Panel Discussion: Statement by Ambassador Thoms on “Why Biodiversity is Essential for Social and Economic Aspects of Sustainable Development: Perspectives and Country Experiences from Developing and Developed Countries”
(Statement as prepared for delivery:)
"Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a privilege for me to participate in today’s panel discussion and to present Germany’s view.
The variety of ecosystems on earth like forests, wetlands, oceans and grasslands form the basis of life. They provide our societies with food, shelter, clean air, water and productive soils. They also have a deep spiritual and recreational value for billions of people. Human livelihoods are unimaginable without nature that is healthy and productive.
Speaking in economic terms: biodiversity is our natural capital. Its intensive exploitation might lead to short term economic gains, but comes at the expense of the natural support system which provides our economies with vital goods and services. The overexploitation of ecosystems in the mid and long term will lead to impoverished and vulnerable societies.
The Global Study on the Economics of Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services launched by the European Union and Germany at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP 9 in Bonn in 2008 showcases the economic and social importance of biodiversity. To give only one small example from Germany: the study compared two different options of flood control in the Elbe river. The technical solution of building polders would achieve a short term net present value of 370 million Euro. The natural solution of dyke relocation, however, would have a negative net present value of -230 million Euro. However, when including environmental benefits such as water purification and sediment retention, the dyke relocation has a net present value of over 1 billion Euro, whereas the polder option offers no additional ecological benefits. In the long run, the economy profits massively from the natural solution.
Already back in Rio in 1992, we understood that sustainable global development depends on the three pillars of a just society, a stable economy and a healthy environment. This understanding must be the fundamental basis for the development of the future SDGs.
Germany is convinced that the conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems and ecosystem services is core to sustainable development, human livelihoods and the eradication of poverty. It should form an integral and prominent part in the SDG structure. It should build on the Strategic Plan of the CBD which as such is a comprehensive roadmap towards sustainable development in itself and which has been agreed to by virtually all UN Member States in 2010.
For Germany, the Strategic Plan is an important compass for our national and international policy. Its full and effective implementation is imperative. Nationally, we adopted an ambitious biodiversity strategy which we implement with full inclusion of the civil society and the private sector. At the international level, we strongly increased our financial support for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity to partner countries. In 2013 we provided more than 500 million Euro to this end - more than six times the amount we contributed in 2006. We understand this as support to global sustainable development and would hope that the future SDGs reflect this integral approach and provide an equally good compass as the Strategic Plan.
Let me conclude by highlighting another important development with regard to biodiversity:
On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim 3 March as World Wildlife Day. The General Assembly also reaffirmed the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions to sustainable development and human well-being. All Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other stakeholders are invited to observe and raise awareness of World Wildlife Day. Germany believes that the upcoming first World Wildlife Day provides an excellent opportunity, also here in New York, to celebrate the beauty of wild fauna and flora, to highlight the benefits that wildlife provides to people and to raise awareness of the urgent need to step up the fight against poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts.
I thank you for your attention."