In December, Global leaders will gather in Montreal for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to set new targets for protecting these vital resources. Setting and meeting these targets will be critical for protecting life on earth, and ensuring a prosperous planet for generations to come.
Our future is inextricably connected to nature, and we need to change the current trajectory, which estimates the world's biodiversity intactness is around 75%, well below the 90% threshold scientists believe is safe.
The Global Drive to Protect Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the web of life. It's the combination of all life forms – plants, animals, microorganisms, ecosystems, and humans – that interact with one another and the air, water, and soil around them. Our planet has been shaped by ice ages, fire, and interaction among species. Now it is increasingly being re-shaped by humans. According to the Convention on Biological Diversity:
- Animal and bird species are disappearing at 50-100 times the natural rate.
- One in eight bird species faces extinction.
- About 30% of farm animal breeds are at high risk of extinction.
- 45% of the planet's original forests are gone.
- Nearly 10% of coral reefs have been destroyed, and one-third of the remainder face collapse in the next decade or two.
The loss of biodiversity reduces our ecosystems' productivity, reducing nature's bounty of goods and services we continually harvest. And our ability to deal with natural disasters is weakened.
The goal of COP 15 is to set the framework for an ambitious plan to transform society's relationship with biodiversity globally. This includes a series of firm targets for all global leaders to agree upon and diligently work to implement, including:
- “Ensure that at least 20 per cent of degraded freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems are under restoration, ensuring connectivity among them and focusing on priority ecosystems;
- Reduce pollution from all sources to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity and ecosystem functions and human health; and
- Redirect, repurpose, reform or eliminate incentives harmful for biodiversity, in a just and equitable way, reducing them by at least US$ 500 billion per year.”
By establishing firm, accountable targets for biodiversity protection and restoration, progress can be made to prevent further damage being done, damage that will jeopardize many forms of life on our planet including humans.
This means halting biodiversity loss by 2030 and achieving recovery and restoration by 2050 to safeguard nature and our future.
This framework outlines 22 action-oriented targets that countries worldwide need to do collectively and individually by 2030 and beyond. These targets cover a range of issues, including expanding protected areas, reducing pollution, ensuring sustainable food production, and phasing out billions of dollars of public subsidies that harm nature.
Preserving biodiversity plays a significant role in combatting climate change. Many of our sensitive ecosystems are also some of our most valuable carbon stores, and their destruction increases our emissions footprint. As ecosystems, and the species within them, disappear, they have a large impact on the overall health of our planet.
We can enhance our climate change efforts by focusing on biodiversity at the same time. The impacts of biodiversity loss and climate change are intricately connected and felt throughout global communities, but the good news is that we can become nature-positive.
Nature-positive means putting our ecosystems in a state where they are restoring, and regenerating, rather than declining. WSP is creating and implementing innovative tools that will be able to assess any project that affects land use or management and assess the impact a project will have on the goods, services, and benefits we get from nature. And we continue to transition end-of-life assets, such as former mines, to bring back life to our ecosystems or give them back to communities for reuse.
The Highway Franklin 98 project in Florida is an innovative example of how we’re designing a nature-based strategy to stabilize the shoreline and protect vital infrastructure and the environment. From building resilience to climate change in Vanuatu to the smartwhales initiative in Canada, our team continues to find new ways to address challenges in restoring and regenerating our biodiversity around the world.
The implementation of innovative tools and practices are providing hope that we can create nature-positive solutions to biodiversity loss in all global markets.
The time to Act is Now…
The climate crisis is deeply linked to biodiversity loss. In 2021, the G7 leaders called for the world to be net-zero and nature-positive. While innovation and action in the area of nature-based solutions are accelerating rapidly, there is still much to be done, including reaching these minimum targets for 2030:
- Conserve 30% of land and sea areas globally.
- Restore 20% of degraded freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems.
- Limit pesticide use by two-thirds.
- Stopping plastic waste discharge.
Becoming nature-positive is more than avoiding or minimizing impacts. We must also enhance our ecosystems, which significantly shifts how corporations, small businesses, investors, and consumers view nature.
According to Business for Nature, more than 1,100 companies with revenues above US$5 trillion are calling on governments to adopt policies to reverse nature loss in this decade. You can't have a healthy business with an unhealthy planet. Investors and other stakeholders are now taking a closer look at a project's biodiversity impacts before funding.
The heads of state and environment ministers meeting at COP 15 will commit governments to a series of actions designed to protect biodiversity and restore ecosystems. With unparalleled expertise, WSP has a key role to play in our transition to a nature-positive future. As part of every project design, we create a positive impact by incorporating nature-based solutions to protect our ecosystems for today and the future.