City Biodiversity Index
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The City Biodiversity Index, also known as the Singapore Index on Cities’ Biodiversity, measures biodiversity in cities and highlights how biodiversity conservation efforts can be improved. The idea was proposed by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan at the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2008. It was formulated by the National Parks Board of Singapore (NParks), in cooperation with the United Nations (UN) and a task force of international experts. The index was officially endorsed at the following COP in October 2010 as a self-assessment monitoring tool, and is the only index of its kind catering specifically to cities.
According to the UN, 50% of the world’s population was residing in cities in 2008, and the percentage is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. The City Biodiversity Index aims to serve as a self-assessment monitoring tool to promote better management of resources and conservation of biodiversity internationally. The index also serves as a platform through which cities can share solutions for conserving biodiversity and overcoming the problems of increased urbanisation, climate change and city planning and management.
The index is regarded as the first tool of its kind designed specifically to gauge the biodiversity conservation efforts of cities. Other existing indices, such as the Environmental Sustainable Index and the Environmental Performance Index, are more suited for countries and not easily applicable to cities.
Singapore is one of 193 countries that are party to the CBD, which was formed in 1993. The main goals of the CBD are to conserve biological diversity, ensure sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and share the benefits of genetic resources. Initially held annually, the COP has met every two years since 1996 to discuss and make decisions in order to achieve the goals of the convention. At the COP in 2008, held in Bonn, Germany, Tan proposed the idea of establishing a City Biodiversity Index under the guidance of the CBD.
The effort to develop the index was a collaboration between Singapore’s National Parks Board and an international UN task force of experts on cities and biodiversity. The team was made up of 17 international experts from London, Germany, Stockholm, the UN, the CBD, and Dr Lena Chan of NParks. From 2009, experiments were carried out as the index was developed. Over 30 cities around the world contributed towards its formulation and development by participating in various stages of tests. The results of these tests were subsequently used to further refine and improve the index.
The Singapore Index was finalised in October 2010. Tan presented the index at the COP in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, at a high-level segment of the conference. The index was formally adopted and implemented as part of the plan of action.
The Singapore Index has a total of 25 indices that look at three main components: native biodiversity, ecosystem services, and governance and management of biodiversity.
Native biodiversity consists of 11 indicators including natural and semi-natural areas, the diversity of ecosystems, fragmentation and five different native species, among others. Plants, birds and butterflies are set categories among the five different native species, leaving individual cities to identify another two native species most applicable to them.
The ecosystem services index has a total of five indicators: freshwater services, carbon storage, recreation and education services, area of parks and activities against population, and number of educational visits to parks or nature reserves per year.
The governance and management index refers to the policies and plans made with regards to biodiversity. There are a total of 9 indicators under governance including outreach programmes, budget set aside for biodiversity projects, education and collaboration with companies and charities.
Singapore attained a score of 80 out of 100 in a preliminary test of the index, indicating that it fared well in terms of governance, but could improve in the area of ecosystem services. Freshwater supplies were highlighted as an area for improvement.
The index is intended as a positive indication of the biodiversity conservation efforts of cities and aims to highlight areas in which these efforts can be improved. Cities are not ranked based on the results of the index.
May 2008 : National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan proposes the idea of the Singapore City Biodiversity Index at the 9th Conference of Parties in Germany.
Feb 2009 : NParks and the Secretariat of the CBD holds the first expert workshop on the development of the index.
Jun 2009 : The index is presented at an international forum for the first time.
Nov 2009 : The user’s manual on the Index is posted on the CBD website.
Jan 2010 : Tan and the CEO of NParks promote the index at the 2nd Curitiba Meeting on Cities and Biodiversity.
Mar 2010 : The index is introduced at the East Asia Summit High Level Seminar on Environmentally Sustainable Cities meeting.
Apr 2010 : The ASEAN workshop on City Biodiversity Index is held.
May 2010 : The Urban Biodiversity and Design 2010 conference is held in Nagoya, Japan.
Jun 2010 : The World Cities Summit 2010 is held in Singapore.
Jul 2010 : The 2nd Expert Workshop is held on the development of the City Biodiversity Index.
Oct 2010 : The City Biodiversity Index is endorsed at the COP in Nagoya, Japan.
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The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.