Interview: Political will on biodiversity must be translated into action, says French ecologist

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MARSEILLE, France, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- The challenge for biodiversity conservation is how to translate the will into action, said Patrick Giraudoux, professor of ecology at the University of Franche-Comte during the ongoing 7th World Conservation Congress (WCC) held in Marseille and online.

"I have no doubt in the political will on biodiversity conservation, which is shared by all people of reason who understand the risk we take by facilitating its erosion. Now we will have to translate it into action," Giraudoux said.

The Earth suffered a 68-percent decline in global biodiversity between 1970 and 2016, according to the "Living Planet Report 2020" issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London.

How to bend the curve of biodiversity decline is one of the main issues on the agenda of the WCC Marseille congress, which is hosted jointly by the French government and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) under the theme "One Nature, One Future."

The congress, the first global event on environment since the COVID-19 pandemic began, brought together tens of thousands of representatives from some 160 countries and regions both online and in-person in France's port city of Marseille to address planet Earth's ecological plight.

"We can wait for a lucid assessment of the status quo, which is what the IUCN in Marseille will tell us, such as which species are threatened, how fast they are threatened, etc. Then there are the decisions to be taken by the governments after what will be decided at COP15," said Giraudoux.

COP15, the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), will be held in two parts in Kunming, China, with an official opening and a high-level segment in October and an in-person part in the first half of 2022.

The participants are expected to hold broad and deep negotiations towards an ambitious and practical post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

In 2010, parties to the CBD set 20 targets for biodiversity conservation during a summit in Japan's Aichi. Countries had until 2020 to reach the Aichi targets and then move on to create a post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

But the Aichi targets, which range from lowering species extinction rates to cutting pollution and preserving forests, have not been achieved.

One target stipulated that "by 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced."

But the "Living Planet Report 2020" found that global species abundance, distribution and composition, as well as soil health, plant diversity and insect populations continue to be on downward trajectories with no immediate signs of recovery. Land use change and species overexploitation are primary contributors to the global downward curve.

"I hope what happened in Aichi will not be repeated, that is to say, everyone leaves with good intentions but afterwards nothing happens or not enough," Giraudoux said.

The ecologist has been actively cooperating with China in the field of biodiversity conservation, especially with colleagues in Yunnan for the protection of wild elephants and Rhinopithecus bieti, a primate living at the highest elevation in the world.

In China, the protection of the environment and species has become "one of the major priorities" and public awareness is huge, he told Xinhua.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, cooperation could only continue via videoconferencing and by co-writing articles. "We are impatiently waiting for the resumption of physical exchanges on the ground," he said. Enditem

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