Without nature there is no economy. Businesses and other actors around the world are finally becoming aware of this. But politicians, especially global leaders, are not sufficiently addressing the issue and taking the necessary policy action.
Increasing biodiversity is seen as the main weapon in the fight against global warming, as it also means protecting natural carbon sinks. Failure to do so will release huge amounts of greenhouse gases and the goal of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be quickly lost. At the same time, they protect the world's ecosystems and the diverse life within them.
Everywhere you look, there are signs of biodiversity loss. Planet Earth is currently experiencing its sixth mass extinction, the first caused by human activity.
The main causes are land, water (oceans and freshwater) and energy use, i.e. the unsustainable use of fossil fuels, and climate change is exacerbating the process. Other problems, such as overexploitation of species, pollution and the spread of invasive non-native species, are also contributing in this direction.
On the International Union for Conservation of Nature's "Red List", 28% of the world's more than 150,000 species of terrestrial, freshwater and marine plants, animals and fungi are classified as threatened, critically endangered, endangered or threatened with extinction. This represents 42 000 species. And that's not including the many species that are not being monitored; especially many insects.
The Earth's wildlife population has declined by an average of 69 percent in just 50 years. Even if the destruction were to end now, it is estimated that it would take seven million years for the natural world to recover.
The UN Conference on Biodiversity is the most important meeting on biodiversity. Most recently held in December 2022, participants agreed on a series of actions they consider key to addressing the dangerous loss of biodiversity and restoring natural ecosystems. This is the so-called "Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework" (GBF), which sets out four goals and 23 targets to be achieved by the end of the decade.
The global targets for 2030 include:
- Effective conservation and management of at least 30% of the world's land, inland waters, coastal areas and oceans, with a particular focus on areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and services. The GBF will prioritise ecologically representative, well-connected and equitably managed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation systems, recognising indigenous and traditional sites and practices. Currently, 17% and 10% of the world's terrestrial and marine areas respectively are protected.
- Restoration of at least 30% of degraded terrestrial, inland, coastal and marine ecosystems is complete or underway.
- Reduce the loss of areas of high biodiversity importance, including ecosystems with high ecological integrity, to near zero.
- Halving global food waste and significantly reducing overconsumption and waste production.
- Halve both excess nutrients and the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals.
- Prevent the introduction of priority invasive alien species and reduce by at least half the introduction and establishment of other known or potential invasive alien species, and eradicate or contain invasive alien species on islands and other priority areas.
- Requiring large and transnational companies and financial institutions to monitor, assess and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity through their operations, supply and value chains and portfolios.
Without such measures, the global rate of species extinction will continue to accelerate in the future, exacerbating other problems that go hand in hand with it, see for example our previous post on the link between biodiversity loss and the spread of zoonotic diseases.