Martes 28 de Mayo 2024

(Lack of) Biodiversity Proposals by Presidential Candidates

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Climate change, overfishing, and pollution are various forms of human-caused marine ecosystem degradation. Ironically, as these ecosystems deteriorate, their ability to provide food and regulate the climate also diminishes, exacerbating the climate crisis. In December 2022, 196 nations agreed to take urgent action to halt biodiversity loss and protect at least 30% of marine and terrestrial areas by 2030, an agenda known as 30x30. However, to date, no country in the world invests more in protecting nature than it spends on destroying it through subsidies that harm ecosystems.

The problem is that biodiversity protection requires resources, and most developing countries, some of the most biodiverse in the world, deal with high levels of debt, high interest rates, and difficulties in securing financing in capital markets. This limits their capacity to invest in nature protection and restoration. Faced with this problem, political figures, including prime ministers and presidents from Latin America and the Caribbean, have called for deep reforms in the international financial architecture.

Thus, the role of development banks, investors, philanthropy, and businesses becomes crucial in biodiversity protection. These entities must understand their impact on biodiversity and the risk that biodiversity loss poses to their operations to manage and mitigate both. Banks, investors, and philanthropists must support biodiversity-positive projects and make them more attractive to attract the necessary capital. Otherwise, countries will not be able to meet their 30x30 commitments, even if they want to.

But now they need to want to. In Mexico, where unfortunately, the environment was not a priority in the last six years, neither of the two presidential candidates has much to say on these issues. Both have mentioned the need to strongly commit to renewable energy to combat climate change; however, energy is only one factor in this phenomenon. In Mexico, for example, 36% of CO2 emissions and most emissions of other potent greenhouse gases (GHGs) come from other sources and sectors, such as agriculture.

The biodiversity agenda does not seem to feature in their platforms either, although there are differences. In Claudia Sheinbaum's proposal, the word biodiversity appears once, referring to the aim for food sovereignty to be sustainable concerning biodiversity. There is no mention of protected natural areas (ANP), and the environmental issue is focused merely on water. On the plus side, she mentions reforestation and forest protection, also just once.

On the other hand, Xóchitl's proposal has a bit more substance regarding biodiversity, proposing to include it in the Constitution to avoid the overexploitation of both marine and terrestrial resources and to rescue the ANP from organized crime. She also refers to successful biodiversity protection financing strategies in countries like Ecuador and Costa Rica: payment for environmental services programs. Finally, and very importantly, she mentions the need to meet international commitments not only in climate matters but also in biodiversity—i.e., the 30x30 agenda.

The protection of natural capital, particularly carbon sinks (forests and seas), should be a priority strategy when discussing the climate crisis in our country. Opportunities abound. Mexico is the fourth country in the world in terms of mangrove extension, an ecosystem extremely efficient in capturing and absorbing CO2. Additionally, government data estimate that over 70% of the national territory is covered by some type of forest vegetation. Thus, "forest ecosystems are capable of sequestering 25% of our country's GHG emissions each year," according to CONAFOR.

Mexico is considered a "megadiverse" country, one of 17 nations in the world with this distinction. Hopefully, the future president of Mexico will defend our biological diversity. If not for its intrinsic value, then because we know there is no route or solution to the climate crisis without preserving nature.

*Tania Miranda is the director of the environment and climate change program at the Institute of the Americas.