Ensuring sustainable use of biological resources requires first and foremost the recognition of the fact that renewable resources must be exploited in ways that allow them to maintain their productive capacity and protective function. The stock of non-renewable resources will of course decrease when exploited, but market economy and scientific development can meet problems of shortages by promoting new technologies, recycling and conservation. Sustainable development does not mean zero economic growth, it represents growth within the bounds set by the need to maintain the environmental capital, it means changing the signals given to economic decision makers.
Changing these signals means changing prices and using the market. The state controls should be restricted to the setting of maximum total levels of pollution, whereas the market forces should be given every opportunity to employ the economically most effective technology to produce goods and services in an ecologically sustainable manner. To achieve this it is necessary to ensure that prices reflect the true value of the environmental assets used up or damaged in the production of goods and services. Environmental fees and taxes – i.e. a tax on the use of non-renewable and/or polluting energy – should be collected according to the principle that the polluter pays.
According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 'biological resources' includes genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic component of ecosystems with actual or potential use or value for humanity. 'Sustainable use' means the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biological diversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.
The Earth's biological resources are vital to humanity's economic and social development. As a result, there is a growing recognition that biological diversity is a global asset of tremendous value to present and future generations. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been so great as it is today. Species extinction caused by human activities continues at an alarming rate.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends establishing, expanding and managing protected area systems as appropriate to each national context, including systems of conservation units for their environmental, social and spiritual functions and values. Such protected area systems would include: conservation of forests in representative ecological systems and landscapes; primary old-growth forests; conservation and management of wildlife; nomination of World Heritage Sites under the World Heritage Convention; conservation of genetic resources. In situ, ex situ and supportive measures would be undertaken to ensure sustainable utilization of biological resources and conservation of biological diversity and the traditional forest habitats of indigenous people, forest dwellers and local communities.
According to the Convention on Biodiversity Conservation, sustainable use of components of biodiversity is to be implemented by the following actions: (a) Integrate consideration of the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources into national decision-making; (b) Adopt measures relating to the use of biological resources to avoid or minimize adverse impacts on biological diversity; (c) Protect and encourage customary use of biological resources in accordance with traditional cultural practices that are compatible with conservation or sustainable use requirements; (d) Support local populations to develop and implement remedial action in degraded areas where biological diversity has been reduced; and (e) Encourage cooperation between its governmental authorities and its private sector in developing methods for sustainable use of biological resources.
The European Biodiversity Strategy considers the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the horizontal areas of a) conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, b) sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources, c) research, identification, monitoring and exchange of information and d) education, training and awareness. For these areas, the strategy sets 46 objectives aiming at conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity outside of protected areas. Some of the objectives proposed include the promotion of eco-labeling schemes based on life cycle analysis for products whose production, distribution, use or disposal could affect biodiversity, and the focus on contributing to the social and economic viability of systems supporting biodiversity as well as to the removal of incentives with perverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
In the Fifth Framework Programme of the European Commission, biological diversity appears as a strategic block of principles, concepts and elements forming the basis for the sustainable use and development of European agriculture, forestry, fishery, tourism and related industrial sectors. Millions of people within the EU today obtain their livelihood from these biodiversity- related sectors. The biological diversity of Europe and other parts of the world still provides partly unexplored potential for the development of crops, livestock, medicines and bio-technology products that can be used sustainably and create additional employment.