Biodiversity is by no means a new topic of discussion. As such, there are many useful policies that exist today. We tried to base our policy proposals on relevant existing and efficient policies in order to build upon and learn from the successes and failures of past generations.
Some policies, like the Precautionary Principle and the Polluter Pays Principle, are well known. Both of these originated at the Rio conference of 1992 (Rio Declaration, 1992). The first principle states that "where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, the lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation" (Rio Declaration, 1992). This is particularly relevant to the topic of biodiversity because of the difficulty and expense of assessing the impact of any given entity. The second principle says that "the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to public interest and without distorting international trade and investment" (Rio Declaration, 1992). While the first principle is very controversial, the second has proved to be efficient as economic disincentives that work well in today's corporate world. Forcing companies to pay money for damaging ecosystems is one of the best ways to make companies care about the effects of their actions. For instance, BP had to pay about 20 billion USD (BBC News, 2010) after the infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.
Some other policies have potential, but it is not yet clear how efficient they are. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is one example of this. It is attempting to build an interface between the scientific community and policy makers that aims to "build capacity for and strengthen the use of science in policy making" (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 2011). However, it is not clear how successful the policy has been as it was created only 3 years ago. Because of its relative youth, the policy has not had time to have a real impact on policy makers, especially considering the lack of effective communication in the political sphere.
Another such policy is the "debt-for nature" swap carried out this past year between the United States and Indonesia in order to help the tropical forests of Borneo. Instead of using its small amount of resources to pay back its debt to the United States, the Indonesian government will spend that money on "improving local land use techniques." This will save the habitat of a large number of endangered species from destruction (International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development, 2011). Since this policy is so recent, it is still unclear how efficient it will be. But, the initiative is a step in the right direction since it addresses both the developing countries' concerns that they have to pay for the mistakes of developed countries and the developed countries' fear of having to support the entire cost of preserving biodiversity.
Below are some policies that seem to be particularly efficient that we tried to integrate with our own policies.
This policy aims to connect different areas of land that hold large reserves of biodiversity, or hotspots, especially if the areas are small. This should enable wildlife to move freely and safely. This is implemented by preserving core areas, which are usually also protected by buffer zones, and connecting them to other core areas through corridors (Econet Action Fund, n.d.).
This policy is efficient because it alleviates the negative impacts of fragmentation while still protecting important areas and preserving valuable ecosystems. Negative impacts of fragmentation come from the inefficiency of small hotspots as compared to bigger ones. Fragmentation can also negatively affect biodiversity through edge effects. Fragmentation creates more boundaries, and these boundaries are more affected by pollution and pests than the inner parts of protected areas.
This European directive has been around for over 30 years. This demonstrates both that the European Union has long been concerned with the well being of its birds and that it considers the "shared heritage of the Member States." While the Birds Directive bans any activity that directly and deliberately threatens birds, it allows hunting within a given sustainable framework. It also recognizes that "habitat loss and degradation are the most serious threats to the conservation of wild birds" (European Commission, 2011).
An independent study condemned the lack of set targets in the directive itself, but concluded that the Birds Directive has brought demonstrable benefits to bird populations in the European Union (Donald, 2007). Therefore, we decided to implement similar policies in our solution.
Some countries, like Australia, have strict border control policies. They prevent the entrance of any organic material, including soil from shoes and freshwater residues on bathing suits, in order to maintain balance within their ecosystems and to prevent contamination by unwanted pests (Australian Government, 2011). We suggest that this be implemented on a worldwide scale.