Citizens across the globe call for greater protection of biodiversity

Results of an ambitious world-wide consultation gathering public opinions on biodiversity policy issues have been published this week.

The World Wide Views on Biodiversity (WWViews on Biodiversity) initiative, detailed in a blog post in May, gathered 3,000 citizens from 25 developed and developing countries including the USA, India, Brazil, Zambia and France in parallel day-long meetings which took place on the 15th September.

The first meeting started at 9am in Japan on 15th September and the last finished 25 hours later in Arizona. In all sessions, participants were given the same unbiased information informing them about biodiversity and about the international frameworks designed to halt its decline. After discussion and deliberation with fellow citizens, participants offered their views on the current state of biodiversity and the policy measures intended to protect it.

The overwhelming message was a plea to policy makers for more to be done to stop the decline of biodiversity. However, details of the responses reveal some interesting results:

The importance and impact of biodiversity loss:
Almost 85% participants across the globe said that most people in the world are seriously affected by biodiversity loss and nearly half of citizens in developing countries felt that their own country is seriously affected. Overall, three quarters of citizens were ‘very concerned’ about the loss of biodiversity and a further 22% were at least ‘somewhat concerned’.

The solutions
Assessing possible solutions to biodiversity loss, approximately 75% of participants favoured the creation of new protected areas, although 45 – 50% gave the caveat that where ‘very important economic aims’ are at stake, these should be prioritised. This emphasis on economic gain was greater for citizens of developing nations, but there was still strong support for protected areas, suggesting recognition that environmental and economic improvement are inextricably linked.

Preferred methods of improving biodiversity protection were; greater public education, incentivising stakeholders to adopt protection measures and incorporating biodiversity issues in other planning activities. Over one third of participants also supported the enactment of stricter national laws.

Tackling resource use
Considering resource use, citizens in developing nations supported the intensification of farming within existing agricultural land to spare land elsewhere, whilst developing nation participants advocated eating less meat. There was also consensus that incentives and subsidies causing overfishing should be abolished, but with developing nations emphasising the need to phase these out slowly to allow adaptation.

Shared responsibility
Citizens advocated that the costs of protecting biodiversity should be shared between all nations; 97% said that the protection of coral reefs must be the responsibility of all countries, not just those containing the habitat, and although 65% of participants felt developed countries should pay a larger proportion of protection costs, 85% of citizens from developing nations said their own countries should also be obliged to pay.

This unique world-wide consultation reveals widespread understanding amongst international citizens of the critical importance of biodiversity. Support for the prioritisation of protected areas, an adjusted approach to farming and fishing and a willingness to share the costs of biodiversity protection reveal an important message for policy-makers – global citizens want more to be done to protect biodiversity.

The results of the consultation are intended to inform politicians and interest groups engaged in the ongoing discussions under the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as wider discussions concerning biodiversity protection targets and the plans to achieve them.

The report is available online and the results will be presented at a Special Session on Thursday October 18th at the 11th Conference of Parties to the CBD: