Rio+20 : Focusing on the solutions

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Twenty years after the Earth Summit, none of the biodiversity indicators are positive. How can this situation be explained?

Twenty years after the Earth Summit, none of the biodiversity indicators are positive. How can this situation be explained?

We did not manage to successfully highlight the fact that nature is the cornerstone of life on Earth. And yet, the facts are there. We have the information but we have only managed to convey it successfully to those who already know about the biodiversity crisis and are truly concerned about it. This is partly because we place too much emphasis on negative indicators and not enough emphasis on what each individual can do to influence politics. We have focused too much on the problems but not enough on solutions.

Based on these observations, what is your assessment of the past twenty years of biodiversity preservation?

Even though all the indicators are on the decline, there are still certain successes that should be highlighted. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which has 193 countries as Parties to the Agreement is virtually a universal agreement which has led to a lot of field action. And in 2010, the Nagoya conference offered a political answer to the biodiversity crisis. The tools that were adopted there have provided a solid work base and a global framework for action that will enable us to improve biodiversity conservation if it is adopted at a national level. However, we still need ties between scientific knowledge and the decision-making processes. We must really improve communication and interaction between scientists, decision-makers and the public.

Over the past twenty years, has there been a change in the way biodiversity protection is conceived?

Of course. Whereas for a long time, reserves were created without men, sometimes by driving away populations, we now know that local populations must be involved in field action programmes. They know how to manage nature in a sustainable way because they depend on it directly and they have been preserving it for thousands of years. Moreover, even though nature is invaluable, giving it an economic value can be an effective way of helping to preserve it. This was the aim of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). Now, the major challenge will be to introduce such thinking within realistic policies so that biodiversity will be fully considered by decision-makers.

So, is the ball now in the politicians’ camp?

Without any political will, it will be impossible to move forward. But the problem is that politicians are focused on the short term and this attitude runs counter to environmental preoccupations. Citizens, NGOs and civil society as a whole need to be mobilised to remind governments of their commitments and tell them: “fulfil your pledges now!”

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