UN report on global biodiversity: Not a single goal achieved

UN report on global biodiversity: Not a single goal achieved

The Convention on Biological Diversity shows how bad it is when it comes to protecting species. She is proposing broad transformations for the follow-up agreement.

The UN Decade of Biodiversity is coming to an end – but the international community has failed to stop the dramatic loss of the diversity of life. None of the twenty goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity for the period from 2011 to 2020 were achieved in full, six of them at least partially. That is the sobering result of the fifth report on the diversity of species, genes and ecosystems, the “Global Biodiversity Outlook”, which was published by the United Nations on Tuesday.

“Humanity is at a crossroads,” it says. “The loss of biodiversity and its causes are proceeding at an unprecedented rate.” If nothing changes, the UN goals for sustainable development will not be achieved either – with fatal consequences for nature and people. The report is considered the flagship of the Biodiversity Convention.

It is no surprise that the targets set in 2010 were not achieved by this year’s deadline. The last UN biodiversity report from 2014 had already shown that the globally implemented endeavors to protect species are nowhere near enough. The report of the World Biodiversity Council IPBES, published in 2019, also made it alarmingly clear that the diversity of life on earth is acutely threatened.

The current “Global Biodiversity Outlook” nevertheless emphasizes some bright spots. The area of the protected areas on land and in the sea has increased to 15 and 7 percent respectively, the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol against biopiracy has started, and with 85 percent the vast majority of the 196 signatory states have updated their national biodiversity strategies.

Environmental associations and NGOs criticize, however, that the national goals mostly lag behind those of the Biodiversity Convention and are not consistently implemented. Nicola Uhde, an expert on international biodiversity policy at the German NGO BUND, finds it appalling how meager progress has been made.

It is to be welcomed that awareness of biodiversity is increasing, that more money is being spent on nature conservation, and that species such as the bald ibis and the Iberian lynx are being saved from extinction. “But in view of the million endangered species, that is by far not enough,” says Uhde. The fact that less forest has been cut down, as the report praises, is also due to the fact that there are now fewer of them.

The report is also a basis and an appeal to make better use of the next decade and not just to rely on the environment ministries. Axel Paulsch from the Institute for Biodiversity sees a novelty in the eight transformation areas listed at the end of the document. They are designed to show what needs to be done to reverse the trend.

“That is more concrete than before and could help to shape the goals for the next ten years more effectively,” said Paulsch.

A follow-up agreement is in progress for species protection after 2020. However, corona has led to delays.
Negotiations between the states are currently ongoing as far as the pandemic allows. Experts now assume that the date for the decisive summit in China will be postponed again. It will probably not be ready until October 2021.

It will not only be about species and nature conservation in the classic sense. Mareike Imken from the NGO Save.
Our Seeds, for example, has a focus on the risks of new genetic engineering methods for biodiversity. She campaigns against so-called gene drive technology – a new method of genetic engineering that is intended to manipulate the genetic makeup of wild species in the future.

Among other things, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wants to use these to eradicate malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. In the meantime, international CBD precautionary measures exist, according to which such a thing should only happen with a prior environmental risk assessment and with the consent of the local population.

“However, it has not been conclusively researched how far-reaching possible environmental damage will be,” warns Imken.

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