On the heels of an historic deal at the COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference, let’s take a look at why biodiversity loss has finally gained the attention it so richly deserves.
Ecosystems are changing, no matter where you look in the world, from the northern forests of Finland to the southern coasts of Africa. Animals, plants and insects are disappearing at a shocking pace – up to 137 species every day – largely driven by the clearing of forests for agriculture.
“Some form of biodiversity loss is visible for most of us, no matter where we live,” says Kristiina Veitola, Director of Corporate Affairs, Circular Economy and Packaging Policy at Tetra Pak. “Where I grew up in Finland, we used to be surrounded by tiny birds like the willow tit and crested tit. But today, they’ve all but disappeared.”
Kristiina is responsible for Corporate Affairs support of forestry and biodiversity-related policies globally. She also works with the Tetra Pak teams driving nature programmes throughout the Tetra Pak supply chain, which includes impacts and activities connected to biodiversity.
“Generally, awareness of biodiversity loss in society has been low, even though the erosion of nature and loss of species are amplified by climate change,” says Kristiina. “At Tetra Pak, we made a promise many years ago to protect the planet so we are pleased to see that the issue is moving up the global political agenda.”
Globally, about half of habitable land is farmed, leaving only 37% for forests, which store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere both above and below ground. Every year, a sustainably-managed forest will add to this store of carbon as the trees grow.
Both the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessments and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments say the link between biodiversity loss and climate change is clear: “Action to protect and restore nature will be essential to halting and reversing biodiversity loss and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to limit warming to near 1.5°C.”
The UN agrees. At its recent COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal, Canada, nearly 200 countries signed an historic agreement to halt biodiversity loss by 2030. The ’30 by 30’ deal commits governments to protecting 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030 while respecting indigenous and traditional territories in the expansion of new and protected areas.
“Biodiversity loss is a complex issue, driven by deforestation, overexploitation, pollution, and poverty,” Kristiina explains. “There has been a lack of measurement schemes and understanding to be able to properly tackle the issue. It is encouraging to see the political will is there to drive progress on a global level.”
Before the COP15 conference, Tetra Pak joined hundreds of companies to call for a mandatory assessment and disclosure of nature to be included in the Global Biodiversity Framework. The call seems to have been heard as another target of the final ’30 by 30’ deal requires large global companies to report “their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity.” This means disclosing sourcing practices as well as practices around land and water use.
“We welcome an international reporting framework for biodiversity,” says Kristiina. “Currently we internationally recognised frameworks such as CDP, which is considered one of the leading standards of corporate environmental transparency, and Forest Stewardship CouncilTM (FSCTM), which offers a credible universal standard for sustainable forest management. But a common framework to help global companies like ours measure the biodiversity footprint and contribution would be an excellent next step.”
Tetra Pak is also joining a two-year collaboration with FSC and IKEA to enable the fast-tracking of Biodiversity Impact Assessment in FSC™-certified forests.
We partnered with Apremavi, an environmental NGO founded in 1987 in Brazil to restore up to 7,000 hectares (9,800 football pitches) over 10 years, marking the food and beverage carton industry’s first nature-based restoration project.