15 Nov 2018

7 reasons why this month’s Biodiversity Conference affects us all

From 17th – 29th November, governments from across the world will meet at the UN Biodiversity Conference in Egypt to review progress towards conserving biodiversity for people and planet and start to craft a new deal for nature and people – and BirdLife will be attending. The summit will tackle critical issues relevant to all of us. We list the highlights.

Tourmaline Sunangel © Wang LiQiang
Tourmaline Sunangel © Wang LiQiang
By BirdLife Policy

We are living at a pivotal time for nature and for the future of our planet. They say we’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event, and the first to be caused by humans. Our own State of the World’s Birds 2018 reported that one in eight bird species is threatened with extinction. But there is still time to turn things around. The decisions we make now can set us on the path to recovery and a more sustainable world.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is all about setting us on the right path. Originally launched in 1992 as part of the Rio Earth Summit, it is an agreement between 196 nations to conserve biodiversity, use the world’s resources sustainably, and share the benefits of nature fairly. This week, more than 80 ministers are assembling at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. These government bodies will be joined by conservation organisations and scientists, and will tackle critical issues relevant to all of us. Here are just a few.

1. Helping countries to hit their biodiversity targets – 2020 and beyond

Red-eyed Tree Frog © Taboga


You may have heard of the Paris Climate Agreement, and it has its biodiversity counterpart: the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, a set of agreed goals on conservation and sustainable use to be reached by 2020. Over the years, different countries have had varying levels of success getting there – but there are still two years to go. This month, the delegation will discuss how countries can redouble their efforts in these final two years, with BirdLife advocating for better protection and conservation of Key Biodiversity Areas (including of AZE sites) to safeguard the final strongholds of endangered species. We’ll also be looking beyond to the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity, which strives towards a world where humans are living in harmony with nature.

2. Including biodiversity in public and private sector development

© Realstock

If we can make a world where businesses and governments build biodiversity into the planning stage of their projects, we can tackle many threats to nature at their source. This year, a main focus will be the renewable energy sector. We will be raising awareness of initiatives and tools such as the CMS Energy Task Force and the Soaring Bird Sensitivity Mapping Tool, which help governments and energy companies to decide where – and where not – to locate wind farms and powerlines so as to avoid bird collisions and electrocutions. More widely, we will advocate the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Toolkit as an invaluable asset for developers to find out whether their planned projects are located near ecologically sensitive sites.

3. Giving people the power to protect the planet

© Tom Clynes

How can we make sure we have the people power to achieve our conservation targets? At the summit, we will be running capacity-building side events based on our extensive experience from within the BirdLife Partnership. We will discuss how governments and civil society organisations can work together to increase the skills and resources of conservationists on the ground – and how information sharing can help to get conservation rules embedded into legislation. Our main message is age-old: that cooperation makes a power greater than the sum of its parts. Which leads us to…

4. Joining forces with other organisations

Asian Crested Ibis © Wang LiQiang

When it comes to saving nature, we’re stronger together. In fact, the whole reason BirdLife was set up was to unite conservation organisations across the globe under a common aim – and we are now 117 Partners strong. But we’re always looking for new collaborations. For example, at the summit we will promote the formation of a Global Coastal Forum, whereby countries across the world can communicate with each other and co-ordinate their coastal conservation work. The forum will make sure conservation is incorporated into coastal industries such as building, shipping and fishing, as well as government planning.  We’re also working with a whole host of other international organisations to ensure our messages are aligned and we’re joining forces to get them across.

5. Combatting climate change through conservation

Northern Cardinals © Steven R Smith

Landscapes like wetlands, forests and grasslands play an essential role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it, slowing the planet’s temperature rise. They also make the world’s most at-risk communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change. For example, preserving coastal mangroves can hold back the coastal erosion that comes with sea level rise and increase resilience to extreme weather events. It is therefore crucial that we not only preserve the habitats that already exist, but restore degraded ecosystems to their former glory. At the summit, we will support the adoption of voluntary guidelines encouraging countries to use nature-based solutions to combat this urgent threat – guidelines that BirdLife helped to develop.

6. Rewilding: letting nature find its own way

© Matthew Thomas

A growing movement is helping to restore habitats to their former glory. The rewilding philosophy is to help nature find its own way – by letting large forest areas regenerate, removing dams to allow free-flowing rivers, or reintroducing species. But once nature has been put back on track, rewilders advocate that we step aside and let it manage itself. BirdLife is part of a European coalition currently pushing to ensure that rewilding principles feature strongly in the European Union’s post-2020 Biodiversity Strategy, using concrete, legally-binding targets that will help to restore ecosystems across Europe.

7. Promoting the power of ‘local’

Civil society protecting nature in the Mediterranean - Flamingos in Tunisia © Hichem Azafzaf / AAO

While some governments may not yet be on track to hit their biodiversity targets, local civil society groups in the Mediterranean are leading the way. A report by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund shows that civil society organisations have been invaluable in making progress towards the Aichi Targets, and should be recognised at CBD COP for their ability to solve biodiversity problems locally and nationally – the impact of many small, coordinated projects really does add up. “The key”, says Liz Smith, CEPF Med Regional Implementation Team Manager, “is showing local organisations how their project contributes to the bigger picture, which we did through bespoke Aichi Target workshops.”


It’ll be a busy, but highly productive, week. Dena Cator, Global Conservation Policy Coordinator in BirdLife’s global policy team and responsible for coordinating BirdLife’s 26-strong delegation at the Conference, says, “We’re working closely together with Parties to the Convention, particularly the host government Egypt, to ensure COP14 comes out with strong decisions mandating Parties to address the most urgent priorities for biodiversity conservation over the next two years to COP15 in Beijing in 2020.”


See all of BirdLife's side events here.

Follow the BirdLife delegation at the UN Biodiversity on Twitter @BirdLife_Policy