We have a chance to halt biodiversity loss. The stakes have never been higher

Negotiations over a 10-year agenda for nature are about to begin. Our ecological future depends on the engagement of every global citizen

The year 2020 has been designated a “super year for nature”, when the global community will rededicate itself to halting biodiversity loss with a 10-year action agenda, scheduled for agreement at the conference of the parties to the UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in Kunming in China in October.

On 13 January we published an initial “zero” draft of an action framework, which will be considered at negotiations being held in Rome from 24 February.

This first draft is based on extensive consultations, advice from governments, scientists, indigenous peoples, NGOs and others, gathered through dozens of meetings and hundreds of written submissions.

It was also developed directly in response to the landmark 2019 global assessment of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which warned of a million plant and animal species threatened by extinction.

Other elements that helped shape this draft include:

A fully open and transparent negotiation process is a key characteristic of the CBD: all discussions are open and all drafts are made public. This is a powerful feature and a way to build support and engagement that will be essential at the implementation stage.

The proposed framework recognises that action globally, regionally, nationally, and locally is required to transform economic, social and financial systems in order to stabilise biodiversity loss and allow ecosystems to recover. Governments and societies need to determine priorities and allocate financial and other resources, internalise the value of nature, and recognise the cost of inaction. Only then can we achieve the shared vision of “living in harmony with nature by 2050”, agreed by world governments 10 years ago.

This plan acknowledges the need to recognise gender equality, women’s empowerment, youth, and the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities. It also recognises that implementation will require the partnership of many organisations – global, national and local, taking a rights-based approach – as well as the principle of intergenerational equity.

Achieving our goal requires addressing the five foremost drivers of biodiversity loss: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species.

The Rome discussions will be followed by further consultation with scientific and administrative advisers and a second negotiation session in late July in Cali, Colombia, the last meeting before the global community meets in Kunming.

The challenge is how we will get to this brighter future from today’s uncertain world. Every government is needed, every organisation, and every citizen. Not only should no one be left behind, everyone should be fully engaged.

We need open minds on all sides to a vision of socio-economic development achieved through sustainability, to convince those who can to help those in need, to adjust from an unsustainable paradigm of vested interests to investing in change.

There are positive signs from governments, from civil society and from business that the changes needed can be made, as indeed they must. The stakes are high but solutions are within reach.

Basile van Havre and Francis Ogwal co-chair the open-ended working group on the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework