by Soon Li Wei, 13 December 2022
This article is written as part of the 2022 CBD COP15 Fellowship organised by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.
MONTREAL (Canada), Dec 13 (Bernama) — Malaysia is on the right track in its efforts to preserve, conserve and protect the country’s natural biodiversity, said Campaign for Nature Ambassador and Science Advisor, Prof Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid.
However, some gaps remain, including the lack of public awareness and challenges to implement the law and enforce action against biodiversity loss, he added.
“We have to start things early from the school on nature awareness, appreciation and education. Our responsibility to nature is to manage and take care of it.
“That is the ideal situation that I hope we could achieve, and we can achieve that,” he said, expressing hope that environmental and sustainable development would be the focus of the new government.
Zakri was speaking to Bernama on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) Biodiversity Summit here recently.
About 17,000 delegates from 196 countries, including Malaysia, have gathered in Montreal for the summit to reach a global agreement on protecting Earth’s environment.
The two-week international biodiversity conference, which began on Dec 7, will witness countries working to agree on a major new set of rules for reversing biodiversity loss in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).
The overarching aim of the COP15’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is to produce a Paris Agreement-style deal for nature, resulting in an end to the degradation of biodiversity and the acceleration and mainstreaming of efforts to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystems and habitats.
One of the key targets to prevent biodiversity loss that is up for discussion in COP15 is to protect at least 30 per cent of the land and sea, that is 30 per cent should be set aside for conservation by 2030, as part of the ’30×30′ goal.
This was mentioned in the third out of 22 targets in the post-2020 GBF, which negotiators from 196 parties are currently debating.
As negotiations for the post-2020 GBF officially began at the COP15 on Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said 120 countries are ready to agree on the 30×30 goal.
Malaysia, through its National Policy on Biological Diversity (NPBD) 2016-2025, aims to conserve only 20 per cent of terrestrial areas and inland waters, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2025.
To date, Malaysia is still negotiating the 30×30 goal and has not committed yet, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change which led 20 delegates in negotiations and working groups at COP15.
Zakri who is also Malaysia National Biodiversity Roundtable Chairman also called on all governments in ASEAN including Malaysia to support the 30×30 goal and work to ensure it is agreed to at COP15.
He said the 30 x 30 goal has gained support within 12 ASEAN countries, noting that the Philippines and Thailand have recently adopted the 30 x 30 target and joined the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People to advocate for it.
“Science has proven that 30 per cent is the minimum area required to arrest the habitat loss and overexploitation responsible for much of the problem.
“Success at COP15 will depend on whether all the countries are agreed on a 30×30 goal, commit to an ambitious package for financing implementation, and embrace a rights-based approach to conserving biodiversity, recognising the critical role that indigenous peoples and local communities play as stewards of nature.
“It’s my sincere hope that all countries listen to what we in the scientific community have been saying for years: act now with urgency and ambition if we are to reverse the alarming global decline of nature,” he added.
PRIORITY TO CONSERVE BIODIVERSITY
The World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has identified a total of 17 megadiverse countries, which are home to at least 5,000 endemic plants and border marine ecosystems.
These countries harbour the majority of the world’s species and are mostly located in tropical or subtropical regions.
As Malaysia is one of the 17 megadiverse countries, it is a government priority to conserve and manage its biodiversity, Zakri said.
“For our country, it is the question (challenge) of creating the balance between development on one side and conservation on the other…that is the 64 million dollar question (ongoing issue),” he said.
He said the government needs to manage the balance between developing the social well-being of the people and at the same time, maintaining the conservation of biodiversity.
“We need development all the time, of course fast forward, there are a lot of complaints from the ground sometimes to justify when the habitat of wildlife has been exploited.
“These are the things that the government should manage it and make sure that balance is maintained,” he said.
Zakri said although there will be no drastic changes to the new revised NPBD after 2025, the government must make sure that it achieves the three main objectives of CBD in the policy.
“The government has the justiciary following its guidance and policy, namely to conserve biodiversity, promote its sustainable use, and ensure fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of biological resources.
“We will evolve on a progressive basis so that hopefully I would like to see that Malaysia will ‘walk-the talk’ on the three main objectives of CBD, which is also ingrained in the NPBD,” he said.
Meanwhile, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM) Technology and Natural Resources Department Senior Lecturer, Dr Aqilah Awg Abdul Rahman hopes the government will publish a comprehensive report on the NPBD achievements in 2025, as soon as it concludes.
“In fact, I believe the government is also ready for the next policy while taking into account the outcome from COP15.
“In terms of the NPBD Goals, Targets, and Actions, biodiversity and conservation have always been a crisis discipline. However, we will always be fighting against the current to stand up and be the voice of the voiceless, under-privileged and oppressed, be it human, animals, plants or biodiversity in general,” she added.
She said that achieving the key target in the NPBD has been proven difficult if the key decision makers and stakeholders do not have the nation’s biodiversity’s best interest at heart.
“However, the ministry (of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change) has very committed people working in it, with their minds and hearts in the right place which is to ensure our biodiversity is protected at its core.
“In spite of the circumstances, I really do believe the people working in the background under the ministry have done their best through efforts to protect from biodiversity loss,” she said.
A report card from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) on biodiversity loss in 2019 concluded that, “human actions threaten more species with global extinction than ever before.”
According to the report, about 25 per or one million species are at risk of being threatened with extinction, while the human population has doubled to eight billion.
Biodiversity loss is driven by land and sea use, overexploitation of resources, climate change and pollution in which two-thirds of the oceans are impacted, as well as 85 per cent of wetlands have been lost. In October this year, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report 2022 cited that globally mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish – have seen a devastating 69 per cent drop on average since 1970.
These findings – evidence of an accelerating biodiversity crisis – are the main concerns of the world leaders at the summit here.
At the opening ceremony of the biodiversity conference here, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the governments to stop waging war on nature, while CBD executive secretary, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema called on people’s attention to the biodiversity crisis because “it underpins human’s very existence on this planet.”
Edited by Salbiah Said
This article was first published in Bernama on 13 December 2022.