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Protection of biodiversity
• In 2010, nearly two-thirds of the globe’s ecosystems are considered degraded as a result of damage and mismanagement and a failure to invest in their productivity(1).
• The 2008 Red List of Threatened Species states that 1.8 million species out of an estimated 13 million have been described as endangered(2).
• By some estimates projected loss of ecosystem services could increase the risks of hunger due to a loss of up to 25 % in the world’s food production by 2050(3).
• Ecosystems, from forests and freshwater to coral reefs and soils, deliver essential services to humankind estimated to be worth over USD 72 trillion a year – comparable to World Gross National Income(4).
• In 2010, 20 targets were set in Nagoya to preserve biodiversity. The costs of implementation were estimated between 60 billion and 150 billion euros(5).
BIODIVERSITY AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
Biological diversity, also known as biodiversity, encompasses the number, variety and variability of living organisms and the range of ecosystems in which they live and interact. Beyond the ethical implication, preventing a loss of biodiversity is important since our society fully rely on the natural richness of the planet for the food, energy, raw materials, clean air and clean water.
Over the past decades, biodiversity has been lost at an alarming rate due to deforestation, climate change, pollution, unsustainable harvesting of natural resources, and the introduction of so-called “alien species” to areas where they are not native.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says that the current rate of extinction may already be as high as 10,000 times the natural rate – an estimated one in four mammals, one in three amphibians, and one in eight birds are threatened with extinction. A reduction or loss of biodiversity may not only undermine the environment, but also economic and social goals. 'The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity (TEEB)' global UN study evaluated that economic loss may add up to US $2–4.5 trillion per year due to the ongoing losses of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems.
Effectively protecting sensitive ecosystems and managing protected areas are a major part of the solution to this extinction crisis and thus decreasing economic cost. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity was the first legally binding treaty to recognize that biodiversity is “a common concern of humankind”. In 2010 the UN declared the period from 2011 to 2020 as the “UN Decade on Biodiversity” and set various related targets such as preventing the extinction of known threatened species and conserving at least 17 per cent of inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas. It also includes keeping pollution and the impacts of use of natural resources within safe ecological limits and ensuring agriculture, aquaculture and forestry, among others, are managed sustainably.
THE ROLE OF BUSINESS IN THE PROTECTION OB BIODIVERSITY
When exploring natural resources, companies can perform their activities mindful of damaging impacts on biodiversity. As both prevention and reparation are important, corporations should assess the potential effects of their activities on local biodiversity prior to the initiation of a new site, and have mechanisms to address accidents such as spills. These elements are an integral aspect of our investment process.
Beyond impacts on biodiversity from climate change and pollution, certain industrial activities can have direct impacts on biodiversity, such as:
• Dams and their reservoirs: In order to construct dams, utility companies must regulate river flows and inundate riversides and plains to build considerable reservoirs. In fact, the over 40,000 existing reservoirs cover a total area in excess of 500,000 km2. Thus, while dams provide a cleaner alternative as an energy source, beyond their impact on local communities, they also result in environmental disturbances.
They can block movement of migratory fish and change the temperature, oxygen conditions and nutrients in the water, all of which directly impact species’ ability to adapt to their environment. Utility companies can mitigate such risk by avoiding the construction of dams in areas rich in biodiversity, facilitating the migration of river species, maintaining natural seasonal river flow cycles and sustaining water quality, among others.
• Sailing ballast: Each year about 10 billion tonnes of ballast water, used in vessels in order to facilitate navigation, are transported and exchanged around the world. Deballasting operations involve the discharge of wastewater, which contain exotic and often invasive species, causing negative impacts on the local marine environment. It is important that marine transportation companies use filtration, ultraviolet or other effective ballast water treatment to ensure minimum rate of invading alien species.
(1) UNEP, 2012, Ecosystem Restoration – Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity
(2) IUCN, 2008, Wildlife in a Changing World: An Analysis of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
(3) UNEP, 2009, The Environemntal Food Crisis- – The environment’s role in averting future food crises
(4) UNEP, 2010, Dead Planet, Living Planet – Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development
(5) European Commission, 2011, Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020