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Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 - Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

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Context - In 2002, the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a target: reduce the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

That target was missed, and a new set of targets for 2020 were adopted.

How far along are we to reach those targets of biodiversity conservation?

This is a faithful summary of the leading report produced in 2014 by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): "Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 - Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity " 

  • Source document:CBD (2014)
  • Summary & Details: GreenFacts
Latest update: 6 November 2017

Introduction: What is biodiversity and why is it so important?

Biodiversity is the expression of variability among living organisms. This includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems. Biodiversity forms the foundation of the resilience of ecosystems and thus of the vast array of ecosystem services that critically contribute to human well-being, not the least of which are food and clean water.

What is Global Biodiversity Outlook?

In 2002, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a target to reduce significantly the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. To monitor progress towards this target, the CBD has produced a series of such Global Biodiversity Outlook reports.

The Third Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), published in 2010, presented some stark messages for the global community: the target had been missed.

In 2010, the Conference of Parties of the CBD adopted a new set of targets for 2020 with a vision for a world where biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used in order to maintain ecosystem services, sustain a healthy planet and deliver benefits essential for all people. This Global Biodiversity Outlook is the fourth in the series of global assessments of the state of biodiversity, which evaluated in 2014 the progress made at midterm towards these targets for 2020.

How much progress has been made to meet the Biodiversity Targets for 2020?

The general progress that is seen across all targets is similar to the situation that was described in the 2010 report: there is an increase in the response to biodiversity issues. Nevertheless, based on current trends, pressures on biodiversity will continue to increase at least until 2020, and its general status will continue to decline except maybe towards conserving at least 17 % of terrestrial and inland water areas.

Even if significant progress towards meeting some components of the majority of the 20 Biodiversity Targets set to be reached by 2020 are on track to be met, the mid-term report on the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 suggested that in most cases progress was not sufficient overall to achieve the other targets set for 2020.

How much progress has been made to meet the five specific strategic goals on biodiversity and their associated targets?

A “Target dashboard" was build to summarize the progress towards each of the 20 targets, broken down into their components, including a level of confidence based on the available evidence.

3.1 Regarding Strategic goal 1: The underlying causes of the loss of biodiversity:

  • Public awareness of biodiversity and its importance appears to be increasing (Target 1);
  • The value of biodiversity is being incorporated into the planning and accounting of countries (Target 2);
  • There is a shift towards incentives for conserving biodiversity (Target 3); even if governments continue to provide subsidies harmful to biodiversity;
  • Natural resources are being used much more efficiently, but our increased levels of consumption overwhelm this. (Target 4).

3.2 Regarding Strategic goal 2: Actions to reduce the pressure on biodiversity:

  • Loss of forests has been significantly slowed down in some regions. However, habitats of all types continue to be fragmented and degraded (Target 5).
  • Overfishing continues to be a major problem, although an increasing number of fisheries are certified as sustainable (Target 6).
  • Increased certified forestry and adoption of good agricultural practices lead to more sustainable production even if unsustainable practices still cause environmental degradation and biodiversity loss (Target 7).
  • Nutrient (fertilizers) pollution has stabilized in parts of Europe and North America but is projected to increase in other regions. Other forms of pollution such as from chemicals, pesticides, and plastics, are increasing (Target 8).
  • Governments are taking steps to control and eradicate invasive alien species. However the overall rate of invasions shows no sign of slowing. (Target 9).
  • Multiple pressures on coral reefs continue to increase. Less information is available regarding other ecosystems (Target 10).

3.3 Regarding Strategic goal 3: Safeguarding ecosystems:

  • While the objective of conserving 17 per cent of terrestrial areas by 2020 is likely to be met, many critical sites are poorly conserved and inadequate management of protected areas remains widespread. (Target 11)
  • Risk of extinction for birds, mammals and amphibians is still increasing (Target 12).
  • Genetic diversity of domesticated livestock is eroding. (Target 13).

3.4 Regarding Strategic goal 4: Enhancing the benefits of ecosystem services:

  • Habitats important for ecosystem services continue to be lost and degraded (Target 14).
  • Restoration is under way for some depleted or degraded ecosystems (wetlands and forests). (Target 15).
  • New opportunities were opened for the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resource (Target 16) through the Nagoya Protocol entered into force in 2014.

3.5 Regarding Strategic goal 5: Facilitating the implementation of the Plan for Biodiversity:

  • National biodiversity strategies and action plans were expected to be in place for most Parties by 2015 (Target 17).
  • The declining trend of traditional knowledge is only reversed in some places through growing interest in traditional cultures and involvement of local communities (Target 18).
  • Data and information on biodiversity are being shared much more widely, but a lot of data and information remain inaccessible (Target 19).
  • Further efforts will be needed to significantly increase the financial resources for effective implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 (Target 20).

How can biodiversity challenges be overcome?

The main challenges regarding biodiversity for the future are:

  • Climate change as a major driver of biodiversity loss and ecosystem change by 2050;
  • Demand for fertile land, which is projected to increase substantially by 2050;
  • Wild fisheries, which are likely to collapse, and aquaculture, which is foreseen to dominate fish production by 2050;
  • Water scarcity foreseen to increase in many regions of the globe by 2050.

It is indeed important to realize that it is the combinations of the drivers of these challenges that could push some systems beyond tipping points at regional scales by 2050. Success stories have indeed demonstrated that effective actions come from simultaneously addressing multiple causes of biodiversity loss through monitoring and data analysis, changing economic incentives, applying market pressures, enforcing rules and regulations, and involving indigenous, local communities and stakeholders.

Scenarios for 2050 indicate that very substantial changes from business-as-usual trends are thus needed in order to meet three key global objectives: slow and then stop the loss of biodiversity; keep average global temperature increases below 2°C; attain other human development goals. It is in this context that the mid-term report on the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 suggested that, 2014, the majority of these targets were still considered as achievable.

What are the main conclusions of this 4th Biodiversity Report?

Ecosystem services essential for human wellbeing in providing food, water, energy and other benefits all depend on the ecological processes of functioning ecosystems, which are underpinned by biodiversity. While we all depend in different ways on biodiversity, poor and vulnerable people generally rely more directly on biodiversity than others because of their limited ability to purchase alternatives. However, there are often choices to be made between the delivery of one kind of service over another. Management decisions that favour the provision of agricultural goods, for example, may do so at the expense of maintaining regulating services (such as pollination, for instance).

In this context, some key messages come from the analysis for GBO-4 on the issue of sustainable development:

  • Biodiversity and ecosystem services can contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction. Equally, biodiversity loss has negative consequences for society, and action to reduce pressures on biodiversity can support a broad range of societal benefits.
  • Meeting the Aichi1 Biodiversity Targets would help achieve goals for other global development priorities including poverty, hunger, health, and a sustainable supply of clean energy, food and water.
  • The current sustainable development agenda provides an opportunity to bring biodiversity into the mainstream of the broader development agenda.

This Outlook provides a timely reminder that continuing with ‘business as usual’ in our present patterns of behaviour, consumption, production and economic incentives will not allow to keep a world with ecosystems capable of meeting human needs into the future. Therefore, reaching the objectives requires changes in society, including much more efficient use of land, water, energy and materials, rethinking our consumption habits and in particular major transformations of food systems.

Reaching the 20 "Aichi" Biodiversity Targets would contribute significantly to broader global priorities: reducing hunger and poverty, improving human health, ensuring a sustainable supply of energy, food and clean water, contributing to climate-change mitigation and adaptation, combating desertification and land degradation, and reducing vulnerability to disasters.

Actions to achieve the various Biodiversity Targets should be undertaken in a global, coherent and coordinated manner; it means that the individual Targets should not be addressed in isolation. Also, an overall substantial increase funding related to biodiversity projects is needed for implementing and reaching the targets set for 2020.

1 Named from a japanese city


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