Home » GBO 5 » Level 2

Part 3: Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 – Pathways to 2050

1. What are the main pathways to the GBO 5 identified?

    The review of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets set out in Part II of this Outlook makes clear that based on current trends and progress towards the goals of the Strategic Plan, continuing with ‘business as usual’ will put the Vision for Biodiversity out of reach, with serious consequences not only for the future of biodiversity, but for all of the Sustainable Development Goals and targets for limiting climate change.

    Besides departing from business as usual and achieving the transformative change, realizing the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity depends on a portfolio of actions in the 5 main following areas, each of which is necessary but none on its own sufficient:

    1. Efforts to conserve and restore biodiversity need to be scaled up at all levels using approaches that will depend on local context. These need to combine major increases in the extent and effectiveness of well-connected protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, large-scale restoration of degraded habitats, and improvements in the condition of nature across farmed and urban landscapes as well as inland water bodies, coasts and oceans;

    2. Efforts to keep climate change well below 2°C and close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels are needed to prevent climate impacts from overwhelming all ther actions in support of biodiversity. The conservation and restoration of ecosystems can play a substantial role in this. Such ‘nature-based solutions’ can also be an important part of adaptation to climate change;

    3. Effective steps need to be taken to address all remaining pressures driving biodiversity loss, including invasive alien species, pollution and the unsustainable exploitation of biodiversity especially in marine and inland water ecosystems;

    4. Transformations need to be achieved in the production of goods and services, especially food. This will include adopting agricultural methods that can meet growing global demand while imposing fewer negative impacts on the environment, and reducing the pressure to convert more land to production;

    5. Transformations are similarly needed to limit the demand for increased food production by adopting healthier diets and reducing food waste, and also in limiting the consumption of other material goods and services affecting biodiversity, for example in forestry, energy and provision of fresh water.

    Each of these areas of action relies on very substantial changes and innovations, implemented on a short timescale and involving a wide range of actors at all scales and across all sectors of society.

    In this context, 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 is entitled ‘Half Earth’; it prioritizes protection of nature for its own sake;
    • The second strategy is entitled ‘Sharing the Planet’; it prioritizes 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 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.

    Historical and modelled future trends in four terrestrial biodiversity indicators

    A range of proposals has been put forward for stepping up the protection of land, inland water ecosystems and oceans for nature, and restoration of degraded ecosystems, in ways that greatly increase the ambition of past goals and targets.

    Applying such solutions needs to take account of potential negative impacts on food security if areas protected or restored for nature add further pressure on the land available for food production, thereby driving up prices and potentially leading to significant food shortages.

    Alternative, ambitious approaches to conservation can lead to very different outcomes both for biodiversity and for nature’s contributions to people. For example, while a focus on protecting intact ecosystems can yield the greatest gains for terrestrial biodiversity, an emphasis on improving biodiversity in ‘shared’ landscapes such as farmed land generates greater gains for services such as pest control, erosion control and pollination, as well as for aquatic biodiversity.

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

      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.

      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).

      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.

      Applying environmental flows in practice, policy and law allows a society to build the knowledge, capacities and institutions needed to implement integrated water resource management, and to adapt to climate change. es they provide for nature and humanity is therefore an urgent challenge.

      While overall progress on more sustainable policies and practices relating to freshwater ecosystems has remained low, 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 plantbased, and more moderate consumption of meat and fish, as well as dramatic cuts in the waste involved in food supply and consumption.

        This transition recognizes the potential nutritional benefits from diverse foods and food systems, and the need to reduce demand-driven pressures globally while ensuring food security in all its dimensions.

        Wildlife, from aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, is a critical source of calories, protein and micronutrients such as iron and zinc for more than a billion people. Fish provides more than three billion people with important sources of protein, vitamins and minerals.In addition, biodiversity is essential in food production systems.

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

        More specifically, a dietary pattern higher in plant-based foods (for example vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grains) and lower in animal-based foods (especially red meat) is both healthier (see One Health transition) and gives rise to lower greenhouse gas emissions and land-use change compared to existing diets.

        Furthermore, 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 ecosystems 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.

          There are significant strategic opportunities to integrate the full range of biodiversity-health interlinkages in the application of One Health approaches in a more systematic1, comprehensive and coordinated manner.

          This would not only promote a sustainable, healthy and just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic but would also serve broader health objectives beyond the simple absence of diseases, entail a greater focus on prevention, and strengthen the resilience of social, ecological and economic systems. To date, the One Health approach has been applied mainly to address issues of food safety, the control of zoonoses, and combatting antibiotic resistance, all of which remain important issues. This includes, for example, formalized collaboration between the WHO, OIE and FAO, as well as the World Bank, and a number of countries.

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

          1. Enhance resilience of socio-ecological systems to prioritize prevention; apply the cosystem approach;

          2. Be participatory and inclusive; be crosssectoral, multinational, and transdisciplinary;

          3. Operate across spatial and temporal scales;

          4. Promote social justice and gender equality.

          Among the key components of these health transitions:

          • Reduce disease risk by conserving and restoring ecosystems;
          • Rromote 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, which are mutually supportive, also support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the goals relating to health, equity, and ensuring gender equality. They are underpinned by respect for human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities and small farmers.

          These are also supported by protecting and reforming, as appropriate, tenure of land and resources, equitable access to resources by poor and marginalized communities and universal health care.

          1 CBD Guidance on integrating biodiversity considerations into One Health approaches.
          See also CBD Decision 14/4.
          Health and Biodiversity

          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.

            Another key element in the development of pathways for living in harmony with nature will be the evolution of global financial and economic systems towards a globally sustainable economy, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth.

            The analysis of steps, described in the previous sections, reveals two approaches that meet multiple objectives in the overall effort to bring about the required transformative change.

            • The first approach is to help provide the transitions needed to reduce climate change, improve health and food security, restore biodiversity itself and achieve sustainable development, they include making use of biodiversity in ‘nature-based solutions’ or through ‘green infrastructure’ in urban, agricultural and natural landscapes and seascapes ;
            • The second approach supported by the first one is to reduce the drivers of biodiversity loss through reduced total consumption and more efficient use of resources, thereby helping to create the conditions that allow biodiversity to continue to provide benefits for people and the planet.

            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.

            The transitions in the individual areas of activity highlighted in this GBO 5 Outlook illustrate the relevance of these leverage points and the application of the levers. It may be noted that most of these levers are reflected among the principles and guidance of the Ecosystem Approach under the Convention.

            Finding solutions that address all the varying values we attach to nature is challenging, but the potential rewards are great. 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.

            Themes covered
            Publications A-Z

            Get involved!

            This summary is free and ad-free, as is all of our content. You can help us remain free and independant as well as to develop new ways to communicate science by becoming a Patron!

            PatreonBECOME A PATRON!