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From the fresh air we breathe to the clean water we drink, nature provides the essentials we all rely on for our survival and well-being. The loss of nature threatens these essentials: damage to biodiversity is not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue. It affects us all and all aspects of our lives.
The science is clear that humanity’s overexploitation of the earth’s resources is damaging our land, lakes, rivers and our oceans – with devastating impacts for people and nature. Since 1970 – within my lifetime – wildlife populations have declined on average by 60%, while the instability we face from a deteriorating planet is on the rise. The Amazon and Sumatran fires, along with the many others around the world, reflect a planet in crisis. They must also become a rallying cry to action. Moreover, scientific reports from the IPCC, IPBES and others have also rung the alarm bells: our natural world is now under unprecedented pressure.
Reversing the loss of nature holds the key to our prosperity, and it is the only way to secure livelihoods and the vast majority of our economic activity that is dependent on the natural world. Such benefits to humanity are estimated to be worth around USD 125 trillion a year, and are only possible if we maintain a diversity of ecosystems and species with enough spaces in their natural state.
2020 provides a momentous opportunity. It is truly a “super year” for the environmental and sustainable development agendas. World leaders will take a series of global decisions that will set the direction for much of our planet’s future. During the year, an agreement on a new global biodiversity framework; action on climate change; a treaty for the oceans; and a renewed commitment to the environment under the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals will all be negotiated.
A 2020 deal has to show a new and higher level of ambition – to bend the curve and restore nature for the prosperity, security, stability and well-being of humanity.
Success in 2020 will be reflected in clear and strong decisions by the leaders of countries, supported by stakeholders and key players from business, finance, civil society, indigenous groups and the public around four main dimensions:
- A new narrative that positions healthy, diverse and functional natural systems as the necessary foundation for social and economic development, stability and security, as well as individual survival and well-being.
- A strong commitment around clear, communicable, measurable and science-based global targets to protect and restore nature by 2030.
- A clear implementation mechanism, similar to the national determined contributions of the Paris agreement, where countries individually nominate the actions they will take and collectively ensure that these actions add up to agreed global targets.
- A well-resourced implementation strategy, made fair and equitable by redirecting and aligning finance from all sources.
This will be clearly presented in support of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, the blueprint agreed globally to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, as well as the Paris Agreement uniting the world’s nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change. A 2020 deal has to show a new and higher level of ambition – to bend the curve and restore nature for the prosperity, security, stability and well-being of humanity.
Also on the Forum Network: A Global Coming of Age: How the Sustainable Development Goals can help transform the world we live in by Peter Bakker, President & CEO, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
Integrated, holistic targets are needed that are informed by science; inspire governments to act; protect natural spaces; drive sustainability; and prevent the loss of species. Targets to be achieved within a decade, which are currently being discussed with many actors, are:
- Zero loss of natural spaces, ensuring that 50% of the planet is effectively protected, restored and sustainably managed in a natural state: 30% of all terrestrial, freshwater and marine areas under effective and equitable protection and conservation; and 20% sustainably managed. The rights of indigenous people to their land and territories, as well as the role of both indigenous people and local communities in protecting nature, will be key in achieving this goal.
- Zero human-induced extinction, ensuring that wildlife populations are stable or increasing. In addition to protecting their habitats and relieving the pressures caused by unsustainable production, concerted efforts must be made to prevent poaching and to halt the introduction of invasive alien species.
- Halve the negative ecological impacts of production and consumption, with country-level responsibility. The private sector and many governments have already identified numerous ways to reduce the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, food production, loss and waste, freshwater stress and raw material consumption, while still meeting the important needs of people. It is time to embrace these solutions at the scale necessary to tackle the main sectors responsible for biodiversity and nature loss: agriculture, fishing, forestry, extractives and infrastructure.
Identifying ambitious new targets, primarily a uniting apex target, is crucial: climate has carbon neutrality, and there is broad recognition that something similar for nature is urgently required. This approach will make it easier to unite people, politicians and corporate executives to discuss and define how we achieve success, in turn informing the sectoral targets, implementation mechanisms, resourcing and other key aspects. Furthermore, we need a new and strengthened implementation mechanism for ensuring targets are met.
Protecting and restoring nature is a huge challenge that no single actor can achieve. It will take a broad coalition across governments, business, finance, civil society, individuals, indigenous peoples and local communities around the world committing to work together on finding and driving the solutions in an equitable way.
We are facing the need for a deep transformation in our relationship with the planet. We know the problems and what it takes to fix them. This is a huge challenge, but working together we can make it an unmissable and inspirational opportunity.