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This comment is submitted by the BLC and EMS Foundation in response to the draft National Biodiversity Economy Strategy published under Government Notice 4492 in Government Gazette 50279 of 8 March 2024 (NBES).

We hope that our comments will be constructively considered when making a decision on whether and/or how to proceed with the NBES. We request that once the DFFE has reviewed all comments, that a comments and responses table be made publicly available, evidencing the manner in which all Stakeholders’ comments were evaluated and analysed by the DFFE.

We have crossed the ecological ceiling where nature is declining. Biodiversity is being lost at an unprecedented rate and our extractive, wasteful, and polluting linear economy is increasingly recognised as one of the main underlying causes of this crisis. Today, more than 90% of biodiversity loss is due to the extraction and processing of natural resources. To halt and reverse biodiversity loss, we need to fundamentally transform the way we produce, use, and consume. This is not only a practical necessity, but embedded in the constitutional obligation on the State to secure ecologically sustainable use of natural resources, and everyone’s concomitant right to have natural resources used only in an ecologically sustainable manner for purposes of fulfilling the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

The Constitutional Court has confirmed that no developmental activity can be built, or survive, on a “deteriorating environmental base”.91 Biodiversity is critical to this base, and has risen to the top of the global agenda as the planet faces its sixth mass extinction. The IPBES has argued that global biodiversity loss can only be tackled through transformative economic, social, political, and technological changes.

As we have demonstrated, the NBES falls short of such transformational approaches – including those which promote inclusivity, equity and societal wellbeing. Moreover, it fails to satisfy the constitutional obligation to “secure ecologically sustainable use of natural resources” and is inconsistent with existing biodiversity policy, including the White Paper and the Policy Position.

Critically, the NBES is removed from South Africa’s legal understanding of the inter- relationship between environmental protection, animal well-being, conservation and the values of dignity, compassion and humaneness which are foundational to our constitutional democracy. For any strategy pertaining to ecologically sustainable use to pass constitutional muster, it must be premised on a sound understanding of this framework – and the collection of ideas framed as “Actions” in the NBES do not do so.

Accordingly, we request that the NBES is withdrawn, amended substantially and made subject to widespread and meaningful consultation to bring it in line with the constitutional imperative of “securing ecologically sustainable use.”

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