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Outlook for biodiversity depends on transformative change

15 September 2020
Monkey At Unep Nairobi Wm (1)


by Hilary Allison, Head of Ecosystem Assessment and Policy Support at UNEP-WCMC 

The UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO-5), published today, underlines the high stakes for humanity in protecting our one and only planet, and identifies various success stories and pathways to conserve and use nature, ecosystems and nature’s contributions to people. 

Information and insights

But why do we need another report? Surely there is enough evidence to confirm that the world is moving rapidly towards failures in our planetary life support system, despite many solutions being available to address the crisis?

Science doesn’t stand still, and new information provides better insights. GBO-5 summarises the highest quality global science prepared by IPBES, countries’ own reports on progress, new research, and other recent reports and assessments from other bodies and stakeholders. As such, this report provides an overview of the best available scientific underpinnings for the post 2020 global biodiversity framework to be agreed at the next UN Biodiversity Conference in 2021.

So what does the Outlook tell us? It provides a report card on the twenty Aichi Biodiversity Targets agreed in 2010. The report looks at the achievements, the shortfalls, and outlines a series of eight transitions to reach the refreshed 2030 global biodiversity goals and the 2050 Vision.

Changes since the fourth Global Biodiversity Outlook in 2014

GBO-5 confirms that none of the Aichi Targets will be fully met though six have been partly achieved. The bright spots remain, such as the global expansion of protected areas on land and in the oceans, the growth in biodiversity information and knowledge, ratification of the Nagoya Protocol, adoption of national policies on access and benefit sharing, compliance in developing national biodiversity strategies and plans, and in resource allocation to biodiversity action.

Concerningly, there is insufficient progress towards many targets on bringing biodiversity into the mainstream of decision making, on reducing the threats to biodiversity (including from deforestation, overfishing, pollution), on wider patterns of consumption and production, and on species extinctions and restoration of degraded ecosystems. Even more alarming is the growing distance from achieving targets around reducing the impacts of climate change on global ecosystems and protection of genetic diversity.

The overall conclusion is that progress since 2014 has been insufficient, also undermining progress towards the SDGs.

Nonetheless there are two important changes in the development of the GBO that have occurred in the past six years.

Firstly, great efforts in foresight and analysis of future options using scenarios and models have led to better articulation of pathways to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in recently published papers. GBO-5 outlines the transitions required in lands and forests, freshwater, fisheries and oceans, agriculture, food systems, cities and infrastructure, climate action, and biodiversity inclusive One Health. It includes examples which, if replicated, scaled up, and supported by economy-wide measures, would ‘bend the curve’ of biodiversity loss and support progress toward living in harmony with nature by 2050. It argues that stepping up efforts to conserve biodiversity, tackling climate change, addressing the remaining pressures on biodiversity and transforming how goods and services are procured, consumed and traded can support necessary transformative change.

Secondly, the experience of having a fluid and lengthy set of potential indicators which have limited the ability to track progress on many of the targets has stimulated an exciting and lively dialogue on co-development of goals, targets and indicators as part of a more structured monitoring and accountability framework to accompany the new global biodiversity plan. This will allow much clearer and more timely information to be available from the start of the new plan.

Alongside GBO-5, Local Biodiversity Outlooks-2 is also being launched which provides examples of many local initiatives being led by indigenous peoples and local communities that have contributed significantly to the successful implementation of the goals and targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, and which offers complementary perspectives on the future for biodiversity action based on indigenous and local knowledge. 

The decade ahead

GBO-5 provides crucial lessons from the last ten years. The next decade is a crucial window for tackling the global nature crisis, during which time the world will need to change course if we are to realise a vision of living in harmony with nature, and achieve the SDGs. The delivery of an ambitious and measurable global biodiversity framework in 2021 will be key.

UNEP-WCMC has supported the development of GBO-5, and all previous GBOs, and will continue to provide a key role in supporting and tracking progress on the goals and targets to be adopted in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.