Ambitious and interlinked goals are needed to protect biodiversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently announced that none of its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 has been fully reached. A ‘safety net’ made up of multiple interlinked goals is needed to tackle nature’s decline. This is according to research of a large international team of researchers, including professor Environmental Geography Peter Verburg at VU Amsterdam, that analysed the new biodiversity goals currently being set by the United Nations.

10/22/2020 | 9:00 PM

Aichi Biodiversity Targets not reached
Unprecedented fires, rainforests turned into monocultures and overfished oceans add up to a shocking and unsustainable loss of nature. Despite this threat to nature, the CBD biodiversity goals countries have set to halt the decline (including both the area of nature, the species and the contribution to people) have largely failed. A paper published today in the scientific journal Science outlines how to design the next generation of biodiversity goals. 

A team of researchers, led by the Earth Commission, assessed the drafted goals for 2030 and 2050 that will be set in 2021. The authors argue that unless the different biodiversity goals are contemplated together, and unless the ambitions are set very high for each of them, there is very little chance to transition to a better and fairer future for all life on Earth by 2050. “We hope that this paper will contribute to countries adopting ambitious goals and defining a new strategy to better live in harmony with nature” says Verburg, co-author of the paper. 

Advice for the new biodiversity goals
According to the team of researchers, which consists of more than 60 biodiversity experts from 26 countries, three points are critical when setting the new biodiversity goals. Firstly, a goal for nature based on a single facet, such as the 1.5 degree increase in temperature agreed in Paris for the protection of nature, is risky. Secondly, as the facets of nature are interlinked and affect each other, the goals must be defined and delivered holistically, not in isolation. Thirdly, they argue that only the highest level of ambition for setting each goal, and implementing all goals in an integrated manner, will give a realistic chance of “bending” the curve of nature’s decline by 2050. By bringing together their expertise, the authors have prepared a consistent set of goals that should be sufficient to achieve this ambition.

Consider social and political issues
The authors have explicitly focused on the biological aspects. They have not evaluated economic or political consequences of the goals but highlight that not considering social and political issues when implementing actions would be a recipe for failure. “Building a sufficiently ambitious safety net for nature will be a major global challenge”, said Verburg, “but, it is feasible to do so if we are willing to. If we do not do this, we are leaving huge problems for future generations.” To help crystallise these general recommendations, the authors have produced a checklist of key science-based points that negotiators (such as policymakers and scientists) could have handy during the upcoming negotiations of the final text of the new biodiversity goals.