Unguided (unregulated) individual and collective use of natural resources has threatened the sustainability of the environment and biodiversity. Intensive use of resources has been encouraged by policies and strategies primarily concerned with enhancing growth rates and economic development and many countries have benefited from the conversion of natural ecosystems to human-dominated ones and the exploitation of biodiversity. However, such policies have been neither efficient nor equitable in addressing poverty and its manifestations, and have resulted in unequal development between the North and the South, as well as within nation-states. Furthermore, the continued erosion of the resource base, on which development depends, proceeds unabated. With an increasing population in the midst of poverty, urbanization, and industrialization, the path to development for the South is beset by powerful drivers causing and contributing to the persistence of major environmental issues. The poor often depend directly on natural resources and functioning ecosystem services for their livelihoods. At the same time, they are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards, such as floods, droughts, and landslides. Poverty-environment linkages need to be addressed in efforts to eradicate this situation and effective conservation and use of biodiversity cannot avoid this.
Improving environmental governance to create an enabling environment for resolving poverty-environment concerns and enhancing the asset base of the poor can expand sustainable livelihoods and reduce vulnerability.