World Needs to Work Harder at Saving Biodiversity, Zoellick Says

October 27, 2010

NAGOYA Japan, October 27, 2010 - The world must do more to save its forests and seas as their rapid destruction is a threat to poor people whose livelihoods depend on the continued existence of fragile ecosystems, said World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick.
Speaking at the opening in Nagoya, Japan of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Zoellick said the World Bank would increase its support to the conservation of the world’s natural resources because ecosystems and biodiversity were central to overcoming poverty.
“Productivity of the land and seas is diminishing, and with them the ecosystem services that are crucial for people to get out of poverty. The buffering capacity of our environment is dwindling as climate change accelerates. Endangered species are fading away forever before our very eyes,” Zoellick said.
“I want the World Bank Group to show what can be done. We will increase financing of ecosystem and biodiversity services through our projects in a wide range of sectors -- including infrastructure, agriculture, climate change, and policy lending operations.”
World Bank support over the last 20 years for biodiversity conservation totaled more than $6 billion in more than 120 countries. This has been provided through the World Bank working with developing countries, the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), environmental organizations, foundations, and many donor countries.
While impressive, Zoellick said this level of support was not enough. It was important to establish that biodiversity was important in its own right, rather than as an after-thought to addressing climate change. “…biodiversity is not an add-on. Preserving ecosystems and saving species are not luxuries for the rich. Conservation and development can go hand in hand. Our habitat and our planet deserve nothing less,” he added.
Zoellick said biodiversity’s survival depended on creating a broader coalition in its defense. It was not enough to have biodiversity championed by the environment or forestry ministry alone. It must also become the cause of other ministries concerned with economic growth, infrastructure and overcoming poverty. The private sector could also become a strong ally.
More work should be done on giving leaders the information they needed to appreciate the value of biodiversity, Zoellick said. This could be done by integrating the true value of biodiversity and ecosystem services into a country’s development planning and its accounting systems. The World Bank would on Thursday announce the Global Partnership for Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services Valuation and Wealth Accounting to make advances in recognizing the natural wealth of nations.
Zoellick pointed to the World Bank’s Global Tiger initiative as an innovation in conservation that could have wider lessons. Since its launch in 2008, it had put countries in charge of rescuing the iconic species in the wild. “As we learned in other fields of development, outsiders, however well intentioned, will not be successful without local ownership,” Zoellick said.

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