The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Environment (UN Environment), and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, launched the UN Biodiversity Lab - an interactive mapping platform designed to solve biodiversity conservation and development challenges. With core funding from the Global Environment Facility and powered by MapX, the UN Biodiversity Lab brings together spatial data from the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre, the Global Resource Information Database (GRID-Geneva), NASA, UN agencies, and premier research institutions.
Currently, many countries lack access to geospatial data due to limitations in data availability and technical capacity. The UN Biodiversity Lab provides spatial data through a free, cloud-based tool to support Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in reporting on their achievements and to inform their conservation decision making. National policymakers and planners will be able to upload and utilize existing national-level data in their analyses.
Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, stated: “By 2030, demand for food may increase by 35%, for water by 40%, and for energy by 50%. Innovative solutions that meet this increased demand while conserving critical natural ecosystems are a necessity, and the UN Biodiversity Lab does just that. By providing access to spatial data - including protected areas, endangered species, human impact on natural systems, watersheds for key cities, and more - the platform empowers policymakers with the necessary information to address pressing biodiversity conservation and development challenges.”
The importance of enhancing access to big data for sustainable development is highlighted by the Nature for Development Declaration on Spatial Data, which was opened for public endorsement at the launch event. To date, 20 institutions have endorsed the Declaration. A large number of countries, UN Agencies, NGOs, academic institutions, and indigenous peoples organizations are expected to endorse.
In celebration of the launch of both the Data Declaration and the UN Biodiversity Lab, UNDP and UN Environment issued a global challenge to the 196 Parties to the CBD: double the number of maps used in their national progress reports to the CBD.
Cristiana Pașca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the CBD said: “Parties to the UN Biodiversity Convention recognize the need for innovative tools to monitor trends, better understand the causes of global biodiversity loss, and to provide data that can help assess the socio-economic implications of different pathways. The UN Biodiversity Lab could enable Parties to utilize spatial data to deliver on their commitments to the CBD and to fundamentally transform biodiversity conservation and sustainable use decision making and reporting.”
Over time, the UN Biodiversity Lab will offer access to big data on sustainable development, and incorporate automated monitoring using artificial intelligence to support planning for human and planetary health.
“The UN Biodiversity Lab is a vital part of our ongoing efforts to build a digital ecosystem of planetary data that is accurate and easy to use by countries, companies, and citizens,” said Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment. “In order to advance the sustainable development agenda, it will be essential to provide simple, real time access to the best available data and analytics for people and the planet.”