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As humanity misses wildlife targets, ‘time is now’ to reverse course

By September 15, 2020Global conservation

Polar bears. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Kiley Price, Conservation International | September 15, 2020

Humanity is falling short on its commitments to protect wildlife, a new report finds, outlining urgent steps needed to stave off environmental collapse.

The UN’s fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook offers a progress report for a set of 20 goals — known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets — that countries around the world committed to in 2010 to slow biodiversity loss by this year.

Acknowledging conservation wins from the last decade — including the eradication of multiple invasive species across the Pacific Islands and a decline in deforestation rates in certain areas — the report condemns the overall lack of progress toward most of the targets.

The report comes as countries commit to new goals to guide conservation efforts over the next decade — the same timeframe scientists have given humanity to act in order to avoid irreversible harm to our planet.

“In the next 10 years we need to protect and conserve at least 30 percent of land and 30 percent of ocean, prioritizing areas that are most important to providing nature’s contributions to people such as food, clean water, pandemic prevention and a stable climate,” explained Lina Barrera, Conservation International’s vice president of international policy.

Emphasizing the need to learn from shortcomings under the Aichi targets, the report outlines eight steps countries must take to transform humanity’s relationship with nature at a scale necessary to prevent biodiversity loss — without sacrificing economic gains. Actions include establishing more protected areas, investing in green infrastructure in cities and implementing nature-based solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Undergirding the report is a reality the pandemic has made starkly clear, Barrera said: Protecting nature is essential to humanity’s survival — and countries don’t have any time to waste.

“The time is now to make green investments that will help solve all the global environmental crises we face today — species loss, increased natural disasters, racial injustice, pandemics and climate change.”