The critical role Asean and EU play in restoring biodiversity

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Until recently, international meetings on biodiversity, held under the auspices of the Convention on Biodiversity, have suffered relative anonymity compared with higher-profile climate negotiations. While nature groups and environmental scientists have long pointed out the link between climate and biodiversity crises, climate solutions have neglected biodiversity in favour of renewable energy or green technology development.

The recent COP15 in Montreal ratified a new post-2020 Biodiversity Framework, with notable elements in setting aside 30 per cent of the earth’s land and oceans for the protection of nature, and restoring at least 30 per cent of the world’s degraded habitats.

This is particularly important for the majestic forests, rich coral reefs, wetlands and tropical peatlands in South-east Asia. But critical ecosystems need considerable human assistance to recover. Degraded habitats, particularly peatlands, emit a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, which causes climate change, more volatile and extreme weather and consequently an increase in natural disasters such as landslides or flooding. 

Healthy ecosystems, on the other hand, store unimaginably large amounts of carbon, buffering us against the dangers of climate instability. What’s critical is a strategic approach to land management, integrating efficient agricultural production with the protection of healthy and diverse habitats, while degraded landscapes are being restored. 

Currently, the mammoth task to restore habitats has highlighted how South-east Asia lacks a coordinated vision, with its initiatives scattered across the region. While an international mandate to restore degraded habitats is a laudable and necessary step, a strong framework and a mechanism to translate policy into meaningful action and outcomes are a must. 

In this regard, the announcement in 2022 that the European Commission had tabled a Nature Restoration Law, which will impose binding targets on member states to facilitate the recovery of nature, offers policymakers in South-east Asia a formula to reflect on. 

The law, which remains to be passed, creates a framework that will see EU member states re...

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