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Nature is the backbone for maintaining and restoring our balance within planetary boundaries. And yet, are we doing enough to fully ensure that commitments made to conserving and restoring nature are realised through real on the ground actions?
That question may now be moot. The time for discussion is nearing its end. All signs point to concrete action being needed now. No more business-as-usual, because frankly, inaction is not an option.
Several recent reports reflect our stark reality. According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on Biodiversity and Climate Change: 77% of land (excluding Antarctica) and 87% of the area of the ocean have been modified by the direct effects of human activities. These changes are associated with the loss of 83% of wild mammal biomass, and half that of plants. Human induced land degradation is pushing the planet towards a sixth mass species extinction and costing more than 10% of the annual global gross product in loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The cost of inaction, estimated to rise to at least USD 14 trillion by 2050, is staggering.
Our economies are highly dependent on nature and its ecosystem services. Over half the world’s total GDP - equivalent to USD 44 trillion of economic value generation - is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and, as a result, exposed to risks from nature loss. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are already disproportionally affecting marginalised populations. The cost of inaction, estimated to rise to at least USD 14 trillion – 7% of global GDP – by 2050, is staggering.
Thus, raising our ambition for nature is not a choice, but an essential requirement for securing our health and that of the planet.
This was further underscored in last year’s fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5) which accentuated the urgent need to act now to slow and end further biodiversity loss to address climate change, long-term food security, and health. As set out in GBO-5, a portfolio of actions are needed involving transformative change in the way humans manage the planet. These include scaling up conservation and restoration; action on climate change and other direct drivers of biodiversity loss; changes in production and consumption patterns across all sectors, particularly food and agriculture.
The framework provides a strategic vision and a global roadmap for the conservation, protection, restoration, and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems.
Agreeing a post-2020 global biodiversity framework can play a significant role in building the necessary resilience as identified by the IPBES and GBO-5 reports. Due for adoption at the 15th meeting of the CBD’s Conference of the Parties (COP15) in Kunming, China, the post-2020 framework provides a strategic vision and a global roadmap for the conservation, protection, restoration, and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems.
A rural Afghan shepherd herds his flock
Photo: Amber Clay, Pixabay
The framework’s first draft, released in July 2021, recognises that urgent policy action globally, regionally, and nationally is required to transform economic, social, and financial models so the trends that have exacerbated biodiversity loss will stabilise by 2030 and allow for the recovery of natural ecosystems, with net improvements by 2050.
The framework includes 21 targets for 2030 that call for, among other things:
- Ensure that at least 30% globally of land areas and of sea areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and its contributions to people, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes;
- A 50% greater reduction in the rate of introduction of invasive alien species, and controls or eradication of such species to eliminate or reduce their impacts;
- Reducing nutrients lost to the environment by at least half, and pesticides by at least two-thirds, and eliminating the discharge of plastic waste;
- Nature-based contributions to global climate change mitigation efforts of least 10 GtCO2e per year, and that all mitigation and adaptation efforts avoid negative impacts on biodiversity;
- Redirecting, repurposing, reforming or eliminating incentives harmful for biodiversity, in a just and equitable way, reducing them by at least USD 500 billion per year;
- A USD 200 billion increase in international financial flows from all sources.
The post-2020 framework builds on lessons learned with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets. The Aichi Targets, though six were partially achieved, proved that ambition alone is not enough.
The Aichi Targets proved that ambition alone is not enough.
To be successful, an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed; which the framework embodies through its whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach.
Consequently, the framework’s theory of change assumes that transformative actions are taken to: put in place tools and solutions for implementation and mainstreaming; reduce the threats to biodiversity and ensure that biodiversity is used sustainably to meet people’s needs; that these actions are supported by enabling conditions and adequate means of implementation, including financial resources, capacity, and technology.
It also assumes that progress is monitored in a transparent and accountable manner with adequate stocktaking exercises to ensure that by 2030 the world is on a path to reach the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. The theory of change for the framework acknowledges the need for appropriate recognition of gender equality, women’s empowerment, youth, gender-responsive approaches and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in the implementation of this framework.
Morning mist in the mountain forests; Alishan, Taiwan
Photo: Y_C_LO, Pixabay
But for the post-2020 framework to succeed, where the Strategic Plan did not, requires the buy-in not only from environment ministers, but across government departments. Furthermore, it requires ambitious policies and actions from subnational governments, cities, and local authorities; many of which have pledged their support under the Edinburgh Declaration.
Indigenous peoples and local communities, businesses, and the financial sector all play a key part in the transformation to a nature-positive future.
We must also look beyond the usual suspects – indigenous peoples and local communities, businesses, and the financial sector all play a key part in the transformation to a nature-positive future. Civil society, in particular, will continue to play an important role in the process both in terms of developing and then implementing the framework.
Thus, it is critical, as noted by Inger Anderson, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, that we stop thinking in silos. Biodiversity loss, the global climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic – these issues are all linked and are symptoms of our unhealthy, unsustainable relationship with nature.
Accordingly, Target 14 of the first draft envisages actions to: ‘Fully integrate biodiversity values into policies, regulations, planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies, accounts, and assessments of environmental impacts at all levels of government and across all sectors of the economy, ensuring that all activities and financial flows are aligned with biodiversity values.’
But we must walk the walk. To achieve our mutual goals, we need real actions and transformation on the ground. This transformation can only be achieved through cross sectoral landscape approaches, by decoupling environmental degradation from economic pressures, by setting the right incentives, unlocking and reorienting finance, ensuring accountability and, finally, by empowering a global movement.
This cannot be achieved by conservationists alone. We are in this together and we must ensure that voices from all sectors are heard.
Wildebeest migrate across Kenya’s Maasai Mara
Photo: kabir patel, Pixabay
However, this vision cannot be achieved by one country, one ministry or one economic sector alone. Our transformative actions must not only be guided by science but they need to cut across the commitments made under different conventions, engage different socio-economic sectors, include the voices of indigenous peoples and local communities, women, and youth; and ultimately foster partnerships to help us: rapidly decarbonise the global economy, halt biodiversity loss and prepare for the uncertainties of climate change; while also restoring and sustainably managing our ecosystems.
The IUCN World Conservation Congress recognises that improving the way we manage our natural environment for human, social and economic development cannot be achieved by conservationists alone. We are in this together and we must ensure that voices from all sectors are heard. That is part of the recipe for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, which represents our best hope for achieving a life in harmony with nature.