photo by brewbooks (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, under the auspices of the UN and the Convention on Biological Diversity. This week in Busan, South Korea, governments will meet to discuss the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Environmental groups and the governments of France and Japan champion the creation of such an organization.

The need for recognition and knowledge about how humanity benefits from and depends on ecosystems is crucial to future development, sustainability and the integrity of the natural world. Simply put, we cannot exist by destroying the very things we rely on for survival.

From an article in the Guardian:

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project, part of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Economy Initiative, has compiled a database of more than 1,000 examples showing a high ratio of economic benefits to the costs of conserving ecosystems and biodiversity. In Vietnam, to give just one illustration, planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of coastal mangroves cost US$1.1m but saved the government $7.3m annually on dike maintenance. Environmental NGOs including the World Resources Institute are also developing information and tools to make nature’s services visible for decision makers, including business risk assessment, valuation, mapping, and indicators.

An intergovernmental panel could provide information about the connection between ecosystem change and climate change as well as inform the decisions of governmental ministries concerned with development.

The European Commission focused on biodiversity last week during their Green Week conference at Brussels, discussing ways to create a framework to maintain ecosystems and natural resources throughout the world.

An ambitious policy on biodiversity represents a new opportunity for the Union to renew a bid for international leadership on environmental issues before a global conference on biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan, in October.

–New York Times

Studies have shown that loss of resources such as fresh water, bees that pollinate crops, medicine and food sources – as well as industries like tourism – due to biodiversity loss, would have incredibly high economic and human costs. As is the case with climate change policies, the EU could take a leading role in the fight against global diversity loss and ecosystem change.

Read more in the New York Times piece ‘Biodiversity: The E.U.’s next challenge’.

Additional resources:

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Reuters – Rescuing ecosystems can save trillions of dollars: U.N.