World misses biodiversity goals, states UN report

Agreed in Japan in 2010, the 20 Aichi biodiversity goals aimed to halt the destruction of wildlife and ecosystems across the world. A new report by the UN has revealed that, 10 years on, the world has failed to reach any of these 20 targets, with six targets only partially achieved.

An image of the Great Barrier Reef
An image of the Great Barrier Reef

Image: Wise Hok Wai Lum // CC BY-SA 4.0

Lidia Creech

A new report released by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, has revealed that none of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets, which were created in Japan in 2010 for the period 2011-2020, have been met.

The 20 targets were categorised by five overall aims: to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, to reduce direct pressures on biodiversity, to improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems and wildlife, to enhance human benefits from biodiversity, and to increase capacity-building. 

The targets were also broken down into 60 elements, in order to monitor progress. According to the report, seven of these elements have been achieved, 38 have shown progress and 13 have shown no signs of progress, with the progress of two elements unknown. 

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the UN’s head of biodiversity, said: “Earth’s living systems as a whole are being compromised. And the more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own wellbeing, security and prosperity.”

One of the main targets to halve the loss of natural habitats, including forests, has not been met, despite deforestation rates having significantly decreased in the past 10 years. 

Another target to eliminate subsidies that harm the environment, such as those for agriculture, fossil fuels and fishing, was highlighted in the report as a particular area for concern, with half a trillion dollars’ worth of such subsidies still existing.  

David Cooper, one of the report’s leading authors and deputy executive secretary for the Convention on Biological Diversity, commented: “We are still seeing so much more public money invested in things that harm biodiversity than in things that support biodiversity.”

Accounting for this failure to reach targets is a misalignment of national environmental targets with the Aichi biodiversity goals. According to the UN report, only one-tenth of all national targets resemble the Aichi goals and are on track to be met, suggesting gaps in the level of ambition and commitment to reach the Aichi targets.  

In a speech at the UN conference on the post-2020 biodiversity framework, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen, explained: “The Aichi targets were agreed at the Environment Ministry level, and in many countries the targets had limited buy-in from agriculture, infrastructure, public works, municipal planning and other sectors that use the land and that often are the primary drivers of biodiversity loss.”

Deputy Leader of the Green Party, Amelia Womack, commented on the report’s findings: “It’s devastating to see that for a second decade in a row, the world is failing to act on the ecological emergency despite so many movements ringing the alarm for our world leaders. 

 “We should be leading the way in the UK, but we’re going backwards. We failed to meet 17 out of 20 of the targets, and actually regressed on six of them. This isn’t good enough. Our Parliament declared a climate and environmental emergency last year, but warm words and selfies with Greta mean nothing without real action for our habitats and wildlife populations.  

 "We know from lockdown that nature is still waiting in the wings, ready to flourish if we give it half a chance. A Green recovery from this crisis must be a turning point for our natural world”.

The CBD outlined its draft post-2020 biodiversity framework in January this year, calling for 30 per cent of the planet to be granted protected status and to cut pollution from excess nutrients, biocides and plastic waste to be cut by 50 per cent by 2030.