At opening of CBD meeting in Nairobi, conservation leaders address biodiversity loss

UNEP director Achim Steiner opens the SBSTTA meeting in Nairobi.

After dodging the nasty Icelandic ash cloud (which has already seen some of our colleagues grounded until the weekend), we arrived in Nairobi to begin the 14th Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) SBSTTA. That’s pronounced “Sib-stah” or “Sub-stah” by most of the folks around here, and stands for the Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice. Yes, your friends will be impressed.

This is the key technical group which feeds recommendations to the CBD Conference of Parties held later this year in Japan, where world leaders will decide upon a common international vision and strategy that will guide the conservation of biodiversity and the values it provides us for the next 40 years.

That’s some heady stuff, but the opening ceremony on Monday definitely brought us back to earth with a hard thump. Leaders in the international environmental world such as Achim Steiner, the head of UNEP, and Ahmed Djoglaf, head of the CBD Secretariat, reminded us of the critical importance of biodiversity (I’m going to stop saying “and ecosystem services” because that’s kind of like talking about cows and milk as separate entities. You don’t get services without biodiversity.)

It was Tom Lovejoy, a living legend in the conservation science community, who gave us the bad news we’ve all kind of seen coming. He reported on the highlights of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) which was launched internationally yesterday. This report compiles national and global indicators to give us a read-out on the state of biodiversity. It makes for some depressing reading. Most indicators show that the pressures on biodiversity have remained constant or increased over the last 30 years – back when Tom Lovejoy first predicted this might happen. The most threatened of all are the tropical reef and freshwater species and ecosystems, along with all the values they provide us in terms of food, health and culture.

However, this dismal picture does contain some bright spots. Protected areas have grown to cover nearly 14 percent of the earth’s land surface, and their presence gives hope that we are beginning to reach the levels of action needed to halt and even reverse those trends. And there are also many individual species success stories which are hidden within that larger trend of loss.

These small successes show that we have the tools and ability to address these seemingly insurmountable obstacles – what we need to do now is take those individual efforts to the biggest scale possible. Let’s get together and work to make the next GBO and opening of SBSTTA less of a call to action, and more of a celebration of work well done.

Conrad Savy is a biodiversity analyst in CI’s Science + Knowledge division.


  1. Daniel Ironsilk says

    Hello Conrad,

    Thanks much for this report back from the Nairobi. Its critical that we follow the SBSTTA recommendations to the CBD and its great to have a man on the ground blogging to all. Look forward to more as the meeting progresses!

    Daniel Ironsilk

  2. Andy says

    It’s International Year of Biodiversity, and a huge opportunity to raise awareness around the globe of the importance of biodiversity and ways to protect it. I think awareness-raising is key. If it is done well it is the first step towards changing peoples’ attitudes and – ultimately – behaviours (through consumer choices, or applying pressure to governments and companies). I just hope that the messages are clear enough. I could be convinced otherwise, but it seems to me that compared with that other global environmental issue, climate change (which boils down to burning less fossil fuels), the biodiversity issue seems complex, with no clear, single message or simple solution. How can the many organisations and people who care passionately about biodiversity come together and speak with one voice on the issue?

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