Top UNCTAD Official Rings Alarm On Biodiversity, Urges Global Action

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Pamela Coke-Hamilton
Pamela Coke-Hamilton

By Akanimo Sampson

The Director of International Trade and Commodities at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Pamela Coke-Hamilton, has warned that there will no longer be business if the world does not have biodiversity.

Science has also been warning that the ecosystems that support rich biodiversity are collapsing. The world is staring at a biodiversity crisis, with more one million species threatened with extinction within decades.

Sadly, the knock-on effects will touch every part of life as we know it today. Critically, for developing countries, the hopes for development through economic growth will be dashed.

Yet there are solutions on the table – and many old, traditional and localized practices – that can support efforts to live within the limits offered by the Earth.

‘’We all can do something about it, from the smallest consumer to the largest company. It’s a responsibility we can’t ignore. If we don’t have biodiversity, we don’t have business’’, Coke-Hamilton said.

BioTrade is one solution. Last September, as part of the first UN Trade Forum, the fifth BioTrade Congress examined the changes needed to curb biodiversity loss through sustainable practices and building more sustainable supply chains from the ground up.

Here are the five big congress takeaways on how consumers can make a difference by “buying for biodiversity”:

  1. Get familiar with biodiversity-friendly labels:

Labels matter. They are indicators of certifications of everything from organic to fair trade to environmentally friendly and signal that companies are considering ethical and sustainable practices for people and the planet. Look out for labels such as the Union for Ethical BioTrade logo – a spin-off from the UNCTAD BioTrade Initiative – when buying products.

  1. Avoid products made from endangered species:

Some species are under serious threat of extinction. While thousands of species can be traded legally, even some species are prone to illegal trade in black and grey markets and over-exploitation. Make informed choices by ensuring the products you buy are not made from protected or endangered animals or plants. Other products may require permits, so help safeguard the future of protected species, by making sure a CITES permit and other relevant permits are obtained.

  1. Know the legality and the source of the ingredients in your biodiverse products

Countries have sovereign rights over their biodiversity, including their genetic resources. So when developing or conducting research on new biodiverse ingredients, abide by the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) laws of the places from which they are sourced. Complying with ABS helps conserve biodiversity and provides a strong incentive to use resources sustainably.

  1. Appreciate what we can’t live without:

Biodiversity is all around us. It’s the air we breathe and the food we eat. A rich biodiversity prevents climate change, helps us discover new medicinal cures for diseases, and provides us with delicious food. It also offers us shelter. Understanding the importance of biodiversity and helping protect it reinforces a nature-conscious lifestyle. It also forces us to consider the real cost of trade in biodiversity and to prioritize and support ethical and sustainable production and consumption.

  1. Eat less meat and dairy:

According to a recent report, 90% of the world’s rich biodiversity lands will be cleared for agricultural purposes due to increased demand for meat and dairy. Consuming less meat and dairy would help reduce carbon emissions. For example, if the average American replaced a third of the beef he or she eats with pork, poultry or legumes, his or her food-related emissions would fall by around 13%.

“Making tough consumer choices means a lifestyle change, but it’s a small price for nurturing sustainability and learning to live within limits. It can also put pressure on producers to honour biodiversity and sustainability from soil to shop shelf,” said Lorena Jaramillo Castro, economic affairs officer at UNCTAD.

BioTrade however, refers to those activities of collection, production, transformation, and commercialisation of goods and services derived from native biodiversity under the criteria of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Since its launch by UNCTAD in 1996, the BioTrade Initiative has been promoting sustainable BioTrade in support of the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Initiative has developed a unique portfolio of regional and country programmes.

UNCTAD is currently implementing the Global BioTrade Programme: Linking trade, biodiversity and sustainable development with the support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO.

The objective of this four-year programme is to provide key stakeholders with the ability to size and capitalise on trade opportunities from linking biodiversity and sustainable development, thereby advancing the implementation of the SDGs, as well as the Aichi Targets and the Post Aichi framework.

In the past 20 years, BioTrade has expanded in terms of the number of partners and practitioners involved, sectors and geographical coverage. BioTrade has been mainstreamed at both national and international levels, for instance in the Decisions of the Parties to the CBD and CITES, discussions at the United Nations General Assembly, as well as within development banks, the private sector, civil society and markets.

A strong network of partners and practitioners has been established and is being expanded continuously to cover evolving needs of beneficiaries, document lessons learned and address relevant emerging issues. Further efforts from BioTrade partners should continue documenting, disseminating and measuring its impact and contribution to sustainable development, SDGs and the Aichi Targets at all levels.