The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)


Biological diversity - or biodiversity - is the term given to the variety of life on Earth and the natural patterns that it forms. The biodiversity we see today is the fruit of billions of years of evolution, shaped by natural processes and, increasingly, by the influence of humans. It forms the web of life, of which we are an integral part and upon which we so fully depend, providing a large number of goods and services that sustain our lives.


Biodiversity consists of hierarchical levels, encompassing the range of landscapes and ecosystems found on the planet, the communities of organisms found within them; the variety of animal, plant and microorganism species of which these communities consist; and the genetic variation within each species. All of these levels are linked by natural (or semi-natural, or human-induced) processes, from gene-flow at the genetic level through to habitat change at the landscape level.


It is the combination of life forms and their interactions with each other, and with the rest of the environment, that has made Earth a uniquely habitable place for humans. However, biodiversity is threatened by many factors, including habitat destruction and degradation, pollution, climate change and introduced species. The loss of biodiversity affects food supplies, opportunities for tourism and recreation, sources of medicines, and energy. It also interferes with essential ecological functions.


The Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention or CBD) was adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 1992, and entered into force in December 1993. As the first global treaty to provide a legal framework for biodiversity conservation, the Convention established three main goals:


  • the conservation of biological diversity,
  • the sustainable use of its components,
  • the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.


Contracting Parties are required to create and enforce national strategies and action plans to conserve, protect and enhance biological diversity. They are also required to undertake action to implement the thematic work programmes on ecosystems and a range of cross-cutting issues which have been established to take forward the provisions of the Convention.


In January 2002 the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted to supplement the provisions of the Convention. This Agreement, which came into force in September 2003, aims to ensure the safe handling, transport and use of living modified organisms (LMOs), resulting from modern biotechnology, that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, taking also into account risks to human health.


Subsequently, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted on 29 October 2010 at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the CBD. It will enter into force on the 90th day after the 50th ratification is deposited.


The Nagoya Protocol aims to share the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources, thereby contributing to the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.


CBD’s Strategic Plan (2011-2020) & Aichi targets


In October 2010, at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Nagoya, Japan, the Parties adopted a new ‘Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020’ along with its 20 ‘Aichi targets’. The latter set out 20 challenging targets under 5 strategic goals to stimulate " effective and urgent action to halt the loss of biodiversity in order to ensure that by 2020 ecosystems are resilient and continue to provide essential services, thereby securing the planet's variety of life, and contributing to human well-being, and poverty eradication....’. The goals and targets comprise both aspirations for achievement at the global level and a flexible framework for the establishment of national or regional targets. Parties are invited to set their own targets within this flexible framework, taking into account national needs and priorities.



Delivery of CBD within Europe and the UK


The European Union adopted its own new EU Biodiversity Strategy (EUBS) in May 2011 to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020 as a contribution to meeting the goals of the Strategic plan and Aichi targets. The EU Biodiversity Strategy includes a new vision: "By 2050, European Union biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides – its natural capital – are protected, valued and appropriately restored for biodiversity's intrinsic value and for their essential contribution to human wellbeing and economic prosperity, and so that catastrophic changes caused by the loss of biodiversity are avoided”.


Within the UK, delivery of the CBD and the Strategic Plan is now guided by the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.  This framework is overseen by the Environment Departments of all four governments in the UK working together through the Four Countries Biodiversity Group. The framework demonstrates how the work of the four countries and the UK contributes to achieving the ‘Aichi targets’, and identifies the activities required to complement the individual country biodiversity strategies.


The framework supersedes earlier approaches under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (1992-2012); the history of which is available here.


The UK ratified the CBD in June 1994. Since that time JNCC has provided technical and scientific support to Defra on issues relating to the CBD, including prominent roles in National Reporting, the Global Plant Conservation Strategy , the Ecosystem Approach, the Global Taxonomy Initiative and JNCC hosts the UK Clearing House Mechanism for biodiversity


June 2013