Previously this month, Elizabeth Mrema was appointed executive secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), making her the first lady from Africa to lead the intergovernmental body.
The CBD was developed by a UN treaty, signed into force by countries in 1992, and assists to set international targets to conserve biodiversity.
Mrema, an attorney from Tanzania, now based in Montreal, Canada, handles her new role after more than a years in management positions at the United Nations Environment Programme– and at an essential time. She will manage the development of a brand-new global biodiversity agreement for the next decade, which is currently being drafted. The accord was anticipated to be signed at a meeting in Kunming, China, in October, but this has been held off up until next year since of the coronavirus pandemic.
The previous international biodiversity targets, signed in 2010 and called the Aichi targets, are widely accepted have failed to stop types loss. Some researchers are now restoring calls for a single target to halt species extinction Others worry that an extinction target would overlook other essential goals of the agreements, such as making sure that advantages from biological resources are shared.
The new coronavirus, which came from animals prior to it spread to individuals, has also brought renewed calls to stop the trading of wildlife, provoking long-simmering tensions between those who wish to conserve types, and those pushing for their sustainable use.
Mrema talked to Nature about how the pandemic has influenced settlements and the difficulties ahead.
How has the pandemic affected the biodiversity agenda?
One could say that I have actually been appointed at a bad time for biodiversity, thinking about that the whole world is just emerging from, or still in, lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, I see it as a major opportunity, as biodiversity is being talked about more than ever previously. There is higher awareness of the impact that human activities can have on nature, and of the connection in between human health and biodiversity.
Our disturbance, through logging, farming growth, livestock increase and habitat fragmentation, has exposed wild animals and brought them into closer contact with people, which has actually led to the spillover of pathogens and zoonotic illness, human-to-human transmission through trade and tourist, and the explosive pandemic we currently find ourselves in.
These are not new concerns to the convention. However the pandemic has brought these problems to the fore, and has actually emphasized conversations about how to avoid future pandemics. I still consider 2020 to be an extremely year for biodiversity, as we invest it preparing, talking, developing awareness and revealing the links. 2021 will be the year for the deal.
Do you agree with calls to ban wildlife markets and trade?
Closing wet markets and prohibiting wildlife trading completely would negatively affect communities who depend on wild animals. For centuries these communities have actually been dealing with wild types, saving them, and consuming them sustainably. The issue is us city residents, who have actually disrupted that harmonious environment by bringing wild animals out from the forests and the bush to the cities, to quench our self-centered dietary choices. The consumers and purchasers of wild animals are not the bad people; they are the wealthy communities in the cities.
An overall ban would also unlock to unlawful sell wildlife. Instead, we need more sanitary practices in damp markets that continue to run, and regulated wildlife trade, within the framework of the Convention on International Sell Endangered Species of Wild Animal and Flora. We need to make sure the sustainable intake of types for those communities who depend on this, while also suppressing prohibited trade. It is a delicate balance.
Some scientists have required the CBD to adopt an international, quantifiable target based upon types termination. Is this a great concept?
If the biodiversity community succeeds in creating such a target that resonates with all of us, in the way that the climate-change neighborhood has, that would be exceptional. It will be hard to come up with one answer since of the diverse nature of the issues on the biodiversity agenda. Unless we can develop a target that resolves the motorists of biodiversity loss, we require to tread thoroughly. If we are successful, that will be the best outcome possible, due to the fact that then it becomes a song everybody will sing, and that everybody can align with to deliver that one key message.
How do you anticipate geopolitical stress that have occurred during the pandemic to impact the negotiations?
We hope that, regardless of any worldwide geopolitical tensions, by speaking in the name of nature, we will prosper in bringing people together. Countries can not deal with these issues by themselves. We require worldwide cooperation.
Is the monetary crisis in the wake of the pandemic likely to affect the brand-new agreement?
The significant obstacle now is that countries are facing economic recession brought on by COVID-19 and their focus will be on financial healing. Federal governments may not have the ability to contribute as numerous resources, both human and financial, towards executing the worldwide diversity structure we are drafting as they would have had there not been a pandemic.
We need to guarantee that the financial recovery builds into it a green economy and sustainability. We require nations to build back better, prioritizing biodiversity in their stimulus plans and stopping the rewards that have caused additional destruction of biodiversity, which could likewise help to avoid future pandemics. Some nations have actually currently come out clearly in support of this. For example, in May, the European Commission adopted a biodiversity strategy for 2030, which integrates biodiversity loss, climate mitigation and adjustment into their healing strategies.
How will you ensure that you don’t lose momentum by next year?
My number-one goal is to get more stakeholders engaged and discussing the significance of biodiversity and nature, and learning about the effect of human activities on biodiversity loss, and on climate modification, changes in land usage, contamination and intrusive species.
These stakeholders will assist us by putting favorable pressure on governments to agree on an enthusiastic and transformative, post-2020 international biodiversity structure, and can then help us in carrying out the contract. We do not want Kunming just to be a meeting of ecological neighborhoods, however to involve youth, companies, local neighborhoods, cities and municipalities.
These efforts are continuing in the virtual world. If anything, we have actually had more assessments and more time to prepare and engage during this period. I am seeing a lot of support and dedication, however for now these are just words. Will they translate into concrete, measurable, clever actions that will make a difference? That keeps me up at night.
The present biodiversity targets have actually largely failed. How will you guarantee that the next accord does not also?
It is really clear that we will fail, or not be able to accomplish all the Aichi targets. The factors for those failures are now known, and we are building those lessons into the draft global biodiversity framework. Unlike the previous goals, the major difference this time is that all stakeholders, consisting of youth, service and Native groups, have added to different models of the draft.
The parties are still the decision-makers who will lastly adopt the structure, but they have actually understood that they require the engagement of other groups during the negotiations and in implementation.
Also, while the focus on implementing the Aichi targets involved environmental ministries and departments, this time, health, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, planning and financing ministries are getting involved.
This interview has actually been modified for length and clearness.