental challenges by bringing them to public attention.
They offer a framework for nations to cooperate in promoting sustainable development and environmental protection. These conventions frequently set benchmarks and rules that nations must adhere to, assisting in ensuring that everyone is striving toward the same objectives.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a global agreement that aims to conserve and sustainably use the world’s biodiversity. Adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the CBD has been ratified by 196 countries including Guyana, making it one of the most widely accepted international environmental agreements. The CBD is a landmark agreement that aims to conserve biodiversity, promote sustainable use of its components, and ensure fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources. The following are key accomplishments of the Convention:
* National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs): NBSAPs, which are national plans for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, must be created and implemented by all CBD signatories. NBSAPs, which provide a framework for national action on biodiversity, have been developed by more than 190 nations;
* Protected areas: The CBD has been instrumental in encouraging the establishment and efficient management of protected areas. Roughly 200,000 protected areas have been established as of this writing, accounting for roughly 14% of the world’s land and 7% of its oceans;
* Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS): The Nagoya Protocol, a supplementary agreement to the CBD, provides a framework for fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. To date, over 130 countries have ratified the Nagoya Protocol;
* Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO): CBD produces the GBO, a flagship publication that assesses progress towards achieving the Convention’s objectives. The GBO has become an important tool for policymakers, providing information on the state of biodiversity and highlighting areas for action.
* Mainstreaming biodiversity: The Convention has helped to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity and to integrate it into broader policy frameworks, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change. This has helped to ensure that biodiversity is taken into account in decision-making across sectors.
Here in Guyana, we have also made significant progress in implementing the Convention.
* Protected Areas: Guyana has designated over 7.5 million hectares of its land and marine areas as protected areas, covering about 20% of its land and 2% of its ocean. This includes the Kaieteur National Park, which is home to one of the world’s largest single-drop waterfall and an important biodiversity hotspot.
* Indigenous peoples and local communities: Guyana recognises the important role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in biodiversity conservation and has established Community Conservation Areas (CCAs) to support community-led conservation efforts.
* Biodiversity monitoring and research: Guyana has an established Centre for the Study of Biodiversity at the University of Guyana, as well as a robust Biodiversity Research and Filming Process administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
* Access and Benefit Sharing: Guyana has enacted legislation to regulate access to its genetic resources and to ensure that benefits arising from their use are shared fairly and equitably.
For more information on the CBD, visit https://www.cbd.int/
Did you know? The EPA is the National Focal Point for the Convention on Biological Diversity in Guyana, and has a number of functions including the coordination and maintenance of programmes for the conservation of biological diversity and its sustainable use.
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