The world didn’t meet one single biodiversity target set out a decade ago

World leaders have failed to meet a set of important biodiversity goals, meaning ecosystems are still experiencing severe difficulties as a consequence, according to a United Nations report. In fact, not one single biodiversity target has been met ten years after they were proposed. Still, it’s not too late to act, with the UN calling for urgent action and to make major changes before the collapse of the natural world becomes inevitable.

Flickr UNDP

The Global Biodiversity Outlook, published by the Convention of Biological Diversity (CDB), showed the progress the world has made in meeting the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets, which were set 10 years ago with a deadline to meet them by 2020. They are the equivalent to the Paris Agreement on climate change but on biodiversity.

We have now reached the deadline and the world has collectively failed to fully achieve a single goal. If we keep following the same path amid the climate crisis, biodiversity will continue to deteriorate, driven by “unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, population growth and technological developments,” the report said.

The 20 targets are further divided into 60 elements, of which 13 had no progress or moved in the opposite direction. Habitat loss and degradation are still very high, especially in forests and tropical regions. Wetlands are declining and rivers are fragmenting, which represents a threat to freshwater diversity. Pollution is still extensive, with plastic all over the oceans.

But that’s not it. We have entered into the sixth mass extinction, with wildlife populations dropping more than two thirds since 1970 and continuing to decline in the past decade, according to the report. Meanwhile, governments are falling short on the funding to protect biodiversity, spending globally between $78 and $91 billion a year, below the hundreds of billions that are actually needed.

David Cooper, deputy executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity for the UN, said governments have earned a C or D grade for their lack of action. “Whether this is the degradation of forest ecosystems or degradation of rangelands and agricultural ecosystems, the overall situation is continuing to deteriorate,” he told Associated Press.

It’s not all bad news

Of the 20 goals, six have been partially achieved. There are: preventing invasive species, conserving protected areas, access to and sharing benefits from genetic resources, biodiversity strategies and action plans, sharing information, and mobilizing resources. Governments have said a third of national targets are on track to be met.

The number of protected natural areas, both on land and in the sea, has significantly expanded, the report showed, as a result of more conservation measures that have been introduced. At the same time, global deforestation has dropped a third compared to the previous decades and a number of places have successfully eradicated invasive species.

It’s an encouraging list of achievements, which shows it’s possible for governments to take unified actions with concrete results. But it’s nowhere near enough. Urgent action is needed as the devastation of the biodiversity will affect us all, especially indigenous and local communities and the world’s poor and vulnerable, as they rely on nature for their wellbeing

The report outlined eight areas where we need to transition to sustainability. These are land and forests, agriculture, food systems, fisheries and oceans, cities and infrastructure, freshwater, climate action and an integrated global framework. With specific steps laid out for each area. For example, more green spaces in cities and promotion of local food production.

The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated “the link between our treatment of the living world and the emergence of human diseases,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the report. “Stepping up action to safeguard and restore biodiversity, the living fabric of our planet and the foundation of human life and prosperity, is an essential part of this collective effort,” he added.

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