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SCE committee biodiversity workshop


The ECCT's Sustainability & Community Engagement (SCE) committee hosted a workshop & lunch on the topic "Understanding the business risks from biodiversity loss, advice on proactive action and sustainable strategies". The purpose of the half-day workshop was to explore the importance of biodiversity to corporations, what impact biodiversity loss may have on their business and industry sector and how they should prepare themselves for the impact.

The event began with opening remarks by Dr Hong Wen-Ling, Deputy Minister of the Ocean Affairs Council (洪文玲 政務副主任委員). This was followed by presentations by guest speakers Janice Hwang, Head of Corporate Sustainability for HSBC Bank (Taiwan); Dinda Mazeda, Environmental Engineer for Boskalis Offshore International; Roger Tseng (recorded), Climate Change, Sustainability Services and ESG Advisory & Assurance Services Partner for EY Taiwan and Dr Wu Long-Jing (吳龍靜 副署長), Deputy Director-General of the Ocean Conservation Administration under the Ocean Affairs Council. Another presentation was delivered over lunch by Chiu Li-Wen (邱立文 主任秘書), Chief Secretary of the Forestry and Nature Conservation Agency under the Ministry of Agriculture. The event concluded with a panel discussion featuring the speakers that was moderated by SCE committee Co-chair Gennie Yen.

According to the World Economic Forum's 2023 Global Risks Report, biodiversity loss is the fourth most severe global risk over the next ten years, behind climate action failure, climate change adaptation, and extreme weather. The global economy is extremely dependent on natural ecosystems for food, natural resources, fresh water and air and will be adversely impacted by biodiversity degradation.

In her presentation, Janice Hwang noted that in addition to rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, which is leading to climate change, several other planetary boundaries have already been crossed, including an increase in phosphorus and nitrogen levels in waterways (which leads to excess levels of algae growth), novel entities (such as plastics), the reduction of forests, the depletion and pollution of fresh water sources and the disruption of biosphere integrity. Natural ecosystems are fragile and a rise in temperature from 1.5 degrees to 2 degrees could lead to a significant increase in biodiversity species losses (of plants and animals). She went on to explain the growing relevance and use of the Financial Stability Board's latest Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework and the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) framework. While firms have long been measuring their carbon footprints, many firms are now actively going further to assess their impact on biodiversity with a view to limiting the impact and finding alterative "nature positive" solutions.

In her presentation, Dinda Mazeda noted that 50% of global GDP was directly dependent on natural resources and that 25% of species were at risk, implying an enormous risk to the economy and people's livelihoods from biodiversity loss. Corporations face risks not only to their business prospects and other financial risks (such as higher insurance premiums), but also physical risks (such as from extreme weather events), regulatory and legal risks, as well as reputational risks should they fail to take appropriate action. The speaker went on to cite some examples of nature positive projects, such as the Marker Wadden, an artificial archipelago under development in the Markermeer, a lake in the Netherlands created in 2016. The main aims of the project are to create breeding grounds, islands, and coastline as well as to improve the water ecology of the Markermeer. The islands have already been colonised by large numbers of breeding birds. She also cited projects to restore mangroves along the coast of Java Island in Indonesia as a way to restore biodiversity and mitigate against land subsidence as a result of depletion of the water table. She stressed the importance of involving the local community in these projects.

In his video presentation (which was pre-recorded), Roger Tseng offered practical advice on how to get started with measuring biodiversity impact. Tseng noted that the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted during the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in December 2022 by 196 parties following a four-year consultation and negotiation process. The mission of the framework for the period up to 2030, towards the 2050 vision is to "take urgent action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss to put nature on a path to recovery for the benefit of people and planet by conserving and sustainably using biodiversity and by ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources, while providing the necessary means of implementation. Among the framework's key elements are goals to maintain, enhance, or restore and substantially increase the areas of natural ecosystems and sustainably manage biodiversity. Among the 23 targets is to increase to 30% the percentage of land and ocean areas under protection. Companies will be under increasing pressure in future to measure and disclose their impacts on the environment, including biodiversity. Some governments may make TNFD mandatory. Companies should therefore be proactive in preparing for this. This is especially the case for new projects where they should, in order of importance: seek to avoid impacts on biodiversity, minimise impacts as far as possible, restore damaged environments and offset impacts that are unavoidable.

In his presentation, Dr Wu Long-Jing gave an overview of the status of marine diversity and prospects for the future. He said that Taiwan has over 15,000 species and 330 marine eco-hotspots. He went on to talk about some of Taiwan's unique and endangered species that his ministry seeks to protect. The ministry's efforts include amendments to legislation and increasing areas designated for protection, where human activities are banned or restricted. Tangible efforts to protect marine life and environments include conducting regular inspections of fishing catches, monitoring protected areas and working with corporations and NGOs to restore damaged areas, such as mangroves, salt marshes and coral reefs.

In her presentation over lunch, Chiu Li-Wen offered her ministry and agency's "blueprint and vision for the development of terrestrial biodiversity in Taiwan". As the agency responsible for managing Taiwan's forests (which cover approximately 60% of Taiwan's land area), the top priority is stopping illegal logging. Maintaining forests is crucial as a carbon sink, which, according to Chiu, are able to absorb about 7% of Taiwan's greenhouse gas emissions. The agency's efforts include expanding the area of protected forests in Taiwan and enhancing the management of forests already under the agency's control.

The event ended with a panel discussion moderated by SCE committee Co-chair Gennie Yen during which guests answered questions about how corporations can make a positive contribution to preserving biodiversity.