12/12/2022NewsEarth Commission News

Earth Commissioners join statement to CoP15 negotiators on reversing biodiversity loss

A global coalition of over 2700* biodiversity scientists from 125 countries call for the 2030 deadline not to be abandoned in the COP15 negotiations.

At the UN Biodiversity Conference (CoP15), currently taking place in Montreal, Canada, delegates from 196 countries are negotiating a new post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to attempt to halt the rapid destruction of species worldwide.

Researchers, conservationists, and the public across the world are calling for this agreement to include ambitious goals to “Halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and put nature on a path to recovery by 2030“. However, some actors have proposed that the target to halt and begin to reverse biodiversity loss should not be time-bound, as some components of biodiversity, such as trees or elephants, take decades to grow to maturity.

A global coalition of 76 biodiversity scientists from 17 countries state that such a proposal would significantly weaken the ambition of the Global Biodiversity Framework, and reduce the pressure to reduce key drivers of biodiversity loss.

They have signed a statement urging that the 2030 deadline is not abandoned in the COP15 negotiations. Read their statement below.

* as of 16 December 2022

Act now to begin reversing biodiversity loss by 2030

A statement to CoP negotiators from researchers around the world. 

Monday 12th December 2022, 11am GMT

A post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is now being negotiated at the CBD CoP15, the vision being to ensure that biodiversity is valued, protected and restored by 2050. Key interim targets will also be set for 2030. The targets set by the Parties for 2030 will determine whether we can fulfil our 2050 vision.

Currently, the various alternatives on the table for our 2030 mission involve the goal to “Halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and put nature on a path to recovery…”. This is also expressed as “bending the curve of biodiversity loss by 2030”, as proposed in a highly-influential paper by Mace et al (2018)[1].

On December 5th, 2022, the New Scientist published a piece[2]  based on an article by Obura et al.[3],  arguing that halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 is unrealistic and unachievable, because some components of biodiversity, such as trees or elephants, take decades to grow to maturity. We are concerned that the New Scientist article misrepresents the core message of Obura et al.’s paper, which is that a necessary and critical precondition for reversing biodiversity loss is reducing the underlying drivers, in a socially just and equitable way. Instead the New Scientist piece suggests that the target to halt and begin to reverse biodiversity loss should not be time-bound, without mentioning the need to maintain or increase the ambition to reverse drivers of biodiversity loss by 2030. This proposal weakens the ambition of the Global Biodiversity Framework.

We, as researchers working in this field, are united in agreeing that full recovery of biodiversity will take many decades – inasmuch as it is even possible, given our current rate of extinction and ecosystem degradation. This includes David Obura and coauthors of Obura et al. Nevertheless, recovery to the point at which humanity can prosper on a healthy planet, with the key underpinning ecosystem functions operational, is achievable by 2050. For example, Jones and Schmitz analysed 240 studies and found recovery often took only 10-20 years[4], with similar findings in some marine systems (Duarte et al. 2020)[5]. We believe that abandoning the 2030 deadline undermines efforts to put nature on a path to recovery, which is urgently needed to avert the loss of functionality of our earth systems, with severe impacts for humanity.

Achieving recovery by 2050 requires ambitious interim goals which prompt immediate action, focussed on places where this functionality is most at risk, where people are most reliant on it, and where the most profound changes can be made. For example, the Science Panel for the Amazon highlights the risk of a tipping point for the Amazon, which would undermine pathways to achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement [6].  

But this leaves the question of whether halting and beginning to reverse biodiversity loss, at a global scale, is achievable by 2030. An influential paper from Leclere et al. (2020)[7] demonstrated that, under the most radical conditions, it may be possible to reach a global inflexion point well before 2050, at least for some facets of biodiversity. However, such an outcome – whether by 2030 or 2050 –  cannot be achieved through conservation alone, no matter how much biodiversity finance is mobilised. Such a rapid turnaround requires immediate and committed action on the drivers of biodiversity loss. Scientific modelling suggests that agricultural transformation at the level of individual countries can achieve ecologically sustainable food pathways by 2030, if action is taken now[8]. As Mace et al. (2018) highlighted, not all facets of biodiversity can be turned around equally quickly. Monitoring of the global biodiversity framework must therefore be able to pick up the first green shoots of nature recovery, based on ‘leading indicators’ that can quickly show whether the actions underway are sufficient to turn the corner by 2030 or whether more needs to be done[9]. Monitoring of drivers could demonstrate success in reducing them in just a few years, even if the biodiversity response might be quite delayed. This may provide a critical push to maintain and even ratchet up ambition, which a focus on biodiversity alone may not achieve.

It is vital to agree the 2050 Goals and 2030 Targets related to conservation actions at CoP15. However, we will not succeed without putting as much effort into the Goals and Targets relating to the fundamental drivers of ecosystem destruction and biodiversity loss, including making our supply chains resilient and sustainable. As Obura et al. highlight, this requires attention to the disproportionately harmful consumption of wealthy nations, and to the rights and priorities of disadvantaged groups. Critically, this means that wealthy nations and actors need urgently and rapidly to reduce the impacts of their consumption, rather than imposing all the costs of nature recovery on less wealthy nations where the biodiversity predominately remains.

In sum, diluting or delaying targets and actions within the Global Biodiversity Framework, or removing the need for them to be time-bound, would be deeply counterproductive. To do so will give cover to the many vested interests lobbying to delay meaningful action, doom biodiversity to further decades of degradation and loss, exacerbate poverty and inequity, and undermine our capacity to withstand and adapt to rapid environmental change.

The Parties to CoP15 must commit to halting and starting to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, to set us on a pathway to recovery where ecosystems can provide the functions that people need. There is a moral obligation to do so. Furthermore, it makes scientific sense, and is achievable if we act now, and act decisively. We owe this to ourselves and to future generations – we can’t wait any longer.




  1. E.J. Milner-Gulland (Tasso Leventis Professor of Biodiversity, University of Oxford, UK)
  2. David Obura (Director, CORDIO-East Africa, Kenya, Earth Commission)
  3. Mike Barrett (Executive Director of Science and Conservation WWF UK)

The full list of signatories can be accessed here.

Read the full press release here.

Watch the press conference held at COP15 here.