Biodiversity is the world’s range of natural resources that safeguards humanity’s prosperity, making it the most fundamental public good.
Today, natural resources are disappearing at rates unprecedented in human history, with grave impacts on people around the world. A recent UN report found that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, more than ever before in human history.
Unsustainable human activities are accelerating the destruction of healthy ecosystems, triggering global climate change. The close link between biodiversity and climate change is undeniable: climate change is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss, while destruction of the oceans and lands that serve as vital carbon sinks further accelerates the pace of climate change and the planet’s vulnerability to it.
Although detrimental to all humanity, biodiversity loss impacts poor and indigenous communities most severely, as they live and depend on resilient ecosystems. Seventy per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend directly on biodiversity for their survival and well-being. Biodiversity loss undermines their food security, nutrition and health, and drives extreme poverty. A recent report from the World Bank found that Low-Income Countries could lose 10 per cent of their GDP annually by 2030 if ecosystems continue to collapse. Biodiversity loss is therefore not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, ethical and economic issue.
The conservation of biodiversity is one of the most potent levers to achieve all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The biodiversity-focused SDGs include 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land). A recent UN study found, however, that these two SDGs are multipliers of benefits across all the goals, including those related to poverty, hunger, health, water and climate. That is because thriving ecosystems are essential to not only protect biodiversity, but to manage climate risks, reduce socio-environmental conflicts and provide income and wealth for local communities.
The conservation of biodiversity is thus a precondition for sustainable development. It is urgent that we act to protect nature and restore ecosystems. We must consider that in order to achieve a viable future for all living organisms, we must build together, for the benefit of people and the planet.
Partnership and collaboration across national governments, local communities, multilateral organisations, and international agencies is key to ensuring the sustainable use of biodiversity in our future developments.
It is clear that humans must stop deforestation, overfishing, polluting air and rivers and other unsustainable activities. But to help governments, companies and individuals transform these practices, we must mobilise resources and implement broad-based action.
The Beyond2020 initiative, launched by the Zayed Sustainability Prize in partnership with select leading organisations, deploys community-appropriate technology and sustainable solutions to protect and preserve natural resources, while significantly improving people’s quality of life.
Beyond2020 brings together private companies, public authorities and environmental organisations, creating an international movement that protects, enhances and restores biodiversity through the deployment of innovative solutions that enable vulnerable communities to use energy, land and water sustainably.
Through Beyond2020, sustainable innovations developed by a range of past Zayed Sustainability Prize winners and finalists have been implemented around the world. These solutions – which include solar powered streetlights, mobile clinics, aquaponics systems – when combined with educational resources and deep community engagement, have increased communities’ ability to protect and enhance ecosystems while simultaneously relieving hardships and supporting expanded economic development.
Beyond2020 facilitates collaborative efforts aimed at safeguarding biodiversity, preserving sustainable communities, and reversing the climate crisis. It leverages strong partnerships with like-minded organisations, including BNP Paribas, a French-based international banking group that has, through the BNP Paribas Foundation, invested over €18 million into research aimed at mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss.
Taking action, together, to deploy solutions that advance global progress towards the SDGs, and generate a positive impact on our lives and our environment, are the guiding principles of the Beyond2020 initiative. We will continue to expand the reach and accessibility of the Zayed Sustainability Prize’s past winners’ and finalists’ innovative climate solutions to uplift communities and ecosystems around the world.
Isabelle Giordano is head of group philanthropy and general delegate of the BNP Paribas Foundation. Dr Lamya Fawwaz is director of the Zayed Sustainability Prize