BIODIVERSITY

For biodiversity to thrive, conservation must be ‘Nature and People Positive’

Community members collect grass in the edges of a forest reserve. Photo: Jason Houston for USAID via Flickr.

Scientists argue that stronger outcomes for biodiversity can be attained if conservation actions are combined with justice measures to tackle the underlying causes of decline

Story highlights

  • Efforts to meet new biodiversity targets and goals for the next three decades risk repeating past failures
  • ‘Stretch targets’ can undermine the actions and commitments needed to achieve success in more realistic time frames
  • The research team applied an emerging framework which integrates quantification of intact and semi-intact nature with justice criteria for humans

Despite decades of increasing investment in conservation, ‘bending the curve’ of biodiversity decline has not succeeded. And yet again, efforts to meet new biodiversity targets and goals for the next three decades risk repeating past failures. At least unless three factors are addressed in campaigning efforts and practice:

  • focused attention to direct and indirect drivers of decline;
  • unrealistic biodiversity response objectives and timelines, and;
  • failure to address fundamental inequities of past and current conservation and sharing of nature’s benefits.

This is the main point of a new expert study published in the journal One Earth by the Earth Comission, an international team of scientists. The study authors, including centre researchers Juan Carlos Rocha and Johan Rockström, identify key drivers to be addressed. These include inequality, increasing per capita consumption of resources in many countries, unsustainable technologies, investment and trade patterns, and values and governance systems that do not promote care for nature.

Lead author David Obura from Coastal Oceans Research Development - Indian Ocean says, “As the urgency and challenges in resolving the biodiversity crisis increase, actions to conserve biodiversity must broaden to address root causes and the entire scope of human–nature interactions.”

Setting realistic targets

The authors state that whilst ‘stretch targets’ can play an important role in motivating action on difficult issues, if decadal targets in 2030 fail to be met, as occurred in 2020, this can undermine the actions and commitments needed to achieve success in more realistic time frames. The 22 targets contained in the draft Global Biodiversity Framework, which will be decided upon at COP15 in Montreal, cut across most of the areas in which action is needed, so setting realistic targets and outcomes for achievement may be essential to build and maintain the commitment to achieve them.

As the urgency and challenges in resolving the biodiversity crisis increase, actions to conserve biodiversity must broaden to address root causes and the entire scope of human–nature interactions.

Lead author David Obura

The research team applied an emerging framework of ‘safe and just Earth System Boundaries’ which integrate quantification of nature that is either fully intact or altered, but still with high function, with justice criteria for all humans.

“Safe and just Earth system boundaries provides scientific support for the necessity of halting biodiversity loss and conserving nature as a strategy to ensure a stable planet. Staying within those boundaries will improve the chances for a just future for all people”, says Johan Rockström, centre researcher and director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Taking action

They identify six sets of actions aligned with the conceptual framework of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), concluding this can support the conservation community and society at large to engage with the deeper societal transformations needed for a safe and just future.

  1. Reduce and reverse direct and indirect drivers causing decline;
  2. Halt and reverse biodiversity loss;
  3. Restore and regenerate biodiversity to a safe state;
  4. Raise minimum wellbeing for all;
  5. Eliminate over-consumption and excesses associated with accumulation of capital; and
  6. Uphold and respect the rights and responsibilities of all communities, present and future.

Read Achieving a Nature- and People-Positive future

Published: 2022-12-05

Citation

Obura, D., DeClerck, F., Verburg, P., Gupta, J., Abrams, J.F., Bai, X., Bunn, S., Ebi, K.L., Gifford, L., Gordon, C., Jacobson, L., Lenton, T.M., Liverman, D., Mohamed, A., Prodani, K., Rocha, J.C., Rockström, J., Sakschewski, B., Stewart-Koster, B., van Vuuren, D., Winkelmann, R., Zimm, C. 2022. Achieving a Nature- and People-Positive future. One Earth.

Link to publication

DOI: 10.1016/j.oneear.2022.11.013

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