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Tackling alarming decline in nature needs a ‘safety net’ of multiple, ambitious goals, say researchers

27 October 2020

Birds

A ‘safety net’ made up of multiple, interlinked and ambitious goals is needed to tackle nature’s alarming decline, concludes a large international team of researchers analysing the new goals for nature being drafted by the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity.

The scientific advice comes at a critical time: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently announced that none of its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 has been reached. Policymakers, scientists and country negotiators are now preparing for the next generation of biodiversity goals for 2030 and 2050, to be enshrined by their 15th Convention of the Parties in 2021.

The new paper, published in the journal Science and led by Earth Commission experts, outlines the scientific basis for redesigning this new set of biodiversity goals.To reach the road to recovery, ecosystems, species, genetic diversity and nature’s contributions to people all need distinct goals, and these goals need to be woven together into a safety net and set at a high level of ambition.

The researchers of this study, a group of more than 60 leading biodiversity experts from 26 countries, assessed these draft goals and asked what is the scientific evidence supporting them, how these goals reinforce or undermine each other, and whether one aspect of nature could serve as a shortcut for others.

The result is an independent, scientifically grounded, unprecedentedly comprehensive assessment.

“We hope this is a useful tool in the CBD negotiations on a new strategy for nature and people,” says Professor Mike Bruford, one of the authors of the report and Cardiff Universities Dean of Environmental Sustainability

According to the scientists three points are critical for nations to take into account when setting the new biodiversity goals:

Firstly, a single goal for nature, based on a single facet, for example, focused only on species extinctions, or ecosystem area, similar to the ”below 2°C” target for climate, is risky. Multiple, distinct goals are needed for ecosystems, species, genes and nature’s contributions to people to make sure none of them falls through the gaps

Secondly, as the facets of nature are interlinked and affect each other for better or worse, the goals must be defined and delivered holistically, not in isolation.

Thirdly, only the highest level of ambition for setting each goal, and implementing all goals in an integrated manner, will give a realistic chance of “bending” the curve of nature’s decline by 2050.

The paper concludes that unless the different facets are contemplated together, and unless the ambitions are set very high for each of them, there is very little chance to transition to a better and fairer future for all life on Earth by 2050.

To help crystallise these general recommendations, the authors have produced a checklist of key science-based points that negotiators could have handy during the upcoming negotiations of the final text of the new biodiversity goals.

Building a sufficiently ambitious safety net for nature will be a major global challenge, but unless we do it, we are leaving huge problems for every future generation.

Professor Mike Bruford Dean for Environmental Sustainability, Co-director Sustainable Places Research Institute

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