Asean cities, local governments crucial to biodiversity conservation

Cities and subnational governments play a crucial role in protecting biodiversity.

At least 70 percent of biodiversity policies are being implemented at the local and subnational levels, yet they are not always profiled.

There is, however, growing recognition of the vital contribution of cities and subnational governments in meeting the global biodiversity goals and targets, and Asean cities are urged to support this exciting development. 

The Edinburgh Declaration was drafted from a series of consultations with subnational governments and regional, city and local authorities led by the Scottish government together with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in view of the anticipated post-2020 global biodiversity framework. 

To date, over 200 governments have signed to commit to act for nature conservation and climate change in the coming decade.

This cooperation aims to facilitate the alignment of global biodiversity strategies, actions, monitoring, and reporting efforts across all government levels, contributing to meaningful long-term biodiversity impacts and goals from the local leading up to global levels. 

The commitment is set to enable its signatories to have access to more resource mobilization opportunities for biodiversity at subnational or local levels; mainstream biodiversity concerns across sectors; and have access to opportunities for biodiversity knowledge exchange across all sectors.

Paul Dale from the government of São Paulo, Brazil, shared that as part of the Edinburgh Process, Asean cities may receive more support to increase concrete actions and outcomes for biodiversity in the coming decade. 

“The consultations during the Edinburgh Process indicate that the subnational and local government should not just be considered as a stakeholder and that their competency and implementation should be recognized in the framework,” Dale said. 

In the past years, Asean cities have been rapidly moving toward urbanization,  prompting populations from regional provinces to flock to urban areas for better economic opportunities.

This growing density of people in cities has resulted in the further conversion of key ecosystems and the decline of biological diversity. 

Mobilizing subnational and local city governments in mainstreaming and integrating biodiversity into urban planning is crucial in the conservation of existing natural areas and biodiversity in cities.

During the webinar, the Asean member state (AMS) expressed its readiness to sign up as a city-state to the Edinburgh Declaration on biodiversity and encouraged other Asean cities to be part of the network as well.

“Cities can play a significant positive role in addressing the challenges of biodiversity conservation and climate change,” said Dr. Lena Chan, senior director for the International Biodiversity Conservation Division of NParks Singapore.

“We seek the full support from the [AMS] to adopt the plan of action at CBD COP 15 [15th Conference of Parties].”   

Chan also encouraged cities to apply the Singapore Index as a tool to evaluate and monitor biodiversity conservation efforts.

With Singapore leading urban biodiversity conservation in the Asean region, Chan encourages the adoption of the revised Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity, or The Singapore Index, ACB said. 

The Singapore Index serves as a self-evaluation tool for cities to measure and monitor biodiversity and efforts to conserve it using 28 indicators based on the core components of native biodiversity, biodiversity-provided ecosystems services, and biodiversity management and governance.

Guided by the principle “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” this tool can assist cities in gathering valuable information and baseline data to better inform their programs and policies on managing the manifold impact of cities on biodiversity and vice-versa. 

Ingrid Coetzee, director of Biodiversity Nature, and Health ICLEI-Cities Biodiversity Centre South Africa, emphasised that while biodiversity policies are negotiated and adopted at the national and global levels, the success of implementation lies on the support of the subnational and local levels where majority of the implementation happens.

Coetzee added that there is a need to support the Declaration as well as the Plan of Action on Subnational Governments, Cities, and Other Local Authorities for Biodiversity (2021-2031). 

“The Plan of Action is …there to support state parties in their efforts to reach national and global targets for biodiversity, and develop National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans that are right for their circumstance,” Coetzee said. 

Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, ACB executive director, expressed the ACB’s commitment to supporting the Edinburgh Declaration on Biodiversity and to rolling out the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity in the Asean.

Lim also lauded Singapore for its strong leadership and commitment to cities and urban biodiversity conservation in the region. 

“For us in the region, our shared understanding of biodiversity as the centrepiece of regional economic recovery and resilience-building is recognized by several regional frameworks, such as, among others, the Asean Comprehensive Recovery Framework,” she said. 

Lim explained that a draft regional statement will be created from the outcomes and insights shared during the workshop. She emphasised that the regional statement demonstrates the AMS’s unity and cooperation in advancing regional sustainable development, ACB said. 

There are more concerns to address in the aspect of biodiversity and cities’ sustainable development, Lim said.

“I am confident, however, that we can figure out our way forward to respond to all these, as one regional community, inspired by this year’s Asean theme, ‘Asean ACT: Addressing Challenges Together,” Lim noted.

Image credits: Danilo Victoriano


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