Kuala Lumpur: The sky above the city is tinged by the pollutants rising from all the human activities in the vast city. A declaration from the 2010 City Biodiversity Summit wants more power to cities to deal with climate change and biodiversity loss. Photo: N. Ryrholm/Azote

Slowly out of the shadows

Cities demand a stronger voice in curbing global biodiversity loss.

It has yet to receive the same acknowledgement as climate change, but putting the breaks on biodiversity loss is becoming increasingly important on the political agenda.

Reports state that continuing biodiversity loss is predicted, but could be slowed (pending required policy choises) and a Stern review-like report on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) has given natural assessments a significant boost.

Better frameworks, please
As countries strived to carve out the careful wordings for a ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity at the COP10 in Nagoya, cities and local authorities used the momentum to boost their own role in managing biodiversity.

Their message is clear: Give us a better policy framework and we will unfold the local potential to protect global biodiversity.

As the world turns increasingly urban, with more than five billion people projected to live in cities by 2030, it is becoming increasingly recognised that cities are important role players in halting global biodiversity loss.

Resilience researchers have long argued that increased urbanization, although riddled with increasing uncertainty, represent an opportunity for change. This is because big cities are hubs for knowledge and innovation. It is also considered to be crucial for biodiversity conservation.

The Good, the Bad, and the Solution
At the City Biodiversity Summit 2010, which was held concurrently with the COP10, a declaration appealed to the international community (and the CBD Parties in particular), to recognise that cities and urbanisation is not all bad. Increasingly growing cities are also hubs for knowledge, innovations and human and financial resources, making them crucial for solving global environmental problems.

- Local governments provide many services that affect biodiversity both positively and negatively. Public procurement is one such example. When combined, these influences can exert great power toward the conservation and the recovery of biodiversity and ecosystem services, the declaration states.

At the summit, centre researcher Thomas Elmqvist, who helped draft the declaration, lead a highly popular session on how urban biodiversity and ecosystems play an important role in building resilience to climate change.

The session focused on the role of equity issues, education, improved disaster management and the importance of community-based resource management.

See video interview with André Mader from the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) on the importance of cities to biodiversity management:

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