18 Dec 2016

UN summit calls for urgent farming, forestry, fisheries reforms

The UN Biodiversity Conference aims to build a future in harmony with nature. Above, Near Threatened Reinwardt's tree frog © Aleksey Stemmer
The UN Biodiversity Conference aims to build a future in harmony with nature. Above, Near Threatened Reinwardt's tree frog © Aleksey Stemmer
By BirdLife Policy

BirdLife International today welcomed a decision by the UN Biodiversity Conference to pursue environmental reform in the farming, forestry and fisheries sectors, but underscored the need for stronger ambition and accelerated implementation by national governments. 

“Nature is in crisis. Urgent reform is needed to reduce the impacts of farming, forestry and fisheries on the natural world”, said Pepe Clarke, Head of Policy at BirdLife International. “Business as usual is not an option. Unsustainable patterns of production and consumption are placing severe pressure on our forests, oceans and rivers and driving alarming declines in wildlife populations worldwide.”

Learn more about the impacts of agriculture, forestry and fisheries on bird species.

Over the past two weeks, nearly two hundred governments met at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13) to review progress towards global conservation targets[i] and commit to further action to conserve and restore nature.

Hosted by the Government of Mexico, the summit focused on the ‘mainstreaming’ of nature conservation into productive sectors such as farming, forestry and fisheries.

“In many countries, government policies are actively contributing to the decline of nature, by promoting unsustainable patterns of food and fibre production”, said Konstantin Kreiser, Head of Global Nature Policy at NABU (BirdLife Germany).

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“In Europe, wild bird populations have declined by more than 50 per cent since 1980, due to widespread agricultural intensification supported by EU farming subsidies. Worldwide, poorly designed government subsidies are driving overfishing, unsustainable farming practices and habitat loss, including destruction of tropical forests”, said Mr Kreiser.

On the final day of CBD COP13, countries unanimously adopted a decision that:

  • Calls on governments to phase out environmentally harmful agricultural subsidies and use regulation and incentives to reduce habitat loss, increase water efficiency and prevent the inappropriate use of fertiliser and pesticides.
  • Welcomes private sector efforts to eliminate deforestation from commodity supply chains, and calls on governments to expand networks of protected forests, promote sustainable forest management and combat illegal logging.
  • Reinforces existing international commitments to sustainably manage marine ecosystems, effectively regulate fishing and prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies.

“This is the first time that the CBD has so clearly addressed the impacts of farming, forestry and fisheries on nature, providing a clear mandate for environmental reform across these sectors,” said Kabelo Senyatsu, Director, BirdLife Botswana.

To learn more about BirdLife International’s recommendations for reducing the environmental impacts of farming, forestry and fisheries, download our position paper.

National commitments fall short of action needed to safeguard nature

During the summit, five leading conservation organisations released a global assessment of countries’ progress towards global conservation targets (the ‘Aichi Targets’) and national commitments for future action.

The assessment, led by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife UK), found that:

  • Based on current progress, and with 95% of countries behind schedule, the Aichi Targets are not on track unless countries significantly increase their efforts.
  • Unless countries significantly increase their ambition, the Aichi Targets will not be met —90% of countries that have submitted their NBSAP have set national targets lower than the global targets.
  • To make significant progress to 2020, high-income countries need to scale up their ambition, whilst further action is needed to support lower-income countries to translate their ambition into action. 

“The results of this assessment are alarming. Without increased ambition and real action at the national level, countries will fall well short of their global commitments to nature,” said Sarah Nelson, Head of International Policy at RSPB.

“Despite progress in a number of policy areas, CBD COP13 did not mark a substantial departure from business as usual. To build momentum for action, we will be stepping up our efforts to hold governments accountable for their lack of progress,” said Ms Nelson.

To learn more about the findings of the global assessment, and to download maps illustrating individual countries’ progress and ambition, please visit www.birdlife.org/aichi-progress

Related information:

To learn more about BirdLife International’s position on key policy issues for CBD COP13, download our position paper.

Key policy outcomes related to BirdLife International’s science and conservation work include:

During CBD COP13, BirdLife International and IUCN launched the latest update to the Red List. You can read more about the findings of the Red List update here.

[i] The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 sets out twenty global targets for nature conservation, called the ‘Aichi Targets’, covering themes such as protected areas, habitat loss and elimination of harmful subsidies.