Biological diversity – or biodiversity – is the term for all forms of life on Earth and their natural characteristics. Biodiversity covers the diversity found in each species (genetic diversity) and the diversity between species (species diversity) and between ecosystems (ecosystem diversity).
Biodiversity plays a vital role because its preservation sustains the delicate balance of the ecosystems that provide the basic services crucial to life on Earth (production of atmospheric oxygen, recycling of nutrients, primary production) and that supply the services (food, natural material and fibre, fresh water, bioenergy, etc.) essential to human well-being. Ecosystems also play a regulating role in the face of natural disasters, epidemics and climate change. They shape human cultures and spiritual beliefs.
The current biodiversity extinction crisis is unprecedented in human history. In 2005, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) published its findings on the magnitude of this crisis. The assessment found that, in the 50 years prior to 2005, humans had changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, resulting in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.
Many experts believe that if active measures are not taken now to check biodiversity loss, at the current rate, forests and grassland will shrink 10% to 20% by 2050 as fish stocks continue to collapse and the proliferation of invasive alien species grows. The livelihoods of more than two billion people depend directly on the world’s fish and forests. And climate change compounds the biodiversity crisis and ecosystem service loss. So the implications go beyond saving certain symbolic species and place biodiversity conservation top of the environmental agenda, including in terms of climate change adaptation and mitigation. Yet there is still a long way to go to make the world really wake up to the biodiversity crisis.
Biodiversity loss is a global challenge. A wide range of international instruments with global and regional reach are used to meet this challenge.
The leading tools have developed approaches to:
- Protect endangered species (International Whaling Commission (IWC), Bonn Convention on Migratory Species, Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, etc.);
- Protect habitats (European Union legislation, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Alpine Convention, etc.). International trade in endangered species and their products is strictly regulated by the CITES Convention (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).
In the marine environment, a number of conventions have been developed, mostly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to protect cohesive geographic areas such as the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.
1. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
The Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and today counts 194 party nations, with the notable exception of the United States. It has three main objectives:
- The conservation of biodiversity: designation of protected areas and conservation of species and natural habitats;
- The sustainable use of biodiversity;
- Access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their utilisation. The CBD is supplemented by two important protocols:
- The Cartagena Protocol on biosafety to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health. It was adopted on 29 January 2000 and entered into force on 11 September 2003. In 2010, the Cartagena Protocol was supplemented by the Nagoya - Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress (not yet in force);
- The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS). It aims at sharing the benefits resulting from the utilisation of genetic resources and related traditional knowledge in a fair and equitable way. The Protocol was adopted on 29 October 2010 and entered into force on 12 October 2014. The decisions adopted by the Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the CBD are international in scope. France is an active member of the COP. In 2010, the 10th COP to the CBD in Nagoya, Japan adopted a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 with its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and a strategy for resource mobilisation.
In October 2012, the 11th COP to the CBD in Hyderabad, India concluded with the adoption of a decision, confirmed at the 12th COP in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, to double biodiversity-related international financial flows from all sources to developing countries by 2015 and maintain this level until 2020. This was the first time an international financial target was set for biodiversity. The Parties to the Convention also agreed to ramp up their domestic expenditure on biodiversity and to report on this expenditure, mainly in the form of national financial plans. The Conferences of the Parties to the CBD will regularly review their goals and progress with these different points at each of their meetings through to 2020. In the marine environment, COP 12 identified some 150 areas worldwide as meeting the scientific criteria for Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) and included their "descriptions" in the global EBSA repository.
The next Conference of the Parties to the Convention will be held in Mexico in December 2016.
2. IPBES or the “IPCC of Biodiversity”
In the past, despite having many centres of expertise on biodiversity, the world had no international mechanism akin to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognised by scientists and policymakers to collect information on biodiversity and summarise and analyse it for policymaking by the different bodies concerned.
Following the 2005 International Conference on Biodiversity: Science and Governance (Paris Conference), an international process was therefore set up to assess the need for and define the scope and form of an international mechanism for scientific expertise on biodiversity and ecosystem services. A decisive step was taken on 20 December 2010 when the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution giving the go-ahead to create the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
The IPBES was formally launched in Panama City on 20 April 2012. It is headquartered in Bonn, Germany. An initial, ambitious 2014-2018 work programme was adopted by the Second Plenary Session (IPBES-2). It is currently being rolled out. Among other outcomes, it provides for the identification of priority capacity-building needs in Southern countries, a series of targeted assessments (pollinators, land degradation and restoration, invasive alien species, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use) and a set of regional and global assessments of the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The next IPBES Plenary Session (IPBES-4) will be held in Kuala-Lumpur (Malaysia) from 22 to 28 February 2016.
In 2011, in keeping with the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan adopted by the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010, France scaled up its biodiversity action with a new National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS) for 2011-2020.
The commitment made by the first French Environmental Conference in 2012 "to make France a model biodiversity restoration country" can be seen at work in a biodiversity framework bill (bill for the restoration of biodiversity, nature and landscapes) currently being examined by the French Parliament. The purpose of this framework bill is to improve the balance between human activities and biodiversity in a contribution to the commitment made as a Party to the Convention on Biological Diversity "to live in harmony with nature.” This bill also marks the country’s move to apply the principles laid down by the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS Protocol).
Many actions have already been taken nationally to tackle biodiversity loss: designation of new marine and land-based protected areas; mapping of green and blue infrastructure; definition of action plans for endangered species; strategies to control invasive species; spread of biodiversity practices; information and knowledge-building campaigns; and regional and international cooperation actions. France reported on all its actions in its 5th National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (in French) (PDF, July 2014).
At European level, France applies the European directives, namely the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) and the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). It is proactive in developing the European Union’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
Tackling poaching and illegal trade in wildlife
France is deeply committed at the highest level to rolling back poaching and illegal trade in wildlife. On 5 December 2013, France held a round table on combating the poaching and trafficking of endangered species. The round table, attended by nine African Heads of State alongside the French President, adopted a declaration and unveiled a French action plan. On 6 February 2014, France destroyed three tonnes of illegal ivory seized by customs in a symbolic gesture. The French action plan earmarks €25 million in grants for 2014 and 2015 to tackle poaching and trafficking in endangered species (in French) under its development aid policy.
Special financial instruments for French official biodiversity assistance
Action to curb biodiversity loss and protect natural habitats and land and marine ecosystems has been part of French development and international solidarity policy since 2014 (Act No. 2014-773 of 7 July 2014 - in French).
In 2013, key French cooperation operator the French Development Agency (AFD) developed a 2013-2016 Biodiversity Cross-Sectoral Intervention Framework, focusing its action on three objectives:
- Sustainably protect, restore, manage and promote ecosystems;
- Integrate ecosystem conservation into development policies and all their sectoral dimensions (agriculture, energy, transport, mining and urban development);
- Strengthen partnerships between French stakeholders and developing countries for better global biodiversity governance. The AFD’s Sectoral Innovation Facility for NGOs (FISONG) funds the promotion of NGO expertise and their capacity for innovation. A targeted call for biodiversity and development proposals was launched in French in 2012.
One of the missions of the French Global Environment Facility (FGEF) is to link up biodiversity with the other global environment concerns. For the past 20 years, the FGEF has been funding sustainable development projects with grants under multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) ratified by France (see the FGEF’s 2014 key figures and 2014 annual report). In 2015, the FGEF adopted its Strategic Programming Framework 2015-2018 targeting five focus areas and two cross-cutting goals: innovative biodiversity financing, integrated management and resilience of coastal and marine areas, sustainable agriculture and forests, sustainable cities, energy transition, sustainable production and consumption, and innovative processes.
The FGEF’s Small-Scale Initiatives Programme (SSI) was created in 2006 to provide funds for small-scale projects to African civil society organisations working on biodiversity protection and climate change action. The SSI Programme helps civil society structures take concrete action on the ground, improve their project set-up, management and monitoring skills, build their capacity to influence their countries’ environmental decisions, and share their experiences. The FGEF also funds the SSI-NASCO Programme (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia), inspired by the Small-Scale Initiatives Programme (SSI), which started work in 2014.
France also has a multilateral assistance track for the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which finances biodiversity-related projects in developing countries and countries in transition. In 2014, France consolidated its work on environmental protection and its support for the Global Environment Facility with a contribution of $300 million (for all GEF workstreams, including biodiversity), representing an increase of almost 6% in euros, under the GEF 6 Replenishment.
France has set up an accounting system on resources mobilised for international biodiversity in connection with the financial commitments made by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2014 (see Decision XII/3 on resource mobilisation). Details are presented on the National Biodiversity Observatory website (in French). France encourages the involvement of the private sector, research bodies and local government in this move. France also promotes the development of innovative financing mechanisms. It is behind a study on innovative initiatives for biodiversity financing by the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development (in French), for which it provides the secretariat. The study summary was published in June 2014, detailing 20 types of initiatives to raise new sources of finance for ecosystem conservation and restoration and help reduce financing needs by easing pressure on biodiversity.
France’s strategic international biodiversity partnerships
France and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have developed a unique partnership since 2005, cooperating on biodiversity governance, the conservation of forests, savannas and arid zones in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the conservation of oceans and island environments, including overseas.
France is also partner to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), which helps civil society work on the conservation of endangered environments and bring local communities on board to protect the ecosystems on which they depend for their well-being.