Transformative changes needed to safeguard nature: UN

Despite encouraging progress in several areas, the natural world is suffering badly and getting worse, and is in urgent need for transformative changes to ensure human wellbeing and saving the planet, the United Nations warned in a major report.

The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO-5) by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), comes at a time COVID-19 pandemic challenges people to rethink their relationship with nature. It comes at a time when people consider the profound consequences to their own wellbeing and survival that can result from continued biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystems.

The GBO-5 a final report card on progress against the 20 global biodiversity targets agreed in 2010 with a 2020 deadline, and offers lessons learned and best practices for getting on track.

Rate of biodiversity loss was unprecedented in human history

CBD Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema said that the report underline that ‘humanity stands at a crossroads with regard to the legacy we wish to leave to future generations’. Noting that the rate of biodiversity loss was unprecedented in human history, Mrema said “earth’s living systems as a whole are being compromised. And the more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own wellbeing, security and prosperity.”

With respect to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, set in 2010, the analysis based on the 6th set of national reports to the CBD and the latest scientific findings shows that seven of 60 “elements” — success criteria — within the 20 targets have been achieved and 38 show progress. In the case of 13 elements, no progress was made, or a move away from the target was indicated, and for two elements the level of progress is unknown. The report concludes that, overall, of the 20 targets, six of them (9, 11, 16, 17, 19 and 20) were partially achieved by the 2020 deadline.

Meanwhile UNEP director Inger Andersen said that conserving, restoring and using biodiversity fairly and sustainably should be encouraged. “If we do not, biodiversity will continue to buckle under the weight of land- and sea-use change, overexploitation, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species. This will further damage human health, economies and societies – with particularly detrimental effects on indigenous peoples and local communities,” she said.

“If we build on what has already been achieved, and place biodiversity at the heart of all our policies and decisions – including in COVID-19 recovery packages – we can ensure a better future for our societies and the planet.” The UNEP director said.

The GBO5 report has also included several exemplary national actions and programmes that had added to the well being of the Nature. It pointed out that deforestation rates continued to fall, eradication of invasive alien species from islands was increasing and awareness of biodiversity appeared to be increasing.

Shift from business as usual

The report has called for a shift away from “business as usual” across a range of human activities. It outlines eight transitions that recognize the value of biodiversity, the need to restore the ecosystems on which all human activity depends, and the urgency of reducing the negative impacts of such activity:

  • The land and forests transition: conserving intact ecosystems, restoring ecosystems, combatting and reversing degradation, and employing landscape level spatial planning to avoid, reduce and mitigate land-use change
  • The sustainable agriculture transition: redesigning agricultural systems through agroecological and other innovative approaches to enhance productivity while minimizing negative impacts on biodiversity
  • The sustainable food systems transition: enabling sustainable and healthy diets with a greater emphasis on a diversity of foods, mostly plant-based, and more moderate consumption of meat and fish, as well as dramatic cuts in the waste involved in food supply and consumption
  • The sustainable fisheries and oceans transition: protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems, rebuilding fisheries and managing aquaculture and other uses of the oceans to ensure sustainability, and to enhance food security and livelihoods
  • The cities and infrastructure transition: deploying “green infrastructure” and making space for nature within built landscapes to improve the health and quality of life for citizens and to reduce the environmental footprint of cities and infrastructure
  • The sustainable freshwater transition: an integrated approach guaranteeing the water flows required by nature and people, improving water quality, protecting critical habitats, controlling invasive species and safeguarding connectivity to allow the recovery of freshwater systems from mountains to coasts
  • The sustainable climate action transition: employing nature-based solutions, alongside a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use, to reduce the scale and impacts of climate change, while providing positive benefits for biodiversity and other sustainable development goals
  • The biodiversity-inclusive One Health transition: managing ecosystems, including agricultural and urban ecosystems, as well as the use of wildlife, through an integrated approach, to promote healthy ecosystems and healthy people.

 

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