I have written in recent weeks about the importance of our ecosystems, and how governments and businesses are starting to put a price on them to protect them. Preventing the loss of biodiversity is another side of this story.
Biodiversity is the variety of life. The greater the biodiversity, the greater the number of plant, insect and animal species. We need variety to have a healthy ecosystem. Scientists estimate that the earth's species are disappearing at up to 1,000 times the historical average. If this continues, the interconnected natural world could collapse with devastating effects, from the disappearance of fish stocks to a lack of clean water.
Biodiversity is also very important to tourism, especially for Asian countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Maldives. Who wants to go on a nature hike in a place where all the colourful fish and birds are extinct?
After marathon talks, governments meeting in Japan at the UN Convention on Biodiversity agreed on a 10-year plan to protect biodiversity. They aim to stop biodiversity loss by 2020. The rescue plan includes expanding the area of protected land in the world to 17 per cent from 13 per cent today, and classing 10 per cent of our oceans as protected areas. Less than one per cent of the oceans are now protected.
But these new protected areas could be hard to police because much of the area will be in developing countries or waters that are fished for food. Developing nations and indigenous peoples say they haven't benefited from resources on their land, such as native plants that wealthy Western pharmaceutical companies have used to develop drugs. They object to rules on how they can use their wild forests, grasslands or coastal waters.
Natural habitats and species underpin the global economy and support billions of people who rely on forests, fisheries and wetlands for their livelihoods. Concerns about protecting biodiversity must become part of all government and business decisions and agreements like this can help.