UNEP Releases Report on Protecting Arctic Biodiversity

29 October 2010: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP)'s GRID-Arendal center in Norway has released a report entitled “Protecting Arctic Biodiversity: Strengths and limitations of environmental agreements.” The report details solutions to the current biodiversity crisis in the Arctic, but it stresses that conservation gains are only possible if root causes for biodiversity loss are addressed outside the Arctic.

The report was released during the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan. According to the report, rapid changes in the Arctic exemplify the interconnectedness of the planet and how policies in one part of the world can severely affect the environment, biodiversity and livelihoods in another. The report finds that existing multilateral environmental agreements that include the Arctic region, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes, may be effective against threats caused by local, national or regional activities (mining and oil and gas exploitation, for example) if implemented adequately, because threats such as climate change, transboundary contaminants and habitat fragmentation are global in nature.

Among its recommendations, the report stresses that: more global, cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary thinking by policy-makers, scientists and other stakeholders will be necessary to deal with increasing pressures on Arctic biodiversity; the Arctic Council could play a more active role in supporting the development of specific conservation efforts and further collaboration with non-Arctic states that share responsibility for migratory Arctic wildlife; strengthening existing mechanisms for the protection and conservation of biodiversity, through the implementation of existing mechanisms, is necessary; harmonization of national reporting between the Arctic nations on issues of common concern would allow for more effective national reporting to multilateral environmental agreements; Arctic nations should substantially increase the extent of protected areas, especially in coastal zones and in the marine environment; and Arctic nations should invest in co-management regimes and programmes of adaptation for societies in the Arctic, drawing on their traditional knowledge. [UNEP Press Release] [The report]