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Bullet policy · Sep 28, 2020

Global Biodiversity Goals Not Being Met, Says UN Report

A new report from the United Nations (UN) concludes that the world has not met any of the targets set 10 years ago by the Convention on Biological Diversity for protecting nature.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, published by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on September 15, 2020, serves as a final report card on progress on the 20 global biodiversity targets, known as the Aichi biodiversity targets, established in 2010 with a ten year deadline. The report found that despite some progress, natural habitats have continued to shrink, large numbers of species remain threatened by extinction from human activities, and environmentally harmful government subsidies have not been eradicated.

Although none of the 20 targets have been fully achieved, six targets have been partially achieved, including those related to protected areas and invasive species. Protected areas have increased substantially from 10 percent to at least 15 percent terrestrially, and from 3 percent to 7 percent of the ocean. These figures, however, are still short of the targets of 17 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Forty-four percent of key biodiversity areas are now protected, compared with 29 percent 20 years ago. Good progress has been made on identifying, prioritizing, and eradicating invasive alien species. The rate of deforestation has fallen globally by about a third compared to the previous decade. On average, countries report that more than a third of all national targets are on track to be met.

The report found that although the use of fertilizers and pesticides has stabilized globally, biodiversity continues to decline in landscapes used to produce food and timber. Food and agricultural production remains among the main drivers of global biodiversity loss. Furthermore, despite the recent rate of deforestation being lower than the previous decade, deforestation may be accelerating again in some areas. “Loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitats remains high in forest and other biomes, especially in the most biodiversity-rich ecosystems in tropical regions,” the report states. “Wilderness areas and global wetlands continue to decline. Fragmentation of rivers remains a critical threat to freshwater biodiversity.”

$500 billion in harmful government subsidies for agriculture, fossil fuels, and fishing are particularly of concern. “We are still seeing so much more public money invested in things that harm biodiversity than in things that support biodiversity,” said David Cooper, lead author of the report and Deputy Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The report calls for moving away from “business as usual” across a range of human activities, including agriculture and industry. It emphasizes the need to bring biodiversity into mainstream decision making and policies across all economic sectors.