UN Biodiversity Targets Report Card: Incomplete at Best

Convention on Biological Diversity GB05 Press Conference September 15, 2020

Yesterday the United Nations released another in its series of assessments on meeting global conservation targets, this one is a final report card on whether the world achieved the 20 global biodiversity targets set in 2010 with a 2020 deadline.  “If this were a school and these were tests, the world has flunked, said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.  The report concludes that governments must scale up national ambitions in order to achieve a new target of 30% of nature protected by 2030 and leaders must bring biodiversity into the mainstream of decision making and factor it into policies across all economic sectors.

Why This Matters:  The report is another loudly ringing alarm bell that our current path is unsustainable — and we need to make a huge shift away from “business as usual” across a range of human activities.  As Dr. Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer in Residence put it, “This new report just confirms that we’re unplugging our life support system at a faster pace than ever…The science is clear: we can start fixing the wrongs of the past by agreeing to protect at least 30% of our planet by 2030.”

Eight Urgently Needed Transitions

The report outlines eight transitions that recognize the value of biodiversity, the need to restore the ecosystems on which all human activity depends, and the urgency of reducing the negative impacts of such activity:
  1. The land and forests transition: conserving intact ecosystems, restoring ecosystems, combatting and reversing degradation, and employing landscape level spatial planning to avoid, reduce and mitigate land-use change.”
  2. “The sustainable agriculture transition: redesigning agricultural systems through agroecological and other innovative approaches to enhance productivity while minimizing negative impacts on biodiversity.”
  3. The sustainable food systems transition: enabling sustainable and healthy diets with a greater emphasis on a diversity of foods, mostly plant-based, and more moderate consumption of meat and fish, as well as dramatic cuts in the waste involved in food supply and consumption.”
  4. “The sustainable fisheries and oceans transition: protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems, rebuilding fisheries and managing aquaculture and other uses of the oceans to ensure sustainability, and to enhance food security and livelihoods.”
  5. The cities and infrastructure transition: deploying “green infrastructure” and making space for nature within built landscapes to improve the health and quality of life for citizens and to reduce the environmental footprint of cities and infrastructure.”
  6. The sustainable freshwater transition: an integrated approach guaranteeing the water flows required by nature and people, improving water quality, protecting critical habitats, controlling invasive species and safeguarding connectivity to allow the recovery of freshwater systems from mountains to coasts.”
  7. The sustainable climate action transition: employing nature-based solutions, alongside a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use, to reduce the scale and impacts of climate change, while providing positive benefits for biodiversity and other sustainable development goals.”
  8. The biodiversity-inclusive One Health transition: managing ecosystems, including agricultural and urban ecosystems, as well as the use of wildlife, through an integrated approach, to promote healthy ecosystems and healthy people.”

Dr. Sala explained the urgency and the opportunity we have to make these transitions now, saying “The Covid-19 pandemic is the loudest wake-up call we’ve had on how we’re all connected to all other creatures on Earth, and that our health – our own survival – depends on having a healthy natural world.”

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