Rethinking how we work together to tackle the biodiversity crisis

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12-Dec-19

The development of a new global framework for biodiversity post-2020 offers important opportunities for governments and businesses to rethink how they can work together, according to ICMM's Hafren Williams.

In May of this year, the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published findings that show, in no uncertain terms, biodiversity is declining at rates unprecedented in human history.

This rapid reduction of the world’s precious natural diversity is cause for great alarm, but as the report also states, it’s not too late for us to make a difference.

WWF reports that between 1970 and 2010, population sizes of wildlife have declined globally, by an average of 60 per cent. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) also reports in its 2019 global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services, that approximately 75 per cent of the world’s terrestrial environment and 66 per cent of its marine environment are significantly impacted by human activity.

To stop this decline of the natural systems that support us and all other animals on the planet, we need to find ways of meeting the needs of a growing global population without damaging nature or exacerbating climate change. Everyone – governments, businesses and communities – have a part to play.

The role of business

The World Economic Forum (WEF)  found that biodiversity risks have a higher likelihood and greater detrimental impact than failures of national governance, food crises and the spread of infectious disease.

Over several decades, much progress has been made by responsible mining companies in developing policies, systems and processes to better manage and maintain biodiversity affected by operations. Nonetheless, the private sector rightly still faces increasing pressure to manage its negative impacts on biodiversity and promote sustainable growth to help deliver societal and environmental benefits.

There are a number of steps responsible businesses should take to reverse the impacts of global biodiversity loss and contain the negative impact they may have on the Earth’s vital ecosystems.

Since 2003, members of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) have committed to not operating or exploring in World Heritage sites. At ICMM, we’ve recently enhanced our membership requirements to include commitments on implementing the mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimise, restore, offset) in members’ land-use and biodiversity planning, to achieve an ambition of no net loss.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is currently developing its post-2020 framework, which represents an opportunity to strengthen governance led by governments, to ensure all companies manage their environmental and societal impact. But, if we limit ourselves to traditional thinking, where business is thought of solely as a black mark for biodiversity, then we risk missing out on valuable partnerships that will benefit both people and planet.

Next steps

In 2020, the CBD Biodiversity Conference is being held in China, where countries will be proposing a new set of global biodiversity targets for 2030 to replace those agreed in Aichi, Japan a decade ago.

A 2016 report by The Nature Conservancy, WWF, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and BirdLife International found that only five per cent of countries were on track to meet their biodiversity targets. Though roughly three-quarters of signatories were making some progress, it’s abundantly clear more needs to be done to hit these ambitious goals. Traditional models of biodiversity conservation are failing to stem the tide of biodiversity loss, so it is crucial to develop new ways of thinking and working for the benefit of our planet.

A collaborative, partnership approach

The development of a new global framework for biodiversity post-2020 offers important opportunities for governments and businesses alike to rethink how they can work together to tackle biodiversity challenges.

ICMM’s company members believe governments should enforce no-go zones in World Heritage sites, consistently apply regulation on other protected areas, and establish clear and consistent impact assessment requirements to ensure biodiversity and other impacts are adequately addressed. Enforcing minimum requirements that reflect best practice means that less progressive companies cannot exploit resources without consideration of biodiversity impacts, thus preventing a ‘race-to-the-bottom’.

As global organisations driven by innovation and professionalism – as landholders, investors and researchers monitoring species and habitats within a region – these companies can go so much further than addressing their own impacts.

Businesses recognise that governments can support them in their biodiversity management. They also recognise that they can contribute to local and national biodiversity management efforts.

Companies can share biodiversity data that they have gathered on the ground, they can enhance government understanding and skills by participating in business and biodiversity networks, and they can collaborate at a regional level and through public private partnerships to increase impact. They can also help the global community understand progress against global goals by tracking their own contributions to the post-2020 biodiversity targets.

Halting biodiversity loss requires a collaborative, partnership approach. And in the post-2020 framework we have an opportunity to change our attitude. We must not limit ourselves to traditional thinking, instead we must use this opportunity to find ways of maximising the unique contribution that business can offer as a partner.

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Hafren Williams is the biodiversity lead at the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM)