Biodiversity and the Road to the G7
Duja Muhanna, G7 Research Group
April 25, 2019
Protecting biodiversity is a major priority of France's 2019 G7 presidency. Today the biodiversity of our planet is in danger, with species disappearing at such an alarming rate that scientists now refer to the current era as the "sixth extinction". The number of large mammals has dropped by 97% in the last century and the Earth lost 60% of its wildlife between 1970 and 2014, according to the estimates by the World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Report 2018. A report in Biological Conservation warned that more than 40% of insect species could become extinct in the next few decades — an event it said could have catastrophic consequences for the planet. The loss of biodiversity is a challenge inextricably tied to climate change control, because one battle will not be won without the other.
Biodiversity, long an issue on the G7 agenda, has recently risen in prominence, supported by increased international awareness of the catastrophic effects of biodiversity loss and the development of institutions and treaties such as the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Biodiversity was featured on the G7/8 agenda during Germany's 2007 G8 German presidency. The Potsdam Initiative: Biological Diversity 2010 set specific activities in motion concerning science, industry, trade, funding and marine protection. At the 2011 Deauville Summit, the G8 committed to intensifying its efforts to slow the loss of biodiversity. It explicitly set this commitment in the context of related development goals: improving human well-being, eradicating poverty, and coping with climate change and food security — all of which depend on biodiversity and natural resources for effective delivery. The 2015 G7 Elmau Progress Report on Biodiversity highlighted the progress made by the G7 on its biodiversity commitments and stressed the need for continued action. Since 1975, the G7/8 has made 162 commitments on biodiversity.
Biodiversity was emphasized by many G7 environmental ministers' meetings as playing a fundamental role in the health of our planet. Several ministers welcomed the focus on this issue under France's G7 leadership in 2019. They agreed to intensify efforts to reverse the loss of biodiversity including through upcoming discussions under the auspices of the CBD.
In the lead-up to the Biarritz Summit, G7 environment ministers and civil society representatives will meet in Metz, France, on May 5–6, 2019, to discuss concrete actions to tackle biodiversity loss. The meeting will have four aims, as follows.
1. Combatting inequality through an inclusive ecological transition
In accordance with the cross-cutting priority of the French G7 presidency, and drawing on the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the G7 environment ministers aim to promote tangible solutions for biodiversity and climate issues. Gender equality will be a priority.
2. Supporting scientific warnings and international action on biodiversity and the climate
Through their research, scientists are the first to discover the state of the planet. The French G7 presidency aims to put their expertise back at the centre of debate by enhancing the importance of biodiversity erosion on the international stage through to 2020.
3. Promoting tangible solutions for the climate and biodiversity
The G7 aims to bring about concrete commitments to combat biodiversity loss and promote natural solutions.
4. Financing the preservation of biodiversity
G7 environment ministers will work to lay the ground to find finance to support biodiversity, including through two studies carried out by the World Wildlife Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The G7 leaders will also address protecting marine biodiversity at their Biarritz Summit. The G7 launched the Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Coastal Communities at the Canadian-hosted summit, and French president Emmanuel Macron wants to maintain this momentum at the Biarritz Summit by placing a strong emphasis on ocean protection.
Macron asserts that biodiversity is a critical threat to our planet's survival. The G7 Biarritz Summit on August 24-26, 2019 will likely make significant commitments on biodiversity. However, a future vision where biodiversity is halted and recovery is advanced can only happen if the promises made by politicians on paper are kept in practice.
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Duja Muhanna is a research analyst with the G7 and G20 Research Groups. She joined the G7 Research Group in 2013 and has since served as a compliance analyst and lead analyst. She was a member of the field team at the 2018 G7 summit in Charlevoix, Canada. Her research interests include peace and security issues related to human rights, biodiversity protection and climate change. Duja graduated from the University of Toronto with an honours bachelor's degree in political science and history with a focus on international relations. She is also a certified protocol officer from The Protocol School of Washington.
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