Biodiversity is declining faster now than at any other time in human history, but as we approach COP15, there are opportunities for leadership, dedication and transformative change
It is no secret that humankind’s past actions have accelerated the deterioration of ecosystems, negatively affecting our economies, societies and cultures. If we continue on our current trajectory, biodiversity and the services it provides will continue to decline, jeopardising the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Sadly, around one million species are currently at risk of extinction. The decline in biodiversity is expected to accelerate further unless effective action addresses the underlying causes of biodiversity loss. These causes are often justified by societal values, norms and behaviour. Some examples include unsustainable production and consumption patterns, human population dynamics and trends, and technological innovation patterns.
With biodiversity declining faster now than at any other time in human history, our quality of life, our well-being and our economies are under threat. But it is not over. Not yet. We can still bend the curve of biodiversity loss and change the trajectory of our future. We can move to support ecosystem resilience, human well-being and global prosperity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical nature of healthy ecosystems for our quality of life on Earth. Without question, we can no longer live with our heads in the sand. By addressing the root causes of biodiversity loss, we can also reduce the risks of future pandemics, build resilience and safeguards to achieve long-term sustainable development, and so much more. This is a critical precondition of creating an inclusive and sustainable foundation for growth and can be a key theme of the ‘Recover together, recover stronger’ agenda of Indonesia’s G20 presidency.
In harmony with nature
The post-2020 global biodiversity framework, currently being negotiated by parties under the Convention on Biological Diversity, represents a historic opportunity to accelerate action on biodiversity at all levels. It aims to build on the outcomes of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets and achieve the 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature. The draft framework, if adopted and implemented, will put biodiversity on a path to recovery before the end of this decade.
Intense consultations and Open-ended Working Group meetings have brought the process to a critical stage. Although progress has been made, extensive work still needs to be done in order to achieve agreement at the 15th CBD conference of the parties in December. Consensus has been reached on two targets, leaving 20 targets that require more work – in most cases significantly more – to reach an agreement.
Political momentum and leadership
The next two months, leading up to the fifth meeting of the Working Group and of COP15, are critical. They require continued leadership and dedication from all parties and stakeholders. Several intersessional processes are now under way to open channels of communication and collaboration among negotiators on the framework as a whole, as well as on critical issues such as finance and resource mobilisation, digital sequencing information, and others. Vigorous and constructive engagement of negotiators is necessary and can be supported by strong political signals and the commitments of political leaders, including G20 leaders in Bali.
Our experience with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its Aichi Targets tells a cautionary tale. Not one of the global Aichi Biodiversity Targets was fully met, largely due to implementation deficits. This, in turn, threatened the achievement of the SDGs and undermined efforts to address climate change. We must go beyond a strong, agreed-upon text. Its effective implementation will be decisive. G20 leaders will be in a unique position to lead by example and rally the support of other countries to adopt and implement an ambitious post-2020 framework. The leaders in Bali can set the tone for concrete and balanced commitments for strong and effective means of implementation including finance, capacity building, technology transfer and scientific cooperation.
We need to act now to bend the curve and halt and reverse biodiversity loss. COP15 will be a decisive step towards a better and more sustainable future for generations to come.