World scores 0 percent on UN's latest biodiversity scorecard

For the second decade in a row, the world has failed to meet targets it set itself to stop the destruction of the environment and biodiversity. 

The latest report from the UN Environment Programme finds of the 20 goals set in 2010 at a summit in Aichi, Japan not a single one has been achieved.

Just six were deemed 'partially achieved' in the report, Global Biodiversity Outlook 5, released on Wednesday. 

"This flagship report underlines that humanity stands at a crossroads with regard to the legacy we wish to leave to future generations," said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to which New Zealand is a signee. 

"Many good things are happening around the world and these should be celebrated and encouraged. Nevertheless, the rate of biodiversity loss is unprecedented in human history and pressures are intensifying. 

"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 well-being, security and prosperity."

She even linked the coronavirus pandemic to the degradation of the natural environment. 

Progress in some areas has been made, including: 

  • almost 100 countries incorporating " biodiversity values into national accounting systems" 
  • the rate of deforestation falling by a third compared to 2000-2009
  • national fisheries policies maintaining or rebuilding fish stocks
  • eradication of 'alien' invasive species from islands
  • more of the world being deemed a protected area
  • reducing "the number of extinctions" by two to four times what was initially expected
  • increases in awareness of and financial resources for biodiversity.

But overall, the picture is bad, including:

  • little progress in phasing out subsidies for environmentally damaging practises
  • governments taking too long to implement sustainable use policies
  • resource demand continuing to rise
  • continued decline of wetland and freshwater biodiversity
  • food and timber production are still "among the main drivers of global biodiversity loss"
  • pollution from plastics and fertilizers continues to seep into the environment, including the ocean
  • coral reefs are still disappearing at an alarming rate
  • nearly a quarter of species remain endangered 
  • cultivated plant genetic diversity is still being eroded
  • mammal and bird species  necessary for pollination and medicinal use are on average moving closer to extinction
  • few people seem aware of the consequences of biodiversity loss
  • resources for assisting biodiversity "are swamped by support for activities harmful to biodiversity".

"On our current trajectory, biodiversity, and the services it provides, will continue to decline," the report reads.

"In 'business as usual' scenarios, this trend is projected to continue until 2050 and beyond, due to the increasing impacts of land and sea use change, overexploitation, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species. 

"These pressures are in turn being driven by currently unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, population growth and technological developments. The projected decline in biodiversity will affect all people, but it will have a particularly detrimental effect on indigenous peoples and local communities, and the world’s poor and vulnerable, given their reliance on biodiversity for their wellbeing."

The report breaks down the 20 overall targets to 60 elements - only seven of those had been met, with 38 showing progress. Thirteen had no progress made or had gone backwards. The last two couldn't be determined on the available data. 

In 2010, a similar report found targets set in 2002 had also been missed across the board

To ensure the future of a liveable planet, the UN Environment Programme has listed eight "transitions" that have to take place in the next few decades.

They are: 

  • conserving intact ecosystems, restoring ecosystems, combatting and reversing degradation, and employing landscape level spatial planning to avoid, reduce and mitigate land-use change
  • redesigning agricultural systems through agroecological and other innovative approaches to enhance productivity while minimizing negative impacts on biodiversity
  • enabling sustainable and healthy diets with a greater emphasis on a diversity of foods, mostly plant-based, and more moderate consumption of meat and fish, as well as dramatic cuts in the waste involved in food supply and consumption
  • protecting and restoring marine and coastal ecosystems, rebuilding fisheries and managing aquaculture and other uses of the oceans to ensure sustainability, and to enhance food security and livelihoods
  • deploying 'green infrastructure' and making space for nature within built landscapes to improve the health and quality of life for citizens and to reduce the environmental footprint of cities and infrastructure
  • an integrated approach guaranteeing the water flows required by nature and people, improving water quality, protecting critical habitats, controlling invasive species and safeguarding connectivity to allow the recovery of freshwater systems from mountains to coasts
  • employing nature-based solutions, alongside a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use, to reduce the scale and impacts of climate change, while providing positive benefits for biodiversity and other sustainable development goals
  • managing ecosystems, including agricultural and urban ecosystems, as well as the use of wildlife, through an integrated approach, to promote healthy ecosystems and healthy people.

"The decisions and level of action we take now will have profound consequences - for good or ill - for all species, including ours," said Mrema.