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Buriganga River in Bangladesh

A boy collect usable goods from garbage in the Buriganga River—which has suffered extreme biodiversity loss—in Dhaka, Bangladesh on March 21, 2020. (Photo: Zakir Hossain Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Advocates Warn Draft of Global Framework Fails to Tackle 'Gut-Wrenching' Biodiversity Crisis

"This isn't the transformative change that the scientific advisers on this treaty have called for. Human-induced loss of species needs to stop, and it needs to stop yesterday."

Jessica Corbett

Anticipating more negotiations ahead of a meeting in China scheduled for October, conservation advocacy groups on Monday warned that a new draft of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework fails to adequately address the human-caused crisis of species loss.

"To truly minimize future pandemic risk, we need to rethink commercial use of wildlife."
—Tanya Sanerib, Center for Biological Diversity

Biodiversity—described by The Guardian's Damian Carrington as "the variety of life on Earth, in all its forms and all its interactions"—is rapidly declining worldwide, despite its vital importance to humanity.

The evolving framework, set to be adopted at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, is being presented by world leaders as "a stepping stone" toward the 2050 vision of "living in harmony with nature."

"We're in the midst of a gut-wrenching biodiversity crisis and stand to lose over a million species unless we change the way we do business. Yet the framework meant to address this crisis globally doesn't even call for stopping extinctions," said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the U.S.-based Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement Monday.

"This isn't the transformative change that the scientific advisers on this treaty have called for," she said. "Human-induced loss of species needs to stop, and it needs to stop yesterday—so we can focus on species recovery."

New Scientist detailed some of draft's proposals:

Nearly a third of the world's oceans and land should be protected by 2030 to stem extinctions and ensure humanity lives in harmony with nature...

The measure is one of 21 targets in the first draft of the global biodiversity framework (GBF). Others include reforming planning systems to protect species, ending farming subsidies that are driving wildlife losses, and boosting conservation funding by at least $200 billion a year. Overall funding today is about $100 billion a year.

Some people involved with crafting the framework emphasized that Monday's release is a draft, intended to advance negotiations in the months ahead.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said that it "represents an important milestone on the road to COP15 in Kunming, China," where parties to the international treaty will be "called upon to adopt a powerful global biodiversity agenda that guides our efforts together through the rest of this decade."

Sanerib noted that the draft comes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which for over a year has provoked warnings from experts about the future threats from zoonotic disease and the necessity of healing humanity's relationship with nature.

"To truly minimize future pandemic risk, we need to rethink commercial use of wildlife. That means eliminating trade and exploitation that isn't ecologically sustainable or legal, or poses a risk to human or animal health," she declared. "With a Covid-like event predicted every decade, we need decisive measures to reduce wildlife consumption. Otherwise we'll all be reliving 2020 again and again."

"All hope rests on the upcoming virtual negotiations and whether nations can collectively agree to increase ambition and address the extinction crisis head-on," Sanerib said, noting talks expected in August and September. "Right now the road to Kunming is blocked by a lack of ambition. But I have faith we can overcome the obstacles and set our sights on saving life on Earth."

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)—which warned last year that "nature is unraveling," citing a "catastrophic" 68% decrease in population sizes of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish since 1970—was also critical of the new framework.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said that while his group welcomes the publication of the draft "as a major step towards securing a crucial global biodiversity agreement, we are disappointed that the text, overall, does not reflect the ambition required to turn the tide on the nature crisis."

"We need the text to include a clear and measurable global goal for nature, similar to the one we have for climate," he asserted. "This is crucial to define adequate science-based targets and allow governments, businesses, investors and consumers to all contribute toward a shared goal."

Pointing to the 2015 climate agreement that aims to keep global temperature rise this century below 2°C, and preferably limit it to 1.5°C, Guido Broekhoven, head of policy research and development at WWF International, said that "the world must not miss this once-in-a-decade chance to secure a Paris-style agreement for nature."

As Broekhoven explained:

The draft text contains many of the elements necessary to a successful nature agreement, but it falls short in several key areas. Action to protect ecosystems is vital, but we will not be successful in securing a nature-positive world unless we also address the drivers of biodiversity loss, moving to sustainable systems of production and consumption, and healthy and sustainable diets. Similarly, while the text does cover resource mobilization, the needs expressed are probably a significant underestimation.

Nearly 90 world leaders have endorsed the Leaders' Pledge for Nature, committing to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030, Lambertini noted, "yet the ambition and urgency contained in the draft agreement are significantly below what is necessary to secure a nature-positive world this decade."

"With human activities continuing to drive irreversible biodiversity loss, pushing species to extinction and ecosystems toward collapse, we urge leaders to step up and deliver on their commitments, instructing their negotiators to secure a transformational outcome," he said.

As the WWF leader put it: "We can't risk another lost decade for nature. Science has never been clearer: Action on nature is not just essential to reducing our vulnerability to future pandemics, it is critical to tackling the climate crisis and securing an equitable and prosperous future for all."

The Guardian reported Monday that the October meeting "is expected to be delayed for a third time due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is now likely to take place in Kunming in the first half of 2022, pending in-person preparatory negotiations that could happen in Switzerland early next year."

Although the United States is not among the almost 200 parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, President Joe Biden has ordered key federal officials to work to conserve at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

However, as the Center for Biological Diversity pointed out Monday, Biden's directive "allows a lower standard for what counts as conservation when compared to the framework."

When the administration released a report about the U.S. 30x30 goal in May, Randi Spivak, public lands director at the center, said that "it's a big deal that the Biden administration recognizes we're in the midst of a wildlife extinction crisis and a climate emergency."

"This report is an important rallying cry," Spivak said. "We need to translate this vision into new and enduring conservation actions on the ground across our country."

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