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Background Paper for High-Level UNGA Meeting on Biodiversity Released

August 2010: The Secretary-General has transmitted to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) a background paper for the UNGA's high-level meeting as a contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity, to be held on 22 September 2010, at UN Headquarters in New York, US.

The paper lists the five principal pressures directly driving biodiversity loss, namely: habitat change; over-exploitation; pollution; invasive species; and climate change. It adds that these pressures are either constant or increasing in intensity. It further states that change in the abundance and distribution of species, compounded by climate change, has serious consequences for human societies and is moving ecosystems ever closer to “tipping points,” beyond which their services will be seriously undermined. Such tipping points include: the disappearance of large areas of the Amazon forest, due to the interactions of climate change, deforestation and fires; and multiple collapses of coral reef ecosystems, due to a combination of ocean acidification, warmer water leading to bleaching, overfishing and nutrient pollution.

The paper summarizes the findings of the third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, published in May 2010, highlighting that "the missions of keeping climate change within limits that minimize the risks to human societies and of avoiding further loss of the biodiversity that provides those ecosystem services upon which human societies depend are, in key aspects, two sides — the scientific and the political — of the same coin." It underscores the linkages between biodiversity loss and the core concerns of society, including tackling poverty, improving health and dealing with climate change.

However, the paper also underlines that "the options for addressing the crisis are wider than in earlier projections" and that action to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity "will reap rich rewards." These include contributing to slowing climate change by enabling ecosystems to absorb and store more carbon, and helping people adapt to climate change by adding resilience to ecosystems and making them less vulnerable.

The paper also outlines the format of the September high-level meeting, which will address the following core issues: framing the post-2010 biodiversity strategy; ensuring the means for implementing the post-2010 biodiversity strategy; deriving benefits from biodiversity for development and poverty alleviation; and ensuring that measures to meet the objectives of the CBD and the UNFCCC are mutually supportive and reinforcing. On this last issue, participants are scheduled to discuss three topics: the management of biodiversity and ecosystems to contribute to national climate-change mitigation and adaptation strategies, including REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, including conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of carbon stocks); the promotion of synergies among the three Rio Conventions and other biodiversity-related conventions at the national level, as well as the support needed from Conferences of the Parties (COPs) and from the 20-year review of the Rio Summit to national efforts; and how to ensure that oceans continue to function as blue carbon sinks. [The Paper]