CBD COP15 calls for mainstreaming the sustainable use of wild species


14 Dec 2022

Written by Francis Vorhies

At the current Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) alongside negotiations on a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, several other important issues are under discussion. This includes a path-breaking decision by COP15 to mainstream the sustainable use of wild species.

Labelled CBD/COP/15/L5, the decision on Sustainable Wildlife Management by COP15:

Requests the Executive Secretary, in consultation with

  • Parties,
  • other Governments,
  • indigenous peoples and local communities, and
  • other members of the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management, and
  • other relevant stakeholders and right holders…

To collaborate with all relevant actors and stakeholders in order to promote the mainstreaming of the sustainable use of biodiversity, in particular that of wild species, into all relevant sectors;

This call not only reaffirms the core CBD objective of sustainable use, but explicitly applies this objective to wild species and to mainstreaming their use in all relevant sectors.

The rationale for emphasising the use of wild species is set out in a succinct and insightful preambular paragraph:

Noting that demand reduction strategies and alternative livelihood approaches to wild meat consumption, and to wildlife use in general, are more likely to be necessary when consumption or use are illegal and/or unsustainable, as sustainable wildlife management can significantly contribute to biodiversity conservation, as opposed to alternatives that may result in land use changes that may be harmful to the environment and ecosystems…

In this paragraph, COP15 recognises that approaches such as reducing demand or promoting alternatives for livelihoods are more appropriate where use is unsustainable or illegal. However, such approaches, by encouraging a reduction in the use of wild species can lead to conversion of wildlife habitats for other uses in order to support livelihoods.

This is evidenced, for example, in the replacement of wildlife with livestock in Kenya after the use of wild mammals was made illegal in 1977 . A 2016 study reported that:

Wildlife numbers declined on average by 68% between 1977 and 2016... As a result, livestock biomass was 8.1 times greater than that of wildlife in 2011–2013 compared to 3.5 times in 1977–1980. 

If livelihoods cannot be supported by the use of wild species, then their habitats will be converted to other uses that can support livelihoods. In other words, there is direct link between the sustainable use of wildlife, livelihoods, and landscapes. As the COP15 decision makes clear “sustainable wildlife management can significantly contribute to biodiversity conservation.” It does so by using wild species that in turn encourages the conservation or restoration of their habitats and the maintenance of associated ecological systems and services.

Once negotiations are finalised on the text of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, it will be useful to see whether the importance of using wild species for conservation is further supported by the new framework. Unbracketed language for Goal B in the Non-paper on item 9A is encouraging:

Biodiversity is sustainably used and managed and nature’s contributions to people, including ecosystem functions and services, are valued, maintained, and enhanced… supporting the achievement of sustainable development…

If you are not at COP15 in Montreal, you can follow the negotiations through the IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB). For example, ENB reported on the 13 of December, that progress was made on support for the sustainable use of marine and coastal biodiversity and for the sustainable use of soil biodiversity. Such progress in the negotiations reinforces COP15’s call to mainstream the sustainable use of wild species into all relevant sectors.

Francis Vorhies, AWEI Director, WildCRU Research Visitor, IUCN SULi Member