As humanity depends on biodiversity for prosperity and health, governments must accelerate action on protecting nature
G20 members can help the world realise an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity agenda. Hesitating and staying on the sidelines are not options.
Two key points underpin the urgency, which the G20 environment ministers recognised this summer:
First, the loss and decline of biodiversity impact us all.
Our health, well-being, development and resilience depend on biodiversity. The more we take a systems approach, the more we can visualise how biodiversity links inextricably to post–COVID-19 recovery plans, health and disease prevention, food security, equality, climate action, and so many other critical sustainable human development issues.
Our economies are embedded in natural systems and depend on the flow of ecosystem goods and services, including food, raw materials, pollination, water filtration and climate regulation.
Our societies are also connected to nature. Hundreds of millions of people rely on nature for the air we breathe, the food we eat, the medicines we need, the jobs for our well-being or survival, and value it as a significant cultural heritage and not as a free-for-all resource to plunder.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s “Biodiversity: Finance and the Economic and Business Case for Action”, nature’s services are worth $125–140 trillion annually – more than 1.5 times the global gross domestic product. More than half of the world’s total GDP, or $44 trillion, involves activities that depend moderately or heavily on nature.
Thus, those in businesses, finance and the economy are central in shifting their operations from nature negative to nature positive. Identifying and disclosing their dependencies and impacts on nature and associated risks are critical to achieving this.
I am pleased to see recent key initiatives, including the Task Force on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, which I co-chair with David Craig. The engagement of – and with – the finance sector bodes well.
Protect biodiversity, protect people
Connections between human well-being and the health of our ecosystems are also extensive. COVID-19 provides evidence of habitat encroachment resulting in zoonotic diseases that can overwhelm our societies, economies and health systems. We must protect biodiversity to protect ourselves.
Second, putting biodiversity on a path to recovery is the defining challenge of our time. This decisive moment requires change.
In reaching the 2050 Vision of Living in Harmony with Nature, we must look to global and domestic leadership for integrated, ambitious transformation.
Science points to the changes for a sustainable and equitable future, but we need strong political will to make biodiversity a long-term interest for all. The prospects and benefits for people, planet and prosperity also need to be strongly communicated and fully understood.
“Global Biodiversity Outlook” outlines eight transitions to slow, then halt nature’s accelerating decline, and move our societies into a more sustainable co-existence with nature. These involve:
• Land and forests
• Sustainable freshwater
• Sustainable fisheries and oceans
• Sustainable agriculture
• Sustainable food systems
• Cities and infrastructure
• Sustainable climate action, and the
• Biodiversity-inclusive One Health approach with people, animals and the environment.
Governments can accelerate the collective action necessary to reduce the negative impacts on biodiversity, typically outside the environmental sector; assess the impacts, dependencies and values associated with biodiversity within national planning and budgeting; and redesign financial incentives and policies for a whole-of-government approach.
Biodiversity must be valued in decision-making, at all levels, and accounted for as a sustainability priority. This is critical to improve our collective public and private responsibility to efficiently use and provide access to the goods and services that biodiversity provides.
The post-2020 global biodiversity framework provides a decisive direction for our collective action. The G20 environment ministers’ declaration represents a strong message of support. It was most welcome to see their willingness to champion efforts for all parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to adopt and implement an ambitious, balanced, practical, effective and robust framework.
The specific calls for measures to facilitate the transformation needed to achieve the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity are right on target. I look forward to seeing G20 leaders encourage and support responsibility, transparency – including enhanced reporting – and the implementation of enhanced support mechanisms.
Some G20 members and other countries support the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and the voluntary commitments to ensure that at least 30% of land and 30% of the global ocean are conserved or protected through well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective conservation measures by 2030. I applaud these voluntary commitments. I encourage others to make similar ambitious commitments.
We have a momentous opportunity to set the highest level of political ambition to reduce and reverse biodiversity loss, and safeguard its invaluable contributions to people and planet, ensuring that the benefits are shared fairly and equitably, and the necessary resources and tools are mobilised to reach our 2050 Vision. Let’s seize it.