Human population growth has led to consumption of natural resources on such a scale that a million wild species of plants and animals are now threatened with extinction.
New targets for reversing biodiversity loss were set in December 2022 under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which aim to reduce extinction rates and risk tenfold by 2050.
The only way to achieve these targets is through partnerships and enhancing collaboration with both Indigenous Peoples and local communities and businesses.
By Tiina Vähänen and Kristina Rodina de Carvalho, FAO
Fifty years ago, on 3 March – the day the UN General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed World Wildlife Day in 2013 – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. CITES remains one of the world’s most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade in over 36,000 species of wild animals and plants.
Since then, however, the global human population has more than doubled from 3.9 billion people to 8 billion, and demand for natural resources as a source of food, fuel, medicine, housing, and clothing has soared.
Together, the human race uses 50,000 wild species of plants and animals to meet these different needs. One in five people, mostly in rural areas, depend on wild species for food and income, and wild meat provides between 60 and 80% of daily protein needs in more remote tropical areas. In cities, demand for wild products is also increasing – from plants used in medicines to wild meat as a delicacy. Globalization means trade in wild products, once only available near to source, has expanded dramatically in the last four decades.
Today, the combined effects of human activity and climate change mean that over a million wild species are threatened with extinction. Unsustainable hunting has been identified as a threat for over 1,300 wild mammal species, and the survival of an estimated 12% of wild tree species is threatened by unsustainable logging. Illegal trade in wild species – with timber and fish the largest in volume – is estimated to have an annual value of USD 199 billion.
Never has there been more need for effective wildlife conservation. It is critical to achieving many of the SDGs, in particular SDG 15 (life on land), which includes halting biodiversity loss, and SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).
Targets offer hope
In December 2022, the world recognized this by agreeing new global targets to reverse the destructive trajectory we are on. Under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, 196 countries agreed to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and set a target to reduce the extinction rate and risk of all species tenfold by 2050, replacing the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets.
This is a major step forward. But we have a huge task ahead. To meet this and other targets, we must rapidly conserve our biodiversity, use wildlife in a sustainable manner, and reduce demand for wild meat, particularly in towns and cities, and upscale sources of alternative protein.
Years of conservation work have shown that the best way to achieve change is through partnerships – the theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day.
The power of partnership
It is only by working together that we can conserve our planet and sustain all life on it. Partnerships allow for the sharing of knowledge, pooling of resources, and concerted action towards shared goals. They can also help reconcile differences between stakeholders and produce much needed new ideas and solutions.
Partnerships can facilitate big changes across vast geographical areas on a scale and at a speed that would be impossible if each partner worked alone.
Much of the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) to promote conservation and sustainable use of wildlife resources is based on partnerships between FAO, donors, scientists, governments, the private sector, and organizations and local communities on the ground.
The Sustainable Wildlife Management programme is just one example of what can be achieved. Since 2018, this global partnership, including FAO, has sought a brighter future for people and wildlife by conserving biodiversity and improving food security in 15 African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries. It is supported with EUR 50 million of funding from the EU, the French Facility for Global Environment, and the French Development Agency.
The Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management (CPW) meanwhile brings together 14 international organizations to promote the sustainable use and conservation of wildlife resources. FAO hosts the CPW secretariat and is a proactive partner. Two CPW partners – FAO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature – have recently been collaborating on a series of case studies on how to reduce and mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
To reverse biodiversity loss, we need to strengthen existing partnerships and forge new ones to include every stakeholder. In particular, we must focus on including Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) in all efforts to develop a sustainable global food system as those groups, often among the poorest in the world, depend on wildlife for their food and livelihoods. Bringing technical experts, scientists, and IPLCs together to learn from each other will strengthen the sustainable use of wildlife.
At the same time, we must find ways of enhancing cooperation and collaboration with financial institutions and businesses large and small – which have in the past been seen as exploitative and unsustainable.
We must all work together to invent global systems that can sustain humanity without plundering nature.
Tiina Vähänen is Deputy Director, Forestry Division, FAO. Kristina Rodina de Carvalho is Forestry Officer and Secretary of the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management, FAO.