Healthy, biodiverse ecosystems sustain life on Earth by providing air, water and other essential elements. From forests to farmlands to oceans, the planet’s ecosystems are the basis of resources, services and industries.
Despite the value nature provides, it is being degraded at catastrophic rates. According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 75 percent of the Earth’s land and 66 percent of its oceans have been altered by human activity and many essential ecosystem services are eroding. The rate of global change in nature over the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history.
Nature loss has far-reaching consequences. Damaged ecosystems exacerbate climate change by releasing carbon instead of storing it. Rampant development is putting animals and humans in closer contact increasing the risk of diseases like COVID-19 to spread. A recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report found that about 60 percent of human infections are estimated to have an animal origin.
To address these issues, government leaders from around the world will convene in Kunming, China later this year for the UN Biodiversity Conference (also known as the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, or COP-15). They are set to agree upon new goals for nature through the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
“This year’s UN Biodiversity Conference is an opportunity to strike a landmark agreement to guide global actions through 2030 to achieve a nature-positive world, one where society halts and reverses the loss of biodiversity. The world needs to take concrete steps to shift our unsustainable consumption and production patterns to ones that allow both people and the planet to thrive,” said Doreen Robinson, UNEP’s Head of Biodiversity and Land.
In the lead up to the event, negotiators met in Geneva, Switzerland for two weeks in March. While a final agreement will not be adopted until world leaders reconvene later this year in Kunming, the Geneva meetings were critical for negotiations on establishing goals and targets that will end up in the final agreement and for supporting the enabling conditions to implement the framework, including financial resources, capacity building, monitoring and accountability systems and other areas.
We spoke to Robinson, who attended the Geneva meetings on behalf of UNEP, about the key elements needed to ensure a robust Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
Adopting an ambitious agreement for nature action
First and foremost, the conference later this year needs to culminate in countries finalizing negotiations and adopting an inclusive post-2020 framework. The current draft framework includes 21 action targets to be completed by 2030.
Effective protection of lands and oceans
A successful agreement would include effective conservation and management of more of our land, inland waters and oceans. The draft framework currently includes a target to conserve and protect significant areas of land and sea globally. Such targets are only meaningful when they are backed by capacity and resources to implement.
Sustainable use and equitable benefit sharing
Biodiversity sustains all life on earth. Humanity needs to integrate sustainability with economic development and ensure the sustainable use of nature, as well as improvements in equitable sharing of benefits, which can provide strong incentives for conservation while continuing to provide for the well-being of people.
Protecting and restoring ecosystems
Humanity is using the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to maintain our way of life and ecosystems cannot keep up. Preventing large-scale ecosystem collapse and nature loss will require restoration as well as conservation efforts. Target 2 of the draft agreement aims to ensure a significant portion of degraded ecosystems are under restoration.
Engaging all actors
The wellbeing of the planet depends on everyone coming together for nature, including the private sector, civil society, indigenous peoples, local communities and individuals. The participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in decision-making processes related to nature is especially important, as well as the engagement of women, girls and youth.
Closing the finance gap and aligning financial flows
According to UNEP’s State of Finance for Nature Report, the world needs to close a USD 4.1 trillion financing gap in nature by 2050. The current G20 investments in nature amount only to USD 133 billion. The world must close the financing gap, align trillions of dollars in financial flows with nature, and ensure that nature enters into economic and financial decision making.
Delivering the post-2020 framework
Urgent action will be needed to implement the framework at the scale required. An ambitious agreement should include an equally robust implementation plan. Commitments will need to be backed by policy and legislation. Financing, capacity building and technical support for nature will need to be ramped up significantly.