Biodiversity in grave danger: What can be done in 2020?

Taking action to stem biodiversity loss was the focus of several events, reports and activities in January—important reminders that 2020, the “Super Year” for nature, is a real opportunity to stop and indeed reverse ecological devastation.

While all the data is telling us that the planet is heating up at an unsustainable rate, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, warns that “humanity will have given up on planet Earth if world leaders cannot reach an agreement this year to stop the mass extinction of wildlife and destruction of life-supporting ecosystems.”

Mrema was discussing a key challenge before global leaders this year: how to better plan and implement measures to avert biodiversity loss and put development on a sustainable pathway in the coming decade.

The “zero draft text” of the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 global biodiversity framework was released to the public on 13 January 2020.

“The document starts the conversation towards a new and ambitious plan for nature for the next 10 years and beyond,” says Max Gomera, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) expert.

“It was written taking into account views and information gathered at consultations held around the world. The plan allows a wide variety of organizations, people and institutions to participate in building a future of life in harmony with nature. It also proposes a strong framework to monitor and keep track of how the world is meeting its obligations.”

After a series of working group sessions throughout the year, the final adoption is planned for the end of October 2020 in Kunming, China.

The need for urgent action was reinforced in a widely-read World Economic Forum report titled Nature Risk Rising: Why the Crisis Engulfing Nature Matters for Business and the Economy.

For the first time in the survey’s history, it lists the top five risks as all environmental:

  • extreme weather events
  • failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • major natural disasters
  • major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
  • human-made environmental damage and disasters

And it pulls no punches when discussing the impact of biodiversity losses: “The current rate of extinction is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years—and it is accelerating. Biodiversity loss has critical implications for humanity, from the collapse of food and health systems to the disruption of entire supply chains.”

A recent hopeful sign of changing global attitudes is the call by Members of the European Parliament for binding targets at the global and European Union level.

A resolution adopted by a show of hands called on negotiators taking part in the Kunming drafting process to put together legally binding targets with timelines, performance indicators and reporting mechanisms based on common standards.

The European Union parliament wants the bloc to lead by example by ensuring that at least 30 per cent of its territory consists of natural areas; by restoring degraded ecosystems by 2030; by taking biodiversity objectives into account in all EU policies; and by earmarking a minimum of 10 per cent of the 2021–2027 long-term budget for efforts to improve biodiversity.