Jhis time must be different. In the history of UN agreements on biodiversity, governments have never achieved the goals they set for themselves. We’ve all heard the dramatic warnings: the abundance of life on Earth is rapidly declining and some scientists are warning of a sixth mass extinction. But real action has yet to follow from world leaders.
How to stop the decline of nature?
“This is our third date. [agreeing biodiversity targets]. We learned a lot to understand what happened the previous two times, and what worked and what didn’t,” UN environment chief Inger Andersen told the Guardian. before Cop15, which will be held in Montreal, Canada, in December.
“Right now we are on this trajectory of losing a million of our 8 million species on this planet. This is clearly not a trajectory we want to be on. We need to change the actions we need to take. as human beings: we must eat and live positively for nature.”
The dismal record of the delivery has sparked disillusionment with the COP process on biodiversity, which is already playing second fiddle to its sister climate convention. To ensure the eventual deal has teeth – known as the post-2020 global biodiversity framework – negotiators are this time focusing on implementation alongside ambition.
High-profile goals on protecting 30% of the Earth, eliminating billions of dollars in environmentally harmful subsidies and reducing the spread of invasive species may dominate the headlines on the eventual deal, but it it is a follow-up of the details at the national and local levels. it will really change things.
A few things are needed to ensure the COP15 agreement is implemented, observers say. First: quantifiable and measurable targets. All parts of society need to know the exact percentage of land that will be restored or the precise amount of pollution that governments will stop. There must be milestones that we can all watch out for so that we can name and shame those who are not true to their word. Bad goals are imprecise, hard to quantify, and will lead to the inaction we’ve seen before.
Second, we need to improve the quality of the data we have about our planet. Humanity’s understanding of life on Earth and its ecosystems is still imperfect and there are major gaps. Projects like the Land & Carbon Lab of the World Resource Institute (WRI) attempt to provide details on peatlands and nature-based solutions. Deforestation datasets have proven invaluable for monitoring the health of key ecosystems like the rainforests of the Amazon and Congo Basin. But we need more.
Finally, countries must report the biodiversity equivalent of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are updates from governments in the UN climate process on how well they are meeting their Paris targets. For nature, they are called National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). Despite the awkward name, Anderson says they will be key.
“The National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans that countries will report on are sort of like NDCs for the biodiversity convention. They will help us assess our performance against clear and definable goals. They will be essential for us to measure how we are doing,” she says.
This article first appeared in Down to Earth, the Guardian’s climate and environment news bulletin. Sign up here to read more exclusive articles like this and for a roundup of the biggest environmental stories of the week every Thursday
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