The UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) organized a Global Policy Dialogue on the theme, ‘Protecting Biodiversity in Times of Crisis: Exploring SDGs 14 and 15,’ which also sought to identify ways to build and scale partnerships to achieve these Goals. The event convened in preparation for the July 2022 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) where countries will conduct in-depth review of five SDGs, including SDGs 14, 15, and 17 (partnerships for the Goals).
The interactive event took place online on 23 June 2022. It featured two panel discussions where sustainable development experts and innovators shared perspectives on how to protect marine and terrestrial biodiversity, our forests, and our oceans. Clare Forestier moderated the event.
The dialogue opened with a short video by DESA, which highlighted the UN Ocean Conference, convening in Lisbon, Portugal, from 27 June to 1 July, as an opportunity to “turn the tide” by forging partnerships and making new commitments to “sav[e] the ocean to protect our future.” “We need all hands on deck to navigate our way towards a healthy ocean,” said Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin.
The first panel discussed the latest data on the state of forests and the ocean.
Yongyi Min, Chief, SDG Monitoring Section, Statistics Division, DESA, and lead author of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022’ that will be formally launched during the HLPF in July, outlined the ocean’s role in contributing to poverty eradication and sustainable economic growth and to mitigating climate change. She said 14% of the world’s coral reefs have been lost in the period from 2009-2018 due to ocean acidification, which reduces the ocean’s ability to support marine life. She also highlighted that around one-third of fish stocks have been overfished due to rapid growth in fish consumption.
We need all hands on deck to navigate our way towards a healthy ocean.
With respect to life on land, Min underscored that the world loses ten million hectares of forest every year, which is roughly the size of Iceland, and that species extinction is occurring “at an unprecedented rate.” She said human activity and unsustainable consumption patterns are the root causes behind the triple crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution.
On partnerships, Min highlighted: a high degree of connectivity between marine and terrestrial ecosystems as many marine impacts such as eutrophication of coastal water and plastic pollution originate on land; and the need to address these links to support holistic resource management. She underscored the lack of funding for implementation and limited integration of biodiversity considerations in economic recovery measures.
Tomasz Juszczak, Forest Affairs Officer, UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), discussed how the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030 and the Global Forest Goals promote sustainable forest management (SFM) and enhance forests’ contribution to sustainable development. He said forests play a significant role in supporting food security and poverty reduction, which is currently “undervalued” as data to measure those contributions are lacking. He stressed the need for data that show the full value of forests and the services they provide to society.
Lucy Mulenkei, Executive Director, Indigenous Information Network, and participant at the SDG 15 Expert Group Meeting, emphasized the importance of using traditional knowledge that Indigenous Peoples have relied on for generations to protect biodiversity and support SDG implementation.
Responding to questions from the audience, the panelists highlighted, among other issues: challenges to protecting biodiversity in conflict-affected areas; benefits payments for ecosystem services have for conservation; the need to fill data gaps by developing methodologies and strengthening indicators; and the importance of effectively communicating the links between data, science, and policy to the general public.
The second panel focused on mobilizing innovation and building new public-private partnerships (PPPs) for biodiversity.
Yabanex Batista, Deputy Head, Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR), presented GFCR – the first fund fully dedicated to financing SDG 14. He said the Fund is an innovative instrument aiming to build coral reef positive business solutions through blended finance. Batista outlined the Fund’s work with a range of stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and the private sector to pull resources to create better agricultural practices, support financial mechanisms that can be connected to blue carbon schemes, and promote coral reef insurance schemes, among other efforts. He emphasized the role of partnerships in addressing global challenges.
Garret Chan, Director of Strategy, Tealeaves, and participant at SDG 15 Expert Group Meeting, said his company works with diverse partners to co-create a new aspirational nature-positive lifestyle that can contribute to more sustainable consumption patterns.
Robby Robinson, Field Operations Manager, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, said Buffalo Bayou is a slow-moving river in Houston, Texas, US, that his non-profit seeks to “revitalize and transform,” working in partnership with the city, the county, foundations, and citizens. He underlined that a “bottle bill” requiring a deposit on all plastic bottles would create value in what is otherwise considered waste and help put plastic in the recycling chain and pay for cleanup.
David Rivers, Field Operations Foreman, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, outlined the Partnership’s efforts to clean up the bayou, protect its wildlife, and eradicate invasive plant species. He said a drastic reduction in the amount of trash in the river during the COVID-19 pandemic points to the need to change people’s day-to-day habits.
During discussion, the panelists emphasized the importance of, inter alia:
- Consumer-led solutions that align with a sustainable lifestyle;
- De-risking and incubating new ideas to help create new economic cycles to benefit people and nature;
- Awareness raising to prevent plastic pollution and “save the world”; and
- Involving youth in protecting biodiversity and generating environmental solutions.
The dialogue was organized with support from the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund. It was the second of two DESA Global Policy Dialogues on Recommitting to the SDGs. The first dialogue convened on 21 June and addressed the interlinkages between SDGs 4 (quality education) and 5 (gender equality). [Protecting Biodiversity in Times of Crisis: Exploring SDGs 14 and 15: Video] [Event Programme] [DESA Global Policy Dialogue Series] [DESA Announcement of Global Policy Dialogues on Recommitting to the SDGs] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]