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Part 3: Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 – Pathways to 2050

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Context - Given the importance of the subject and the amount of facts on the subjects these Highlights of the GBO5 report are divided into three separate parts:

Part 1: Highlights the context of the Convention and its objectives and the present global status of biodiversity

Part 2: Highlights the results of past & present action plans, objectives, actions and means at the horizon 2030

Part 3: Highlights of the pathways to the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity

This is a faithful summary of the leading report produced in 2020 by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): " Global Biodiversity Outlook 5" 

  • Source document:CBD (2020)
  • Summary & Details: GreenFacts
Latest update: 29 July 2021

1. What are the main pathways to the 2050 Vision for biodiversity identified?

The review of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets makes clear that continuing with ‘business as usual’ will put the Vision for Biodiversity out of reach, with serious consequences not only for biodiversity, but also for the sustainable development goals.

In this context, the 5 main pathways to the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity include:

  1. Departing from business as usual and achieving the transformative changes;
  2. Transitions to living in harmony with nature;
  3. Sustainable management of freshwater, fisheries, agriculture, cities;
  4. Climate change management;
  5. Biodiversity including the One Health transition.

A study by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency designed two contrasting, ambitious global conservation strategies and evaluated their ability to restore terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity, and to provide ecosystem services while also mitigating climate change and ensuring food security.

  • The first strategy, entitled ‘Half Earth’ prioritizes protection of nature for its own sake;
  • The second strategy, entitled ‘Sharing the Planet’ prioritize conservation measures that support and enhance provision of ecosystem services and nature’s contributions to people, favouring landscapes that are a mosaic of patches of natural habitat and agriculture.

While not suggesting a single, ‘ideal’ approach to achieving maximum conservation gains, these strategies help to demonstrate the considerations that can inform decisions on biodiversity based on global, regional, national and local priorities.

Scenarios that involve bold conservation and restoration efforts enable a future pathway in which the essential components of the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity may be realized, but only if coupled with simultaneous measures to transform the current food system, thus addressing the underlying drivers of further conversion of habitats to meet food demand.

2. What is the importance of actions towards freshwater systems?

An estimated 1.8 billion people are likely to live under conditions of regional water stress by 2050. Many inland water and coastal ecosystems are threatened by eutrophication due to excess run-off of soil and nutrients from terrestrial areas, especially from agricultural areas and degraded ecosystems (see Aichi Biodiversity Target 8).

The current rate of wetland loss is three times that of forest loss with an estimated 30% of natural freshwater ecosystems disappearing since 1970. The flows of water and nutrients are important in maintaining the overall health of the ecosystem, and many species depend on connectivity for their migration and reproduction.

Safeguarding freshwater ecosystems and the services they provide needs coordination of upstream-downstream water allocations to maintain healthy ecosystems, while taking socio-economic and cultural objectives into consideration. Innovative approaches in this direction have been successfully implemented in different contexts and regions across the world.

3. What is the importance of the evolution of food systems?

Enabling sustainable and healthy diets with a greater emphasis on a diversity of foods, mostly plant-based, and more moderate consumption of meat and fish, as well as dramatic cuts in the waste involved in food supply and consumption.

Healthy diets are underpinned by biodiversity: a diversity of species, varieties and breeds, as well as wild sources (fish, plants, bush meat, insects and fungi) provide a range of nutrient.

Currently, some 30% of food produced is not consumed, either because it does not reach the markets and rots (the predominant cause of losses in developing countries), or because it is not eaten and is thrown away (the predominant cause of losses in developed countries). Reducing food losses and waste would bring substantial benefits with few negative trade-offs.

4. What is the relation between future biodiversity and human health challenges?

Services provided by ecosystems include food, clean air, and both the quantity and quality of fresh water, medicines, spiritual and cultural values, climate regulation, pest and disease regulation, and disaster risk reduction – each of which has a fundamental influence on human health, both mental and physical.

At a more intimate level, the human microbiota – the symbiotic microbial communities present in the gut, respiratory and urogenital tracts and on skin – contribute to nutrition, can help regulate the immune system and prevent infections.

Biodiversity is thus a key environmental determinant of human health, and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity can benefit human health by maintaining ecosystem services and options for the future.

Essential principles of a biodiversity-inclusive approach to One Health are that it should consider all dimensions of health and human wellbeing:

  • Enhance resilience of socio-ecological systems to prioritize prevention; apply the ecosystem approach ;
  • Be participatory and inclusive; be cross-sectorial, multinational, and transdisciplinary;
  • Operate across spatial and temporal scales;
  • Promote social justice and gender equality.
  • Reduce disease risk by conserving and restoring ecosystems ;
  • Promote sustainable, legal and safe use of wildlife;
  • Promote sustainable and safe agriculture, including crop and livestock production and aquaculture;
  • Create healthy cities and landscapes;
  • Promote healthy diets as a component of sustainable consumption;

These actions are mutually supportive, and also support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the goals relating to health, equity, and ensuring gender equality.

5. What are the essential steps to really achieve the required transformative changes?

An effective approach to sustainability involves better understanding the common factors that can influence fundamental changes in institutions, governance, values and behaviour, essential to bringing about the transitions described in this Outlook.

Rather than being an obstacle that needs to be balanced with the needs of socio-economic development, biodiversity is foundational to sustainable development.

The IPBES Global Assessment has identified eight priority points for intervention, or leverage points, with five associated ‘levers’ that may be applied by leaders in government, business, civil society and academia to spark transformative changes towards a more just and sustainable world.

As nations evaluate options on how to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a unique opportunity to initiate the transformative changes needed to achieve the 2050 Vision of living in harmony with nature.

Such actions would put biodiversity on a path to recovery, reduce the risk of future pandemics, and produce multiple additional benefits for people.

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