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A place for nature at the High-Level Political Forum

07 July 2020
Screenshot 2020 07 06 At 20.56.17


by Federica Pesce, Junior Professional Officer - Agenda 2030 for sustainable development | Ecosystem Assessment and Policy Support

As the UN’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2020 gets underway this week there is growing momentum to put biodiversity at the heart of sustainable development.

The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed our complex relationship with nature. Most emerging infectious diseases are driven by human activities such as agricultural intensification, wildlife use and misuse, and human-induced landscape changes, which can disrupt the balance of nature.

Biodiversity underpins 14 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, a recent study showed that only 20% of the countries analysed mention biodiversity as a national priority for sustainable development in their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of their progress towards the SDGs.

The study conducted by the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) considered 30 VNRs presented before the HLPF between 2017-2019 and found that only half of the sampled countries reported on how they reflect biodiversity in national SDG implementation and review processes.

There is much progress to be made, but there are also many positive examples to draw on where countries are integrating biodiversity into their wider sustainable development strategies.

Biodiversity is the foundation of sustainable development

The SDGs are integrated and indivisible, and advancing the implementation of biodiversity-related goals and targets will increase overall success in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda has so far been insufficient. According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), current negative trends in biodiversity loss and ecosystems degradation will significantly undermine the achievement of 80% of the SDG targets related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land.

The 2020 High-Level Political Forum

This week, the sustainable development community prepares to take stock of progress across the 2030 Agenda at the High-Level Political Forum. More effort is needed to accelerate action in the next decade, including the restoration of ecosystems and integrating nature in strategies to achieve the SDGs.

There are some inspiring examples of how to integrate biodiversity in the voluntary national reports submitted to date:

Many countries now recognise the economic value of biodiversity:

Though less explicit in most of the analysed VNRs, human-nature interlinkages are also identified:

Moreover, healthy ecosystems are often recognised as the basis for a healthier environment:

A place for nature

While our analysis shows that VNRs are beginning to reflect the integration of biodiversity into national reporting on progress towards the 2030 Agenda, there is more to be done to provide tools that enable all actors to address our impacts and dependencies on nature. For example, by improving data and reporting, multi-stakeholder engagement, and policy coherence, countries can strengthen their understanding of nature-human interlinkages and the use of nature-based solutions for sustainable development.

As 12 of the 21 SDG targets with a 2020 end date depend on biodiversity, this year’s HLPF will be an important moment to take stock of the progress achieved and renew global commitments.

If we are to tackle the global nature crisis, the international community will have to heed the dramatic warnings – from the harrowing human impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the devastation caused by wildfires worldwide – and seize the opportunity to set the world on track to a more sustainable future.