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2021 Debate Insights

Stopping biodiversity loss: How to ensure species and mobilization don't go extinct

Author: Sciences Po student Wong Jing Syuan summarizes the debate session of the fourth edition of the Paris Peace Forum

Date: 13 November 2021


Stopping biodiversity loss: How to ensure species and mobilization don’t go extinct

“The Covid-19 pandemic is just one example of how far out of balance we are with nature… We need to incorporate the concept of natural capital into our orthodox economic models.” – Steward Patrick. Beyond economics, how to institutionalize the global governance on biodiversity and how to materialize the commitments are the topics of discussion.

As introduced by the host Steward Patrick, Director of the International Institutes and Global Governance (IIGG) Program, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), “the world is facing two simultaneous and related ecological crises, the first is climate change, which has been receiving international attention; the second environmental emergency, which gets much less attention yet is critical, is the collapse of biodiversity.” Adopting a paradigm that treats the wealth created by natural capitals on equal footing with other forms of capital, while ensuring the effective implementation of biodiversity protection would be the tasks of all human beings.

To kick-off the conversation, Razan Al-Mubarak, President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), first pinpoints to the fact that “while biodiversity and climate change have common culprits and perhaps common solutions, they are indeed very different.” Consequently, such differences in processes have ramifications on how the global governance strategies differ on the two fronts.

Another important aspect on the conservation of biodiversity is the connection between global targets and local actions. According to Ms. Al-Mubarak, “while the loss of biodiversity is globally threatened, their sources of threat are not always global. Many instances of biodiversity loss are indeed very local.” She adds, “the reason why the Aichi targets have failed is not only because the process of establishing global targets for biodiversity is inadequate for the problems at hand,” but also due to the failure to “translate global targets into local actions.”

Echoing Ms. Al-Mubarak’s call for the connection between global targets and local actions, Dr. Monique Eliot, General Director of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), proposes a general paradigm on health that comprises of “animal health, human health, as well as health in the sense of environmental protection” that could only be realized by the collective efforts of men and women on the ground.

Returning to Steward Patrick’s initial remarks on the concept of natural capital, Eduardo Pedrosa, Secretary General of the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, raises the issue of having a pricing system for carbon emission but not for natural capital, raising the question: “do we need pricing for natural capital?” While activists might call such “natural capital markets” acts of green-washing, it is indeed a global trend in which asset managers and investors are increasingly demanding businesses to disclose their exposure to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of nature. However, Mr. Pedrosa cautions the consequences of separating the two standards in a company’s environmental externalities, as it might blur the picture on “what the companies are actually doing.”

On the ways to engage finance in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals, Ms. Al-Mubarak remarks that while “the ESG movement is moving in the right direction, it is not necessarily getting everywhere, because perhaps the interpretation of what the ‘E’ means in ESG is limited to climate change mitigation.” Therefore, she suggests that we “expand the narrative to the environment, which includes both climate change issues, biodiversity issues, and pandemic issues.” She also emphasized the need to call for financial engagement at both micro and macro levels to address local and global issues respectively. Ms. Al-Mubarak finally poses quintessential questions to the panelists and the audience: “how do we make sure that all the existing discussions that we are having, be it COP 26 or COP 15, get translated into legally binding and locally relevant treaties, because otherwise they are just pledges and commitments?”

One final important perspective discussed by the panelists is the stewardship of biodiversity conservation by the indigenous communities. Citing the example of Ebola virus prevention and treatment in Central Africa, Dr. Eliot pinpoints to the importance of training to empower local communities in protecting the environment and facilitating health.

As a point of converging conclusion, all the panelists agreed on the crucial role played by the indigenous and local communities. Ms. Al-Mubarak further encouraged inclusive strategic planning and financial empowerment for the indigenous and the young to implement creative and dynamic strategies on the ground.


Contribution by Wong Jing Syuan

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