In September 2018, at the One Planet Summit in New York, French president Emmanuel Macron announced that biodiversity will be one of the three priorities of France’s 2019 G7, along with oceans and climate change. Putting nature at the heart of economic and social development comes naturally: our natural system underpins our social and economic systems. The solution for many of the world’s economic, security and social challenges lies in biodiversity. Better conservation and management of biodiversity are thus essential for sustaining our societies and economies.
Achieving a sustainable food future through improving soils and increasing agricultural productivity is a priority of Argentina’s G20 presidency. Biodiversity is key to achieving this aspiration. Maintaining soil biodiversity is crucial for soil quality and productivity. Natural pollinators, such as wild bees, enhance agricultural productivity. Nature-based techniques, including organic pest control, contribute significantly to the sustainable intensification of agriculture. And the genetic resources that underlie our food production are so important that countries adopted the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to promote sustainable agriculture and food security.
Halting biodiversity decline will also support climate change objectives, another Argentinian G20 priority, with nature-based options potentially providing one third of the global climate solutions by 2030. Ecosystems are essential for storing and absorbing carbon and help protect against the effects of climate change. Healthy mangroves are effective against storm surges – an important ecosystem service given the increased climate variability and associated risk of extreme weather events stemming from climate change. Moreover, deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing biodiversity loss is key to achieving the twin goals of climate and biodiversity action.
In 2010, the 196 parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted the ambitious Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, with the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets. These aim to enhance successful outcomes for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, while guiding target-setting on national and regional scales. Many of these targets are reflected in the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals. However, despite some progress since 2010, the world continues to lose biodiversity at unprecedented levels.
The human effect
In 2018, the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report listed ecological collapse and biodiversity loss among the top-10 risks in terms of impact. Although humans represent just 0.01% of all life on the planet, our impact has caused the loss of half of the world’s plants and 83% of all wild mammals.
Seeking incremental change while continuing business as usual is not an option. To protect ourselves from a future severely affected by ecosystem disruptions, we must shift to a paradigm based on conserving and sustainably using biodiversity. Overhauling how we produce, consume and interact with nature and shifting to an economy ‘within planetary boundaries’ are key to our survival and well-being on the planet.
Given that biodiversity and natural ecosystems provide the essential infrastructure supporting human development and life, biodiversity must be at the centre of all economic and social projects, and at the heart of political decision-making. We cannot halt the biodiversity crisis by working in isolation, cocooned in specialised bubbles that do not interact. The complex interdependencies among human, social and economic systems and the Earth’s natural systems require interconnected measures and solutions.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution can help mitigate and reverse the Anthropocene’s effects, but only if technological change is inclusive and contributes to social integration and fair access and distribution of benefits – other G20 priorities. Therefore, pursuing the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the goals of Argentina’s G20 go hand in hand.
The strategic plan will expire in 2020, and the CBD parties have embarked on a transparent, inclusive process for developing a post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The roadmap for this process will be adopted at the Conference of the Parties in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in November 2018, with a view to adopting the new global biodiversity framework in Beijing in 2020. As the end of the first 25 years of action under the CBD approaches, the global community has a unique opportunity to define the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and design a ‘New Deal for Humanity’ and our relationship to nature.
I count on the G20 leadership to give biodiversity the attention needed to address pressing economic, social and cultural priorities, and engage in developing a transformative post-2020 biodiversity framework whose ambition is commensurate with the urgency of the matter. Together, as one global community ‘United for Nature’, we can transform the way we relate with biodiversity – because nature is the foundation of our societies and our economies.