On the RSV’s Response to the Biodiversity Crisis

by Ms Judith Downes FRSV

This article is drawn from a presentation given at the induction of RSV Fellows on 8 December 2022.

On behalf of the newly appointed Fellows, I’d like to first express our appreciation of the honour of being appointed as Fellows of the Royal Society of Victoria (RSV).

As highlighted by events such as last year’s COP15[1], there is increasing focus on the global biodiversity crisis, highlighting the prescience of the RSV in its development of the report “Towards Conservation and Recovery of Victoria’s Biodiversity[2].

The Society’s report has benefited from the input of many people, including four new Fellows, and we are humbled by the acceptance given to our initial papers, and proud to be named as contributors to the report.

Key to the work this year has been delivering specific recommendations for achievable actions.

Preparation of the report, our June cross-sector forum on biodiversity conservation and recovery, and our participation in the STEM and Society webinar arranged by the Royal Society of Victoria and the Victorian Parliament, have all actively demonstrated one of the recommendations made in the RSV report: that ‘each sector of our society has a role to play’ to prevent further loss, and recovery where we can, of biodiversity.

The 2022 Fellows represent First Nations people, government, academia, and finance & business.

As a representative of the finance & business sector, I know that more work is needed to understand the impact of biodiversity loss.

In March 2022 the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) – a group of central banks, including the Reserve Bank of Australia – noted “nature-related risks, including those associated with biodiversity loss could have significant macroeconomic implications, and that failure to account for, mitigate, and adapt to these implications is a source of risks” for financial stability[3].  While climate scenarios developed by the NGFS were used in the recent work by major Australian banks to model the impact of climate change, I could find no reference to biodiversity loss in the resulting publication from our banking regulator [4].

On the global level, various bodies increasingly emphasise the interplay between climate change and biodiversity loss. The Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures[5] recognises that consideration of biodiversity loss and other nature related issues is new for many businesses, but an important risk that needs consideration, management, and disclosure.  And the Global Risks Report from the World Economic Forum in 2022 listed biodiversity loss as the third most severe risk identified by global executives[6].

While these global bodies are influential and well known, translating their recommendations into action and regulations is a work in progress.  The recognition, management, and mitigation of the increasing risk posed by biodiversity loss is not yet a regular part of risk management, as climate change has become.

There is still work to do to raise awareness of the economic impact of biodiversity loss, and then to manage and reverse this impact. “Towards Conservation and Recovery of Victoria’s Biodiversity” provides recommendations and practical actions to assist us all to contribute to solutions to the existential crisis we currently face.

With the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted at the COP15 summit[7], we now look forward to discussing the recommendations of the Society’s report with leaders from all sectors in Victoria.  And perhaps, hopefully, we will be working with cross-sectoral teams to implement these recommendations for the betterment of all life in our state.

RSV President Rob Gell AM with 2022 RSV Fellow Judith Downes FRSV.

Fellows of the Royal Society of Victoria are appointed “in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the public appreciation of science and expertise in the State of Victoria.”

Judith’s appointment comes in recognition of her outstanding development of the Maths Olympiad program in Victoria for students with high potential, her commitment to promoting positive environmental and social impact practices in the Australia finance sector through leadership of Bank Australia, her business leadership of clean energy and medical diagnostic device companies, and her global leadership in driving the agenda for the Global Alliance for Banking on Values Governing Board Forum.

[1] COP 15: United Nations Biodiversity Conference, Montreal, December 2022

[2] The Royal Society of Victoria 2022. Towards Conservation and Recovery of Victoria’s Biodiversity:  Report for Changemakers.  Melbourne:  The Royal Society of Victoria

[3] See NGFS Statement:  Statement on Nature-Related Financial Risks March 2022 (ngfs.net)

[4] See APRA Information Paper: Climate Vulnerability Assessment Results November 2022 (apra.gov.au)

[5] See TNFD Framework (v0.3) November 2022 (tndf.global)

[6] See WEF Global Risks Report 2022 (weforum.org)

[7] See ‘COP15 ends with landmark biodiversity agreement’