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Delegates noted that the Aichi Biodiversity Targets will not be achieved by their deadline of 2020, casting doubt as to whether sufficient progress is being made toward SDG 15, which shares similar targets.

Speakers highlighted, among others, land management as an important issue for SDG 15, the benefits of sustainable forestry and land restoration for mitigating climate change, and the role of biodiversity protection in conflict prevention.

13 July 2017: The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) continued its review of selected SDGs, addressing terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15) on Friday morning. Discussions presented a mixed picture of progress, with achievements in areas such as access and benefit sharing, and action to prevent alien invasive species, but also failure to stem biodiversity loss, deforestation and the illegal trafficking of wildlife.

Delegates noted that the Aichi Biodiversity Targets will not be achieved by their deadline of 2020, casting doubt as to whether sufficient progress is being made towards SDG 15 (life on land), which shares similar targets.

Jerry Matthews Matjila, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) chaired the session, and René Castro Salazar, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) moderated discussions, which drew on an HLPF background note reviewing progress on SDG 15.

Heather Page, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), presented an overview of developments, stating that while forest and biodiversity protection is on the rise, forests continue to shrink and there is “an alarming decline” in fauna.

Keynote speaker Simon Levin, Princeton University, shared insights from the HLPF Expert Group Meeting on SDG 15, calling for a better monitoring framework and more systemic thinking.

Panelists from the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests, the University of Waterloo (Canada), and the Ramsar Convention highlighted good practices and made recommendations regarding the inclusion of women, rural communities and indigenous peoples in SDG 15 implementation, and improving existing schemes on payments for ecosystem services (PES) through better targeting and enforcement.

Many speakers highlighted land management as an important issue for SDG 15. Benin called for adopting responsible land governance models, and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) highlighted the role of traditional communities in sustainable land management and use. Sweden urged combating land degradation. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) observed that land management may be “the next big thing” with regard to SDG 15 implementation. Panelist Roy Brouwer, University of Waterloo, called for joint monitoring of water and land management.

Further indicators are needed for the SDG 15 monitoring framework, including on the meaningful integration of biodiversity into other processes.

Other speakers highlighted the benefits of sustainable forestry and land restoration for mitigating climate change. Panelist Jill Blockhus, The Nature Conservancy, described “sustainable land bonds” that can mitigate climate change and support rural development. Togo announced reductions in its national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through reducing deforestation.

On halting deforestation (SDG target 15.2), Norway called for reversing tropical forest loss, and Russia highlighted the need to protect boreal forests. Malaysia, Kenya and Turkey outlined their respective national commitments, with Turkey seeking to achieve 30% forest cover by 2023.

Several speakers, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Republic of Korea and Senegal, focused attention on the role of biodiversity protection in conflict prevention. Chiagozie Chima Udeh, a lead discussant from Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation, linked biodiversity and forest loss to Boko Haram’s recruitment of young people in Nigeria. The Czech Republic related the fall of a government regime to public disquiet over environmental concerns.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) called for enhanced efforts to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

On other matters, the HLPF background note reports that national governments are better managing and preventing the introduction of invasive alien species (SDG target 15.8), and that there is greater recognition of community-based tenure rights and access to benefit-sharing mechanisms (SDG target 15.6) in the context of biodiversity protection, combating climate change, and land restoration initiatives. However, action to end wildlife poaching and trafficking (SDG target 15.7) has not been successful, and behavior change is needed to reduce purchases of trafficked wildlife, as almost 7,000 species of animals and plants from 120 countries are implicated in this global trade.

Overall, the HLPF background note concludes that, at the global level, there is some progress on actions, for example, reflected in the increase of protected areas, but that the status of biodiversity as reflected in IUCN Red List numbers is still negative.

The background note further elaborates that the monitoring framework for SDG 15 does not capture quality aspects, for which further indicators are needed, including measures of forest intactness, management effectiveness of protected areas and the meaningful integration of biodiversity into other processes. [IISD RS Coverage of HLPF on 13 July] [HLPF Background Note on SDG 15]


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