Scientists call for interlinked biodiversity goals

26th October 2020

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Karen McAuley

A new set of interlinked and ambitious biodiversity goals is needed to tackle nature's alarming decline, an international team of scientists has warned.

In a new paper, more than 60 leading biodiversity experts from 26 countries argue that ecosystems, species, genetic diversity, and nature's contributions to people all need distinct goals, which must be woven together into a “safety net“ set at a high level of ambition.

They conclude that overarching goals – such as the below 2°C target for climate – are “risky“ for biodiversity, and that a holistic approach is “critical“ for nations setting new goals.

This comes after the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) announced that none of its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020 have been reached, with negotiators now preparing a new set of goals for 2030 and 2050 to be enshrined by the 15th Convention of the Parties in 2021.

“Political will, competing interests, and other implementation challenges have had a major role to play in these past failures,“ said Piero Visconti, co-author and researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. “However, imperfect targets and indicators, as well as insufficient guidance for national implementation of global strategies, were also important factors.

“Our work is a timely contribution to ensure that strategic goals and associated targets and indicators indicate the road that governments, the private sector, and civil society have to take to put nature on a path of recovery.“

The paper's authors argue that three principles are key for successful biodiversity target-setting, the first of which is multiple goals, each corresponding to a major facet of nature.

“Although having one target based solely on ecosystems, species, or nature's contributions to people as a shortcut for the whole of nature might be tempting, the balance of published evidence is against it,“ they write.

Secondly, as the facets of nature are interlinked and affect each other for better or worse, the authors say that goals must be defined and delivered holistically, rather than 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 authors add.

The paper focuses explicitly on biological aspects, and does not evaluate the economic or political consequences of the goals, which the authors argue “would be a recipe for failure“.

Image credit: iStock

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