At the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the adoption of the Kunming Declaration has shown the international community is ready to reverse biodiversity loss in the next three decades.
The Kunming Declaration calls for "urgent and integrated action" to reflect biodiversity considerations in all sectors of the global economy, underscoring the wisdom concerning biodiversity protection that the international community is pooling, and the desire for it.
However, it has been loud and clear at the Kunming meeting that one prominent country has not ratified the CBD -- the United States, which is therefore out of step with the rest of the world in the arduous battle against biodiversity degradation.
The CBD is not a small, inconsequential treaty. It has been providing outstanding guidance for the protection of global biodiversity. It was opened for signature at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and has to date been ratified by 196 parties -- more than almost any other international convention on the environment.
It has been almost three decades, but the U.S. has yet to move on ratification, partly because environmental protection is in conflict with its corporate interests. A 1994 New York Times opinion piece recorded that there were concerns that "some clauses could be construed to undermine this nation's ability to strike its own balance domestically between environmental values and competing interests," and that "clauses requiring nations to promote the protection of habitats and species might be used to push for 'absolute' protection of the environment in the U.S., at the expense of commercial or even recreational purposes."
The world is facing severe challenges brought by biodiversity loss and ecological degradation. "Our two-century-long experiment with burning fossil fuels, destroying forests, wilderness, and oceans, and degrading the land, has caused a biosphere catastrophe," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.
Addressing such challenges requires the efforts of the entire international community. For some time, the U.S. has been using international gatherings to make strong statements about addressing challenges with unity and through joint actions, but its deeds do not always match its words. As the U.S. is the largest economy in the world, its absence has undermined global efforts to protect biodiversity and prevent the extinction of species.
Protecting biodiversity is protecting Earth, our common homeland, and contributes to humanity's sustainable development. As the world's sole superpower, the United States should act as the leader it proclaims itself to be, rather than being a drag on this common, global cause.