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«The Economic and Social Aspects of Biodiversity Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity in Ireland REPORT PREPARED BY: CRAIG BULLOCK, OPTIMIZE CONSULTANTS ...»

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The World Commission’s report stressed an urgent need to achieve this form of sustainability in human development and economic activity. This led to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, popularly known as the Rio Earth Summit) held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. The parties to the Earth Summit recognised that the natural environment (the biosphere) provides both the supporting framework and the raw materials for human life and development, and that a healthy natural environment is absolutely essential to the success of human economic and social development, and to our overall health and well being. At the Earth Summit, the world’s governments recognized the need to redirect international and national plans and policies to ensure that all economic decisions fully took into account environmental impacts. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was opened for ratification at the Earth Summit, is the main international instrument governing the conservation of nature and biological resources, and is one of a number of international conventions concerned with the sustainable use and conservation of the natural world.

The CBD has been ratified by 190 parties (189 countries and the European Union). Ireland ratified the CBD in 1996.The CBD covers key aspects of biodiversity conservation and management, including natural resource management, and the social, cultural and economic values of biodiversity, recognising that the “conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity is of critical importance for meeting the food, health and other needs of the growing world population”. Biodiversity provides a range of essential goods and services to human societies, which cannot be provided artificially, or for which the costs associated with the development of alternatives is prohibitive.

Examples of these “ecosystem services” are provided in Table 2.1 below.

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The three main objectives of the CBD are:

• The conservation of biological diversity • The sustainable use of its components; and • The equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources.

The main implementing and review body of the CBD is the Conference of Parties (COP), which consists of representatives from each of the ratifying parties, and which meets approximately once every two years. At each COP meeting, based on a review of new biodiversity research and current progress and implementation of the CBD, additional objectives and targets (collectively adopted as “Decisions”) are set, to which parties are bound.

The Convention defines biological diversity as:

“The variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.” In essence, this definition recognises three interdependent levels – ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity within species. In the wider context of the Convention and related COP decisions, another level should be recognized – the landscape level, constituting the broader biophysical environment and biogeographical patterns which biodiversity has helped to create, and of which biodiversity forms an integral part.The implications of this definition for Ireland will be discussed in more detail in following sections.

A key provision of the CBD is the preparation of national biodiversity strategies or plans, and the integration of biodiversity into all relevant sectors.This recognises that any activity which involves or results in the consumption of natural resources, the production of waste, changes in population movements or demographics, or the removal or fragmentation of natural habitats or other change in land use patterns, can have an effect on biological diversity. This, in turn, will have further direct or indirect effects on human well-being. Article 6 of the Convention requires each Contracting

Party to:

“develop national strategies, plans or programmes for the consideration and sustainable use of biological diversity or adapt for this purpose existing strategies, plans or programmes, which shall reflect, inter alia, the measures set out in this convention relevant to the Contracting Party concerned”

and also to:

“integrate, as far as possible and as appropriate, the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross-sectoral plans, programmes and policies.” Under the strategic plan of implementation of the CBD1, ratifying states have agreed to significantly reduce the rate of loss of biological diversity by the year 2010.This was further endorsed by international governments at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, in the same year (often referred to as “Rio +10”). A major outcome of Rio +10 was a broadening and strengthening of the concept of sustainable development, to more completely account for the relationships between economic growth, environmental quality, livelihoods, and natural resource management.This is now the over-riding policy goal relating to the use, management and conservation of natural resources worldwide.The implementation phase of the CBD, working towards the 2010 target, comprises actions under specific thematic areas, based on key ecosystem types and issues which are recognised to have greatest significance to environmental health, economic and social welfare, and to international development. These include agriculture, forests, wetlands, marine and coastal areas, islands, and inland waters.

Arising from Decision VI/26 taken at the 6th COP meeting, in 2002.

Under the CBD, Contracting Parties have also agreed to adopt an “ecosystem approach” to biodiversity conservation, and to adapt this approach for policies which may affect biodiversity in relevant sectors. The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. It recognizes that human societies, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of many ecosystems, and, when applied in a wider political context, it attempts to encompass the essential structure, processes, functions and interactions between humans and our natural environment.

2.1.2 B i o d i ve rs i t y an d i n t e r n a t i o n a l d e ve lo p m e n t Fully sustainable development requires that economic, social, public health, environmental and development concerns are addressed simultaneously and holistically. This will ensure that benefits can be maximised across sectors, and that the implementation of policies in any one area does not negatively affect progress in other areas. It is unfortunate that, in the years since the UNCED, the concept of sustainability has frequently been considered as just an environmental concern. This has generally led to shortfalls in the development and implementation of “sustainable development” policies worldwide. The United Nations has reported that since the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, most environmental trends have worsened. Clearly, ensuring that development is truly sustainable is a major challenge that requires a high degree of inter-disciplinary and cross-sectoral co-operation and understanding. Over the past five years, experience and research in environment, social and economic areas have highlighted the dependency of human development and well-being on biodiversity and ecosystem services, leading to a growing focus on biodiversity loss as a significant threat to international development, economic security and human well-being.

In the year 2000, the UN Millennium Declaration on the fundamental challenges facing the international community in the 21st Century was adopted by the General Assembly and signed by the Heads of State from 152 nations. In 2001, the Secretary General set out a ‘roadmap’ of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for achieving the aims of the Declaration – reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women by

2015. Over the following five years, experience in implementing the goals lead to a growing consensus that the Millennium Goal relating to environmental sustainability is the keystone upon which the success of other goals depend. Biodiversity conservation is a critical aspect of sustainable development, and its importance to human well-being has been emphasised by the reports of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a UN global project which assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being, and which identified the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those ecosystems. The main findings of the MA

included the following:

• Over the past 50 years, human impacts on ecosystems have resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.

• Although some of the changes that have been made to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development, these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of the degradation of many ecosystem services, with negative impacts for some people. These effects include the emergence and spread of disease organisms, reduced livelihood security, loss of food resources, and the exacerbation of poverty.These problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.

• The degradation of ecosystem services is a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century.

• The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems, while meeting increasing demands for their services, will involve significant changes in policies, institutions, and practices that are not currently under way.

In his statement to the world’s first global stakeholders’ meeting on the importance of biodiversity to human health and well-being (COHAB 2005, the first International Conference on Health and Biodiversity, which took place in Galway in August 2005), the former UN Secretary General Kofi

Annan, said:

“If we fail to use and conserve biodiversity in a sustainable manner, the result will be increasingly degraded environments, and a world plagued by new and more rampant illnesses, deepening poverty, and the perpetuation of patterns of inequitable and unsustainable growth. Unfortunately, our actions run the risk of taking humanity down this path… human activities are fundamentally changing the planet, perhaps irreversibly… Over the last fifty years, pollution, climate change, degradation of habitats and overexploitation of natural resources, led to more rapid losses of biological diversity than at any other time in human history. Such losses put the livelihoods and health of current and future generations in jeopardy.” In response to the reports of the MA and other international consultations, the UN has incorporated the 2010 biodiversity target as a target within the MDGs, essential to their success and to future global economic development and security.

Some other relevant multi-lateral instruments which Ireland has ratified or is a party to are listed


• The International Treaty on Plant Protection (1997)

• The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (opened at Rio in 1992), and the Kyoto Protocol.

• The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (opened at Ramsar, Iran, in 1979)

• Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) (in effect since 1975)

• The UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species and Wild Animals (Bonn, 1994)

• Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (Paris, 1972)

2.2 T H E E U R O P E A N CON T E X T

2.2.1 E U L e g i s l a t i o n o n b i o d i ve rs i t y Legislation on biodiversity and nature protection at European Union level dates back to the Directive on the conservation of wild birds (the Birds Directive), which was adopted in 1979.

Although several environmental directives of relevance to biodiversity have been implemented since then, the Birds Directive, and the 1992 Directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of species of wild flora and fauna (the Habitats Directive) are the most directly relevant in the context of this discussion.

The Birds Directive aims to provide far-reaching protection for all of Europe's wild birds, and identifies 194 species and sub-species as particularly threatened and in need of special conservation measures. EU Member States are under a general obligation to preserve, maintain or re-establish sufficient habitats and ecosystems to support the conservation of all bird species covered by the Directive. In addition, for certain species that are of conservation concern, of European importance or are important migratory species, Member States must designate protected sites known as Special Protection Areas (SPAs). The decision on the selection of sites for SPA designation may take account of economic and social considerations, but the decision must be based primarily on conservation needs.

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