Biodiversity is life

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Gordon Kricke (The Philippine Star) - April 27, 2017 - 12:00am

In the daily hustle and bustle of the busy and exciting city life in Manila it is easy to forget that the Philippines is one of the most important global hotspots for biodiversity. There is still an incredible assortment of terrestrial and marine wildlife on many Islands. The natural beauty of the country is something many Filipinos are justifiably very proud of. However, this treasure is under a lot of pressure from many sources. I therefore deeply admire the local activists, organizations and authorities which strive to safeguard the remaining virgin forests in Palawan and Panay, preserve rare species, like the few remaining Tamaraw dwarf buffalos in Mindoro and Philippine eagles in Mindanao or protect coral reefs and endangered marine animals, like giant clams and seahorses from overexploitation for foreign consumption. They are fighting to preserve an invaluable heritage which is important not only for the Philippines, but also has a major worldwide significance. It is not only very important for tourism and the livelihood of local people, but it also has a deeper meaning.  As one of my heroes, the famous biologist and researcher Edward Wilson, said: “We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.”

I am happy that since many years Germany is a close partner of the Philippines in the fight against climate change and in the protection of biodiversity. Together with Peace Building and Conflict Transformation these are the focal areas of our official development cooperation with the Philippines. Around 62 million Euro have been allocated in recent years for bilateral projects with these objectives. The country benefits as well from 10 regional and 28 global projects with a focus on climate change and biodiversity. Also the European Union has an important regional program for the protection of biodiversity.

In Germany the need to protect the environment, to promote green energy and to reduce climate emissions have been championed in the 70th and 80th mostly by NGOs and activists from the civil society, but since many years it has arrived in the political mainstream and is now accepted practically by the whole society. There is a general consensus that biodiversity must be protected, garbage reduced and precious green space and parks in the cities belong to everybody and must be public.  Even in sun starved Germany solar energy is becoming increasingly important and is now more and more competitive compared to fossil fuels. Renewable energies are already generating 29 percent of electricity in Germany and the target until 2025 is 40 percent to 45 percent.

However, before this environmentally friendly policy has become the mainstream in the early 80s, nature in Germany – and many other European countries as well – suffered profoundly during industrialization. The negative effects of this development are often still there, many habitats have been destroyed and a number of species were lost. Some of the environmental harm can be repaired, often with enormous costs and efforts, but not all. Extinct species are lost forever and a destroyed pristine habitat can never be restored. To prevent this from happening must be a priority for everyone. Germany and the EU are supporting efforts in the Philippines to protect the nature on which we all ultimately depend.

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(Gordon Kricke is the Ambassador of Germany.)

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