Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

I 2

Elements of a global biosphere policy

I 2.1

Tasks and issues

The call for a global policy of sustainable use and

conservation of the biosphere rests, in accordance

with the Council’s reasoning, up to this point on two


1. For this type of policy, moral and ethical principles

are asserted which attribute an intrinsic value to

the biosphere and thus concede it an existential

right of its own (Chapter H).

2. We point out that the loss of biological diversity

and the reduction of biosphere services constitute

a serious restriction of the future viable path of

development for society and therefore, in particular

with a view to future generations, also the risk

of long-term loss of societal prosperity (Chapters


Preventing such welfare losses requires first of all

that global and spatial conservation goals are established,

on the basis of which differentiated protective

measures and sustainable forms of use may be developed.

It must be the aim of these endeavours to prevent

humankind from triggering the eradication of

species. To that extent it is necessary to establish a

pragmatic and gradual biosphere policy that combines

government and international control with a

decentralized system of incentives to create a comprehensive

strategy of sustainability for the biosphere.

Various specific challenges present themselves in

connection with designing this sort of global biosphere

policy– by contrast to many areas of action in

the area of environmental and resource conservation


• Biological diversity, in its three components –

ecosystems, species and genetic variability – is an

unusually complex asset and object of protection.

• There is a considerable problem of uncertainty and

knowledge with regard to target models and the

measures and implementation routes to be taken.

• There are particular difficulties in developing a

quantified appraisal of biological diversity.

• A global biosphere policy calls for the adequate

consideration of temporal, spatial, geographic and

social allocation conflicts and for the optimum

spatial level of action to be established.

• Global biosphere policy is inconceivable without

the fundamental willingness to participate and

cooperate on the part of the various private and

public players at local, national and international


I 2.1.1

Overcoming the knowledge deficit

A central hindrance to the establishment of conservation

strategies for biological diversity are the serious

knowledge deficits that still exist and which

relate to biological and biogeochemical contexts, in

particular the causes, scale and consequences of a

loss of biodiversity and the impact of human actions

(Becker-Soest, 1998a, b; Chapters D–F and J).Above

all, there are limits to answer the fundamental question

of how much nature humankind needs in the

long term to survive. In that respect, the derivation of

clearly definable global and regional guard rails

(bioregional level) is highly problematic (Sections

E 3.9 and I 1). So biosphere policy must still operate

without knowledge of the precise mechanisms of the

biosphere dynamic, and political action must take

place in a context of gross uncertainty. For this reason,

the Council talks about ‘biological imperatives’

instead of quantifiable guard rails.

These five identified imperatives (Section I 1)

should in the view of the Council, however, be given

particular consideration and therefore form the subject

of a global biosphere policy. These policy fields

are not sufficient to be able to provide a comprehensive

explanation of the importance of biodiversity

(Chapter H), but they do point to areas on which

global biosphere policy might focus:

• Preserving the integrity of bioregions.

• Safeguarding existing biological resources.

• Maintaining biopotential for the future.

• Preserving the global natural heritage.

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