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The lost decade of Biodiversity targets

The UN Biodiversity report was released on Tuesday the 15th, 2020. Like most things in 2020, this was not good news. In fact, the report stated that none of the targets set by the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set a decade ago have been met satisfactorily.

Nature, mountain, biodiversity, plants
Photo by Shawn Appel, Unslplash

New goals have been set for 2050, but the pressure is building up to make change happen at a rapid pace. Biodiversity plays a very important part in achieving the goals set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. It is highlighted in many of the SDG, esp. SDGs 14 (Life Below Water) and 15 (Life on Land), but it is also a key influencer for SDG2 (zero hunger) and SDG 6 (clean water) and permeates into many others too, affecting the good health and wellbeing of people (SDG3) and responsible production and consumption (SDG12).

According to the foreword by Mr. António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations, "Part of this new agenda must be to tackle the twin global challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss in a more coordinated manner, with the understanding that climate change threatens to undermine all efforts to conserve and sustainably manage biodiversity and that nature itself offers some of the most effective solutions to avert the worst impacts of a warming planet."

At the global level none of the 20 targets have been fully achieved, though six targets have been partially achieved. Here's a brief overview of the goals. For a detailed list of targets, click here.

  • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society

  • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use

  • Strategic Goal C: Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity

  • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services

  • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

The bottom line is that we need to live in harmony with nature, respect its resources, and do an extensive, cohesive effort to address the needs of people, nature and climate.

The 'good' news:

These targets were partially achieved, although they cannot be termed as successful:

#9: By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment:

The last decade was fruitfully spent on identifying the risk of invasive alien species. However, very little progress has been made in eradicating them.

#11: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas (1) and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, 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 landscape and seascape:

Although the goal to designate protected areas would likely be achieved, ensuring that they stay protected and equitably managed has been a struggle.

#16: By 2015, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization is in force and operational, consistent with national legislation:

As of July 2020, 126 Parties have ratified the Protocol and 87 of them have some kind of national oversight.

#17: By 2015 each Party has developed, adopted as a policy instrument, and has commenced implementing an effective, participatory and updated national biodiversity strategy and action plan:

By the December 2015, 85% of the Parties to the Convention had some plan in place, although the extent at which these are being adopted is varies wildly.

#19: By 2020, knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity, its values, functioning, status and trends, and the consequences of its loss, are improved, widely shared and transferred, and applied:

Significant progress has been made since 2010 in the generation, sharing and assessment of knowledge and data on biodiversity, but there are information gaps and limited application of available information.

#20: By 2020, at the latest, the mobilization of financial resources for effectively implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 from all sources, and in accordance with the consolidated and agreed process in the Strategy for Resource Mobilization, should increase substantially from the current levels. (Specific targets: to double international financial flows to developing countries; to include biodiversity in national priorities or development plans; to report on domestic spending, needs, gaps, priorities; to prepare national finance plans and assess the multiple values of biodiversity; and to mobilize domestic financial resources.):

Although financial resources available for countries to work on biodiversity challenges have doubled in the last decade, it does not appear enough in relation to the increasing needs and has been limited to very few countries.

These targets seem to have taken the most beating:

#5: By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats (2), including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced:

Deforestation may be accelerating again in some areas. The places with the most bio-diversity are seeing loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitats, threatening the wilderness, wetlands and freshwater.

#10: By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning:

Climate change, acidification and overfishing have substantially affected corals, putting them at high risk. Mountains and polar regions are similarly affected by climate change.

#14: By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable:

Ecosystems cannot serve or contribute to the demands of the population. Poor and vulnerable communities are the most affected. Mammal and bird species responsible for pollination are moving closer to extinction.

In conclusion:

The way things are going, biodiversity and the services and benefits it provides will continue to decline, which will affect all of the Sustainability Development Goals. There is tremendous pressure on land, sea, air, and all the species connected to them to keep up with the demands of the population. Our current trajectory of overproduction and consumption and exploding population growth are affecting indigenous people, the world's poor and vulnerable, and communities closest to rich eco-systems.

We need to scale up our efforts to make steady and strong progress in achieving all the goals. We need to adopt innovative methods to create better agricultural practices, production of energy, goods and services, and limit the consumption of our natural resources. We all need to do better. All these goals, plus the larger Sustainability Development Goals, have a connection between them. We need to make it a top priority to create more nature-based solutions and provide meaningful partnerships to governments, organizations, and communities to create an impactful plan that works towards restoring biodiversity.

Policy: How do we take care of policy? Through the power of money and influence. Effective, scalable change happens at the policy level, when the government, working in conjunction with industries, organizations and communities, sets standards.

People: How do we take care of people? With collective social consciousness. We need commitment from employees to create a good work environment for its workers. We need to eliminate inequalities in people by promoting fair access to education, goods and services, and basic necessities.

Planet: How do we take care of the planet? By practicing mindfulness in thoughts and actions. We need constant innovate to create better products that are sustainable and affordable. Consumers need to educate themselves and change their mindset to buy what is best for them and for the environment, not because it is cheap and convenient.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, concluded in her introduction to the report, "As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, the world is looking for hope that a better greener future can follow in the face of this shocking reminder of the dependency of human societies on a healthy planet to support healthy lives. The decisions facing us at the next UN Biodiversity Conference offer an opportunity to start on the road of building that better greener and sustainable future."

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