Building a Shared Future for All Life


International Day for Biological Diversity 2022

The story of life on Earth is changing rapidly—climate boundaries are being broken at a rate, unprecedented changes in climate, and biodiversity loss is rampant, with the global south bearing the brunt of this global crisis. Earlier this year, scientists confirmed that the world is in the midst of an ongoing, human-caused 6th mass extinction. In Sri Lanka, these effects are now being compounded by the ongoing economic crisis, as well. So, now, more than ever is the time to explore the monumental role that biodiversity plays in our lives and livelihoods and to spotlight the need for catalytic action that can bend the curve on biodiversity life, to build a sustainable shared future for all life. 


As an island nation, Sri Lanka exhibits remarkable biological diversity and is one of the richest countries in terms of species concentration in the Asian region. It is also home to vast and abundant ecosystems, providing favourable conditions in terms of ecological, climatic, soil and topographical variability for the many species it possesses, including its people and their livelihoods. Healthy forest ecosystems provide clean water and energy, support a sustainable water resource management system, and help in the fight against carbon emissions. The country is also home to rich agro-biodiversity thanks to the unique hydraulic system that has flourished for centuries along with sustainable farming practices of yore. Relatedly, these same features contribute significantly to the Sri Lankan economy, particularly for sectors such as fisheries, agriculture and tourism that earn valuable foreign exchange while also providing employment.  In tandem, the rural economy is sustained by the 1.42 million home gardens across the island which are considered the heart of the country’s agricultural biodiversity.


Biodiversity, in Sri Lanka and around the world, sustains life and remains the answer to several sustainable development challenges. From nature-based solutions to climate, health issues, food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity is the foundation upon which we as a community can build forward better.

This year, 'Building a shared future for all life' is the theme of the International Day of Biodiversity. 50 years ago, the Stockholm Conference gave rise to a global environmental agenda leading to hundreds of multilateral agreements to protect our environment. Yet, the ability to understand how significant biodiversity is to our lives, our future, and to our health and that of every other living organism on this planet remains a complex challenge. As such, the theme for this year was chosen to continue building momentum and support for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework to be adopted at the upcoming UN Biodiversity Conference #COP15, and strives to create awareness of the necessity of biodiversity for sustainable and resilient lives.


According to the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released in 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the main global drivers of biodiversity loss are climate change, invasive species, over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution and urbanization. The report outlines that 75% of terrestrial ecosystem losses were anthropogenic causes. To halt or reverse the biodiversity decline, the transformation of people’s roles, actions, and relationships with biodiversity, is key.


Sri Lanka is taking many steps forward in this vein. Such national commitment is evident in the revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted to UNFCCC in 2021, which outlines biodiversity as a priority sector while illustrating 05 NDCs to work towards the betterment of biodiversity by 2030. These national commitments are underpinned by technical and financial support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, in close partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka, particularly the Ministry of Environment, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, the Ministry of Tourism, Sustainable Energy Authority, Central Environment Authority, and a host of other agencies to explore ways to reach the country’s biodiversity targets. 

The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) catalyses investments in nature and is currently piloting 03 of the 16 financing solutions identified for Sri Lanka—payment for ecosystem services that generate new income; the sustainable tourism certification scheme, a future cost avoidance strategy; and, a finance programme that works to mainstream sustainable financing initiatives and promote sustainable investments within the island’s finance landscape, to realign existing resources and incentivize sustainable and green activities within all levels of society.

In addition, UNDP in Sri Lanka endeavours to reinvigorate the current system to integrate community-centred, ecosystem-based approaches into forestry, agriculture, and tourism sectors through diverse projects such as Managing Together and the Small Grants Programme with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and are also focusing on balancing people and the planet through the EU funded Transforming Tourism project, which aims to mainstream sustainable tourism to promote environmental conservation. 


Sri Lanka is currently amidst a severe economic crisis and is reeling from the impacts of COVID-19.The crisis also posits a threat of undoing hard-earned development gains and future commitments to biodiversity, conservation and sustainable development. Relatedly, given Sri Lanka’s increasing climate and disaster vulnerability, which can compound the effects of the economic depression, the cost of not dispelling the false dichotomy of biodiversity vs. economy is high. Recognizing the limitations in the current socio-economic system, moving towards creating market-based mechanisms that incentivize climate resilience and nature positive practices which in turn will provide vast opportunities to achieve equity and inclusive development, is the need of the hour.


While we have enjoyed the fruits of economic growth, the demands we have made of mother nature's goods and services have for some decades exceeded her ability to supply them sustainably. COVID-19 has shown what might be just the tip of the iceberg if the world continued its current engagement with nature. This means setting ambitious global targets for meaningful conservation, restoration and investing more in biodiversity, while also reducing ecological footprints. Restructuring consumption and production patterns to address impacts on nature, from source to sink, is part and parcel of this necessary transformation. Finally, institutions must be transformed, particularly financial and education systems to enable meaningful change on a global scale. Both public and private financial actors have a role to play in reorienting financial flows towards enhancing natural assets and far more support is needed to improve awareness of their dependencies, impacts and risks associated with the degradation of nature. 

Sri Lanka continues to strive towards these goals, through its transition to a green development trajectory, with inclusivity at the core. Within Sri Lanka’s green development trajectory, biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources are central to transformative change for our current and future generations. The world is struggling to reverse a trend that has been commonplace for the better part of the past 100-200 years. Time is running out, species are going extinct, and life as we know it is under threat. International Biodiversity Day is not only celebrated to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity - but to inspire and encourage desperately needed actions to build a shared future for all life.

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