Declining biodiversity raises global alarm  

Africa Science News

By Checky Abuje-


With one million species currently at risk of extinction, the state of global biodiversity loss spells trouble for nature and economies.

This is occasioned by the impact of losing bees and other wild pollinators, fisheries and forestry – just a fraction of natural resources at risk – could reduce global GDP by an estimated $2.7 trillion annually by 2030, according to World Bank simulations.

Speaking during the 7th hybrid Bio-Trade Congress in Geneva, UNCTAD and partners, however, gave a renewed push for stronger trade policies and governance to help tackle the biodiversity crisis.

“Let us trade, yes, but let us trade in a way that enriches our forests, revitalizes our oceans and purifies our air,” UNCTAD Secretary-General  said as she opened the 2024 meeting on 25 March.

“Let us ‘BioTrade’, with the right support for that to happen,” the secretary-general added.

During the meeting, it was revealed that products with a biological origin as a result of Biotrade are valued at $3.7 trillion, representing 17% of global exports in 2021, according to the Trade and Biodiversity (TraBio) statistical tool, UNCTAD’s database that measures the international trade of biodiversity-based products.

However, the economic stakes are even higher for low-income economies, with the share often surpassing 40% of their exports during the past decade.

Since launching the BioTrade Initiative in 1996, UNCTAD has supported more than 80 countries to promote trade in line with environmental, social and economic criteria, where the initiative provides a set of guidelines to bolster sustainable development in its three dimensions across the entire value chain.

These entail a dual focus on people and biodiversity, spotlighting core elements such as conservation, sustainable use, the fair and equitable sharing of benefits, and community empowerment.

Equally important during the meeting were the need for collaborative action, the promotion of sustainable livelihoods and legal compliance as mitigation measures to restore the rapidly diminishing global biodiversity.

“We need to mobilize stakeholders at different levels and move the needle on reversing trends that are eroding the very basis of our human existence”, said Monica Rubiolo, head of trade promotion at the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). SECO has supported the BioTrade initiative for almost two decades.

Developing countries are at the highest brink of Biodiversity distinction that is a threat to the natural capital base for a sustainable economy. According to UNCTAD, aligning with the BioTrade principles and criteria, developing countries can diversify exports, conserve biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of local communities.

In South Africa, efforts to implement the initiative have created over 3,700 jobs, boosted local sales by 51%, and increased export sales by 178%.

In Peru, the trade of native superfoods with high nutrition, including quinoa and maca, generates around $500 million annually.

Additionally, Indonesia saw exports of biodiversity-based products soar by a third in 2021 alone, representing more than 36% of the country’s total exports, and close to 10% of its GDP.

The meeting is also part of wider activities towards the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as UNCTAD’s 60th anniversary (2024) and its 16th quadrennial conference, set for 2025.

Participants as well as stakeholders in the environment sector were urged to embrace Biotrade Congress initiatives.

“The Bio Trade Congress reminds us of the importance of putting people, societies and the environment before capital, by looking more closely at social and solidarity economy models to advance sustainable livelihoods,” said Chantal Line Carpentier, head of trade, environment, climate and sustainable development at UNCTAD.

She noted that deliberations from the congress will support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the landmark Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, aimed at halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030.

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