Global warning on biodiversity

© iStock / Alexis Gonzalez
© iStock / Alexis Gonzalez

The fifth edition of the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook report, published by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), warns that action on biodiversity is essential to prevent future pandemics.

The latest biodiversity report was released ahead of a UN Summit on Biodiversity that took place at the end of September. Under the CBD, countries had agreed a set of 20 biodiversity targets to reach by 2020, after which a global biodiversity framework is due to be created. However, the goals have not been achieved.

The latest report is seen as particularly significant because it is the “final report card” for the biodiversity targets. In it, the authors stress that nearly all countries are now taking some steps to protect biodiversity.

The document notes falling rates of deforestation, the eradication of invasive alien species, and raised awareness of biodiversity and its importance. However, this positive news does not offset a worsening situation.

For example, funding is far below levels needed, and the hundreds of billions of dollars required are dwarfed by the amounts spent on activities harmful to biodiversity.

The report also highlights disparity between freshwater and marine biodiversity, with only 4% of bilateral biodiversity-related overseas development assistance (ODA) addressing marine biodiversity, with the remainder spent on terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity.

Pressures on biodiversity will reduce nature’s contributions to people, compromising its role in regulating water quality and reducing coastal risk. Up to five billion people face increased water pollution under future scenarios of land use and climate change, the report predicts, particularly in Africa and South Asia. “Hundreds of millions” face increased coastal risk in Africa, Eurasia and the Americas.

Efforts to restore biodiversity need to be scaled up, the report says, including restoration of coastal and inland waters. A range of proposals for stepping up protection has been put forward, and the report emphasises the need to take account of potential negative impacts on food security if areas protected or restored add further pressure on the land available for food production.

An emphasis on improving biodiversity in ‘shared’ landscapes such as farmed land can generate greater gains for services including aquatic biodiversity, the report says. The report is paralleled by the launch of a pledge by the EC and heads of state and government from more than 60 countries to reverse nature loss by the end of the decade as part of the UN Decade of Action to Achieve Sustainable Development.