• A POSTnote on a global deal for nature will summarise the link between climate change and biodiversity loss.
  • It will explain why experts are calling for formal protection for 30% of the Earth from human activities, to go alongside the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Work on this POSTnote has been completed. You can read the full report online. Updated 27 February 2020

Nature conservation efforts, like climate change policies, are being re-assessed on a global scale. Following the recent International Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) global assessment, it has been suggested that a global deal for nature is needed to go alongside the Paris Climate Agreement. This would include formal protection of 30% of the Earth from human activities such as agricultural expansion, road building, dams, fishing, invasive species and pollution along with other measures, such as more integrated landscape and river catchment management, ecosystem-based fisheries management and urban green infrastructure. 75% of the land surface has been significantly altered, and among assessed groups of mammals and birds, one in four species are at risk of extinction. The average abundance of native species in most major terrestrial biomes has fallen by at least 20% and land degradation has reduced productivity in 23% of the global terrestrial area. If current land use conversion rates, poaching of large animals, and other threats are not markedly slowed or halted in the next 10 years, ‘points of no return’ in terms of extinction of multiple species and habitat loss will be reached. 

Once lost, it will take millions of years for the Earth to recover an equivalent spectrum of complex biodiversity, with significant implications for the food, energy and water security of future generations. IPBES estimated that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, and stated that the five drivers of this with the largest relative global impacts are, in descending order: changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive alien species. The current global protected area targets by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) under what is called ‘Aichi Target 11’ set coverage targets for the year 2020 – 17% and 10% in the terrestrial and marine realms, respectively – but these targets are based on what is politically achievable rather than evidence of what is necessary to avoid extinction. Compounding the low-level ambition, only about half of the 14.9% of the terrestrial realm currently protected is ecologically connected to other protected areas. The academic literature has suggested at least 30% of the Earth’s surface should be conserved by 2030 in connected protected area networks. A POSTnote on this subject would summarise the evidence needed to support targets for protecting ecosystems at the global scale and the other likely measures that will be needed outside of protected areas.