• Biodiversity loss is threatening around a million plant and animal species, food security, human health and economic output.
  • The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is a United Nations-led initiative to tackle its root causes and could have a similar impact as the Paris Agreement.
  • Set to be finalized in early 2022, the GBF’s draft sets out targets for protecting marine and land habitats, reducing pesticides and plastic waste, and increasing investments.
  • This alone may not suffice to halt biodiversity loss, and the WWF wants to include a milestone for halving human production and consumption in the GBF.

The Paris Agreement on climate change has become a rallying point for global efforts to rein in global warming since its adoption in 2015. Another United Nations-led initiative that could have the same impact for biodiversity is set to be finally agreed in Spring 2022.

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) will set 21 targets and 10 milestones for governments to meet by the end of the decade. These include protecting a minimum of 30% of the world’s oceans and land, reducing pesticide use by at least two-thirds, eliminating plastic waste, and increasing financial resources dedicated to biodiversity to at least US$ 200 billion annually.

As the delayed COP-15 conference for the adoption of the framework approaches, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has highlighted that some more drastic measures may be needed to fight the decline of biodiversity. With around one million plant and animal species at risk of extinction, threatening food security, human health and economic output, the WWF is asking decision-makers to include a milestone for halving human production and consumption.

39 million new jobs supporting biodiversity

In a new report, the WWF singles out unsustainable production and consumption as the main drivers in biodiversity loss. It attributes these mainly to consumers in high-income countries but also increasingly in middle-income economies as these emulate western consumption patterns.

Habitat loss is mostly caused by agricultural expansion and new infrastructure, the WWF finds. It cites overexploitation through unsustainable forestry and overfishing; inefficient agricultural land use; and pollution through manufacturing and extractive industries as key areas to tackle as a priority.

The report states that $500 billion in existing government subsidies for activities that are harmful to biodiversity should be redirected to activities that will improve biodiversity.

Redistributing these funds equitably between countries could create 39 million new jobs in “nature-positive” sectors, especially in less developed markets in east Asia-Pacific, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, the WWF says.

this diagram shows that halving the footprint of consumption and production will provide many opportunities
These are the opportunities associated with protecting nature.
Image: WWF

Sustainable improvements for many habitats and species

Among the improvements that could be made in this way, the WWF report cites the following:

  • The restoration of coastal habitats that provide flood protection to up to 300 million people in the world.
  • Overhauling the world’s food systems to make them more sustainable and adopting more planet-friendly diets.
  • Lowering red meat consumption, as meat production not only threatens the climate and the animals we eat but could wipe out thousands of species over the next few decades.
  • Changing our diets would also reduce land use and offer health benefits such as halving the occurrence of diabetes.
  • Introducing circular economy models on a wide scale to avoid pollution could add $4.5 trillion to global GDP and create millions more jobs.

More funding needed

Reallocating savings from misdirected subsidies alone will not make a dent in the continued loss in biodiversity. A study from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published earlier this year underlined that total investment in nature will need to triple by 2030 and nearly quadruple by 2050, to $8.1 trillion.

How does the World Economic Forum encourage biological diversity?

How does the World Economic Forum encourage biological diversity?

In the last 100 years, more than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared from farmers’ fields, and all of the world’s 17 main fishing grounds are now being fished at or above their sustainable limits.

These trends have reduced diversity in our diets, which is directly linked to diseases or health risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity and malnutrition.

One initiative which is bringing a renewed focus on biological diversity is the Tropical Forest Alliance.

This global public-private partnership is working on removing deforestation from four global commodity supply chains – palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper.

The Alliance includes businesses, governments, civil society, indigenous people and communities, and international organizations.

Enquire to become a member or partner of the Forum and help stop deforestation linked to supply chains.

Beyond agreeing the new targets, it will be critical to mobilize these funds from a mix of public and private sources. As with the Paris Agreement, this will mean not just pledges but decisive action from governments, private equity, multilaterals and other investors. All of this will need to happen in an even shorter timeframe than for the Paris Agreement, which has been in operation for significantly longer.

The data from WWF and UNEP should provide another layer of evidence that the economics of investing in biodiversity are sound, and a win-win for everyone involved.