Why sustainable use should be prioritized over protected areas

Why sustainable use should be prioritized over protected areas

One of the only successes touted by the CBD is the increase in protected areas (cf. BGO3). At the same time, all the other indicators point to increase in biodiversity loss. Anyone who has either common sense or a PhD in statistics will realize that this means that protected areas, as currently designed and implemented, do not effectively protect biodiversity. Have a look at the links to the graphs linked at the bottom of this page to make up your own mind.

Apparently this is not obvious to parties to the CBD as they have called (again) for increased funding for more protected areas. Wealthy countries have replied by attempting to outdo each other in announcing increased funds for protected areas (e.g. $120 million around LifeWeb, 1 million by the EU etc.), while poorer countries advertise their unique biodiversity in a bid to attract funds.

Increasing the land coverage of protected areas appears to be one of the few concrete consensuses at the COP. It is probably the easiest way for Parties to be seen to achieve some progress. Unfortunately, this does not address the drivers of biodiversity loss: our predatory production and consumption systems and the governance of resources at a wider scale. Protected areas only set aside bits of biodiverse nature while allowing business as usual in the rest of the land- and sea-scapes. As such, they are a diversion from the systemic changes that are needed.

What biodiversity needs is a change in the way we use resources and the increased devolvement of the management of resources to indigenous peoples and local communities. Harding’s tragedy of the commons has been debunked and we (now) know that it only applies to very specific cases. The CBD should move away from IUCN categories I and II and realize that empowering local actors to sustainably manage resources at a very local level is usually the best -  and cheapest - way of protecting them as called for by the Ecosystem Approach and the Addis Ababa Guidelines for the Sustainable Use of Biological Resources.

Rather than squabbling over financial resources, we should focus on better use of existing funds through changes in the current strategies, policies and programmes, which have failed us so far.

 

Global Living Planet Index (1970-2005)
Global Living Planet Index (1970-2005)