In the context of the on-going COVID-19 global pandemic reminding the whole humankind of its vulnerability, we would like to focus this paper on the present momentum for caring for the life on Earth in all its forms. We will emphasize one main event to happen in the coming days: the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22nd, 2020. We will also say a word about the World Environment Day which will be held a few days later, on June 5th, 2020.
1. The International Day for Biological Diversity on May, 22nd 2020
While the world is being disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergency to preserve life on Earth and its diversity - as the word “biodiversity” originally refers to – is maybe more vivid than ever. The present situation emphasizes the importance to protect the whole ecosystem supporting biodiversity, notably with the largely mediatized hypothesis that the human disruption of bats’ natural habitat is at the origins of the current pandemic. This crisis has in a certain sense illustrated the important threat that represents the breaking of the subtle balance between wildlife and its environment through excessive activities and climate change induced by anthropogenic emissions.
· What is the International Day for Biological Diversity?
The aim of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), also named the “World Biodiversity Day”, is to raise public understanding and awareness on the necessity to reduce the losses of biodiversity on Earth, for human beings and for all other forms of life. The IDB is under the scope of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
· An entirely online event
For the first time since its creation in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly, the 2020 edition of the IDB will be entirely held digitally given the sanitary situation. Below are presented links for online activities/ celebrations:
o social media channels: facebook.com/UNBiodiversity twitter.com/unbiodiversity instagram.com/unbiodiversity linkedin.com/company/unbiodiversity
We would like to particularly highlight that at this occasion, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will organize high-quality online discussions among various experts and networks, with the purpose of democratizing the scientific aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic related with the preservation of biodiversity and to discuss on common values and resources for resilience. More specifically, the five following themes will be addressed:
o Links between coronavirus and biodiversity: the scientific analysis
o Gather around what connects us: what are our shared values?
o What changes are needed?
o What are the possible ways/tools to regenerate ecosystems and restore our links to the living?
· An opportunity to address and link Nature-based Solutions with climate change
The biodiversity loss and climate change emergency are two intricated problems, with solutions to be therefore addressed jointly. For this reason, another IDB event that we highly recommend will host a discussion on how we can translate the global ambition around Nature-based solutions for climate change into local action.According to the European Union, Nature-based solutions (NbS) are defined as following: “inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience. Such solutions bring more, and more diverse, nature and natural features and processes into cities, landscapes and seascapes, through locally adapted, resource-efficient and systemic interventions”.
Government representatives, members of the private sector and experts will talk about the success factors to translate global ambitions on NbS into local actions benefitable to those most vulnerable to climate change. The event will feature a panel discussion with Alex White from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair, Chip Cunliffe, sustainable development director for AXA XL and Musonda Kapena, national coordinator of the Zambia National Forest Commodities Association. It will be freely accessible on May 22, 2020, 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm BST, upon registration.
Nature-based Solutions are needed to address climate change while protecting biodiversity. This is why ClimateSeed has focused on sourcing the majority of its projects from forestry and land-use projects, either protecting and restoring vital forests or creating new ones.
· Current trends
The current trends are available on the most recent United Nations report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) entitled “2019 Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”. The results presented in this report are rather worrying as they show that:
- a “dangerous decline” is affecting biodiversity and ecosystems, threatening 80% of the targets for eight of the SDGs.
- “75% of the land-based environment and 66% of the marine environment” have been considerably disturbed due to human activities.
- “1 million life species” are threatened by complete extinction.
· One motto: “our solutions are in nature”
As a conclusion regarding the IDB, it is in a quite unprecedented context of a global crisis that this event will be celebrated worldwide under the slogan “our solutions are in nature”. In a world often disturbed by purely material considerations and looking for complicated solutions, this motto invites to resilience by a return to simple essential natural elements.
WHAT BIODIVERSITY IS
Biodiversity describes the variety of life on Earth, including the 8 million plant and animal species on the planet, the ecosystems that house them, and the genetic diversity among them. Biodiversity is a complex, interdependent web, in which each member plays an important role, drawing and contributing in ways that may not even be visible to the eye. The abundant foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the weather that makes our planet habitable all come from nature.
WHY BIODIVERSITY MATTERS
Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on land and below water. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicine sources, natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation. Changing or removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences. Without nature, life on earth would not be possible.
We will now briefly present another main international event related to biodiversity happening in the coming weeks, World Environment Day.
2. The World Environment Day 2020 on June, 5th 2020
· The history of the World Environment Day
The World Environment Day was institutionalized in 1972 on the decision of the United Nations General Assembly. It was set more precisely during the Conference on the Human Environment that took place in Stockholm which also notably resulted in the creation of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The first World Environment Day (WED) was celebrated in 1974. In 1987, the rotation in the selection of hosting countries was decided.
· What is the World Environment Day?
The WED is an event under the UNEP. It is held every year on June 5th. Progressively the WED has become an international public platform gathering people coming from more than 140 countries every year. A new theme is decided each year. The event gathers diverse participants, from big companies to non-profit organizations, government officials and opinion leaders taking advantage of this global event with the main purpose of raising awareness on the environmental issue and calling for political actions. In 2019, the WED was a success hosted by China on the theme of "Beat Air pollution" as this phenomenon, unfortunately, kills millions of people every year.
· The 2020 World Environment Day’s edition
In 2020, the focus is set on biodiversity and Colombia was chosen by the UNEP to host the event together with Germany. Exceptionally, this year the events will be mainly held online. An online submission form is still available for Governments, NGOs, researchers, members of the private sector and of the civil society willing to conduct a virtual conversation related to biodiversity protection. Everyone is welcome to register!
The events will be showcased on the World Environment Day website.
One excellent way to celebrate the WED would also be to plant a tree if not a forest!
Two main international events focusing on the preservation of life on Earth will be celebrated in the coming weeks: the International Day for Biological Diversity on May, 22nd 2020 and the World Environment Day 2020 on June, 5th 2020. They represent a global momentum for the preservation of biodiversity.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a key expected outcome of this year’s editions was notably to prepare the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that was supposed to take place in Kumming, China during the fall of 2020. However, once again for sanitary reasons, COP15 is postponed to a future date to be defined.
The global COVID-19 pandemic might have one positive effect with the reduction of global CO2 emissions as shown in some ongoing research studies including the recognized French Academician Philippe Ciais for the review Nature. However, the President of the Shift Project Jean-Marc Jancovici recently underlined that an additional pandemic like the COVID-19 on top of the existing ones would have to happen every year in order to follow the trajectories set in the Paris Agreement without considerable efforts for changing the current trends of anthropogenic greenhouse gases emissions. Obviously, nobody wishes such extreme events to multiply and occur again, but that gives us an idea of the drastic measures we should implement to reach the targets of the Nationally Determined Contributions voluntarily submitted with the Paris Agreement.
Article by: Mounia Mostefaoui Doctoral Researcher in Physics for Climate Change