14 September 2018

Experts highlight need for a "Paris Agreement" for Nature

Biodiversity action

As efforts to stabilize the global climate gain momentum, authors of a new paper in Nature Sustainability argue for a similar approach and mobilization to be developed to address the steep degradation of nature and decline of biodiversity worldwide. The paper was conducted by a range of institutions, including Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen.

Over a quarter of a century has passed since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit at which the first global commitment for biodiversity conservation, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), was agreed. Since then the degradation of nature has continued unabated. As biodiversity declines and global ecosystems become altered and simplified, global efforts on climate action and sustainable development face mounting risks.

Rather than accepting the continual decline of nature - this paper shows how we might change our aspirations - and work toward reversing nature’s decline all over the world

Neil Burgess, Professor at Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, and Chief Scientist, UNEP-WCMC

Nature plays an essential role in climate change mitigation and adaptation, maintaining the quality of soil, air and water and supporting the provision of food, freshwater, fuel and fibre for communities and countries. Mike Barrett, WWF-UK, explains:

The failure of our societies and economies to address the staggering biodiversity loss our planet is facing risks undermining the very web of life that sustains and powers them: nature and the many services it provides. It is time to recognize that our vision for a sustainable, climate-resilient future hinges on taking urgent actions today to restore and protect nature and biodiversity.”

Dr Robin Freeman, Zoological Society of London, Institute of Zoology, continues: “Wildlife populations are declining, and species are increasingly at risk of extinction. We desperately need to act in order to change this pattern and see the biodiversity on which we rely begin to recover.”

3 key elements to restore global biodiversity

In the paper, the authors identify the following elements from the Paris Agreement on climate as key components to deliver an effective and ambitious plan of action to restore global biodiversity, a:

  1. specified goal for biodiversity recovery
  2. set of measurable and relevant indicators of progress
  3. suite of actions that can collectively achieve the goal in the required timeframe.

Sarah Cornell, researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, elaborates, “Concrete actions should include traditional interventions such as protected areas and species conservation planning, and also address major drivers of biodiversity loss. Our science priorities are the links between food production, conservation, and climate action.”

With countries looking increasingly unlikely to achieve the Aichi Targets on biodiversity by 2020, the paper calls for increased ambition and action through to the year 2050, also underlining the importance of nature toward achieving global targets for climate and sustainable development. Professor Georgina Mace, from the UCL Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, says:

The degradation of nature is one of the most serious issues facing society. Biodiversity is valued in its own right but also buffers people from climate change, enhances food security and promotes a resilient natural environment. The deliberations of governments in 2020 present a crucial window of opportunity to restore the abundance of nature to levels that enable both people and nature to thrive.”

Roadmap to bend the curve of biodiversity loss

As the 195 countries, and the European Union, that are parties to the CBD, prepare to meet in Egypt in November 2018 to start work on a new strategic plan for the period after 2020, the paper suggests a roadmap for the targets, indicators and trajectories they need to urgently consider in order to bend the curve of biodiversity loss.

Neil D. Burgess, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, ends: “Rather than accepting the continual decline of nature - this paper shows how we might change our aspirations - and work toward reversing nature’s decline all over the world.”

Read the paper: Aiming higher to bend the curve of biodiversity loss (link)


Professor Neil David Burgess
Phone: (+44) 7711 423875