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Kaziranga National Park, India, biodiversity, tree
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a unique coalition of governments, institutions (including AFD), scientists and NGOs, which work together to improve the understanding and conservation of nature, has just celebrated its 70th anniversary. The opportunity to take stock of the upcoming political time horizons with its Director General, Inger Andersen.
The situation of biodiversity is critical... Is there anything to celebrate?

What we are celebrating is that 70 years ago, in Fontainebleau, everyone got around the table to work and move forward with biodiversity conservation. This led to the creation of IUCN. Today, the situation does admittedly give cause for concern, but we are beginning to realize, us human beings, that we cannot at the same time deplete the planet’s resources and continue to live... Biodiversity provides us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink. It is what shapes our lives! We have recently understood, in the context of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, that we need to solve the problem of climate change. We now need to more effectively tackle ecosystem degradation at the same time.   


Inger Andersen, IUCN

© Inger Andersen, IUCN


Which time horizons will allow us to make headway?

2019 and 2020 will be essential. In 2010, the members of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed on targets for 2020, the Aïchi Targets. These targets remind us of what we need to do to keep the planet in a proper state... For example, it involves reducing by as much as half the rate of loss of natural habitats or safeguarding 17% of natural land areas. We sometimes fall far short of this.

So, by 2020, we have a great deal of headway to make... Firstly, we need to do our utmost to achieve these targets. We then need to think about after, about the world we want for the coming decades... A world that preserves ecosystems and the services they render. And France can influence this agenda! First of all, it is taking over the G7 presidency in 2019. It is a unique opportunity to promote solutions at the highest level. 

In the spring of 2019, France will also be hosting the plenary session of IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services): it is a panel of intergovernmental biodiversity experts, the equivalent of IPCC for biodiversity. Their report is eagerly awaited... Finally, in June 2020, the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which is held every 4 years, will be organized in Marseille. It will be an exceptional moment for major structural commitments to be made, especially because the Conference of the Parties of CBD will be held in China a few months later. All these stages are important and they call for the mobilization of everyone.

How can we take better account of biodiversity conservation?

We believe that we have much to learn from the climate negotiations. One of the keys to their success in 2015 was the clear and shared vision of an imperative: keep global warming below 2°. Today, we need to work on identifying clear markers for biodiversity to explain the scenarios and actions which this requires for everyone.

What also stays in my mind from the 2015 climate negotiations is the mobilization of all actors: CEOs, mayors, NGOs... They were all involved in a healthy emulation, not only those who were negotiating.

In terms of biodiversity, I am personally optimistic about the mobilization of the private sector. Industry leaders are increasingly aware that it is sometimes their own supply chain which is threatened. They do not want to shoot themselves in the foot! And they want to better understand what they can do... The IUCN congress in Marseille is an opportunity for leaders from major groups to make real commitments. Everyone has a role to play.

What role for development banks and agencies?

It is essential. If, for example, a group of very influential development banks and agencies such as IDFC (Editor’s Note: currently chaired by AFD), which represents donors from every continent, committed to ensuring that the impacts of its investments are positive for biodiversity and to helping its partners make investments that are positive too, it would be a great step forward. Because it is also part of the solution for reducing poverty. 

cows, water, Kenya


In the context of their partnership, AFD and IUCN are, for example, working on the publication of a report to give a better understanding of the role that ecosystem degradation plays in the emergence of crises and conflicts. Indeed, it is very often when the services rendered by ecosystems (water, productivity of land...) are no longer there, or are imbalanced, that a social imbalance occurs which can take the most extreme forms: conflicts, radicalization, crime, poverty.
The objective of this new report “State of Nature in a Globalized World: Conflict, Migration and Nature”, to be released in the spring of 2019, is to better understand these factors.

Further reading