In ‘final report card,’ world fails to meet biodiversity goals, says UN

In 2010, global leaders set 20 goals for preserving biodiversity worldwide in the decade ahead. Today, none of the targets has been met fully and only six are even partially achieved, said the United Nations in “a final report card” on the effort. “Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate,” said the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 report, “and the pressures driving the decline are intensifying.” Still, the UN said, “it is not too late to slow, halt, and reverse current trends.”

The report from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) pointed to the potential for devastating diseases, such as the coronavirus, to spread among humans and animals as stress increases on natural systems.

“The window of time available is short, but the pandemic has also demonstrated that transformative changes are possible when they must be made,” said CBD executive secretary Elizabeth Mrema. “This flagship report underlines that ‘humanity stands at a crossroads with regard to the legacy we wish to leave to future generations.’ ”

Reports from countries around the world “reveal examples of progress which, if scaled up, could support the transformative changes necessary to achieve the 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature,” said the Biodiversity Outlook.

Eight “transitions” away from business-as-usual human activities would help restore the ecosystems that make life possible, said the report. They include the conservation and restoration of land and forests; using agro-ecological and other innovative approaches to enhance food production while minimizing the harmful impacts on biodiversity; and rebuilding fisheries and managing marine production to enhance food security.

Another of the goals, a transition to sustainable food systems, envisions healthy diets that emphasize a variety of foods, mostly from plants, and more moderate consumption of meat and fish. It also calls for dramatically reducing food waste.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said the “transitions” presented a chance for the world to “build back better” as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. “Part of this new agenda must be to tackle the twin global challenges of climate change and biodiversity in a more coordinated manner, understanding both that climate change threatens to undermine all other efforts to preserve biodiversity, and that nature itself offers some of the most effective solutions to avoid the worst impacts of a warming planet,” he said.