UNESCO's commitment to biodiversity
Biodiversity is the living fabric of our planet. It underpins human wellbeing in the present and in the future, and its rapid decline threatens nature and people alike. According to reports released in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the main global drivers of biodiversity loss are climate change, invasive species, over- exploitation of natural resources, pollution and urbanization.
Biodiversity loss implies the reduction and disappearance of species and genetic diversity and the degradation of ecosystems. It jeopardizes nature’s vital contributions to humanity, endangering economies, livelihoods, food security, cultural diversity and quality of life, and constitutes a major threat to global peace and security. Biodiversity loss also disproportionally affects the most vulnerable exacerbating inequality.
To halt or reverse this decline it is vital to transform people’s roles, actions and relationships with biodiversity. Many solutions exist for stopping and reversing the decline in biodiversity. UNESCO’s diverse networks, programmes and partners have observed positive and inspiring seeds of change around the world. UNESCO also accompanies Member States and their people in their efforts to halt biodiversity loss by understanding, appreciating, safeguarding and using biodiversity sustainably.
UNESCO’s unique contribution to the conservation and sustainable and equitable use of biodiversity supports and complements the work of other organizations and UN agencies working at the international and local level. Its role is founded on a number of key strengths:
- UNESCO supports the study and observation of biodiversity in oceans, arid zones, mountains, wetlands and agricultural systems, in addition to remote sensing in support of World Heritage sites, biosphere reserves and UNESCO Global Geoparks, and work in the area of biotechnology and related capacity building.
- UNESCO’s convening power and role as an honest broker with a holistic perspective combines expertise in the natural and social sciences, culture, education and communication.
- UNESCO’s normative instruments safeguard the planet’s most exceptional biodiversity areas and recognize the intrinsic relationship between people, culture and nature, including intergovernmental conventions intended to safeguard and nurture tangible and intangible heritage.
- UNESCO has a multidisciplinary mandate encompassing education and public awareness of biodiversity and sustainable development. It emphasizes links between cultural diversity and biodiversity, and societal aspects and ethical issues.
- UNESCO has an important track record in advancing the science of biodiversity through pioneering work in the ecological sciences on ecosystems, biosphere reserves, biodiversity-related projects, capacity building, scientific assessments and policy briefs to assist decision-makers.
- UNESCO mobilizes the knowledge, know-how and practices of local communities and indigenous peoples to support their inclusion in environmental decision-making, particularly with regard to biodiversity and climate change; through its Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme. LINKS aims to build dialogue among indigenous knowledge holders, natural and social scientists, resource managers and decision-makers to secure an active and equitable role for local communities in resource governance.
- UNESCO supports gender-responsive and gender-transformative approaches to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development and the promotion of knowledge held by women in biodiversity conservation.
- UNESCO develops information and communication tools and works with broadcast media to support biodiversity education.
Halting biodiversity loss is a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 15), one that is strongly linked to all other SDGs. Keeping ecosystems resilient and safeguarding our planet’s biodiversity is fundamental to poverty eradication, human health and wellbeing.
Biodiversity is essential not only to the proper functioning of Earth systems, it is also key to the delivery of ecosystem services that are crucial to human dignity and wellbeing.
These biodiversity-dependant ecosystem services include the provision of potable water, food and fibres, soil fertility, maintenance of the genetic databank of biodiversity, climate regulation, and recreational and aesthetic values among others. Biodiversity and cultural diversity are intricately linked.
A diverse world gives us the flexibility to adapt to change, including climate change. Biodiversity therefore underpins most SDGs and its loss constitutes a threat to both security and peace.
Climate change is a major driver of biodiversity erosion. Changes in the temperature of the atmosphere and precipitation, ocean acidification, sea level rise and the nature of some extreme events adversely impact biodiversity and ecosystem services. In addition, climate change amplifies the impacts of other drivers such as habitat degradation, pollution, invasive species, over-exploitation, population displacement and migration. Loss of biodiversity also accelerates climate change processes, as the capacity of degraded ecosystems to assimilate and store CO2 tends to decrease, reducing the available adaptation options. Humanity therefore has a global responsibility to address these two challenges and the interactions between them.
- Biodiversity erosion is a reality and needs to be tackled urgently. Climate change is a key driver and acts synergistically with land degradation and population growth to accelerate loss of biodiversity.
- Biodiversity conservation will contribute to achieving the targets set by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
- Stopping biodiversity loss is essential for climate change mitigation and achieving transformative sustainable development.
- Current and future environmental migration depends to a large extent upon the implementation of adaptation strategies in vulnerable regions in conjunction with efforts to mitigate environmental degradation and climate change.
In line with its Strategy for Action on Climate Change (2018-2022), UNESCO provides data and climate information services on water security, Earth sciences, biodiversity and the ocean through the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP), the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, the Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) Programme and the World Heritage Convention.
The combined output of these programmes ensures the strengthening of the interdisciplinary climate change knowledge base.UNESCO also recognizes and promotes the importance of cultural knowledge and diversity as crucial drivers for the societal transformation and resilience needed to respond to climate change.