The damning U.N. conclusion comes a decade after the Aichi Biodiversity Targets were set by the more than 190 countries that participated in a Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Japan.
The targets’s architects hoped to see a world, by 2020, in which “pressures on biodiversity are reduced, ecosystems are restored” and “biological resources are sustainably used,” among other goals.
But as the deadline passes, only six of the 20 goals have been achieved even in part, the U.N. said in its Global Biodiversity Outlook report released Tuesday. The loss of biodiversity, the variety of living species on earth, continues.
There has been some progress, according to the U.N., in expanding protected areas and eradicating some invasive species. Many countries have also taken new steps to reduce deforestation, and awareness of the importance of biodiversity is on the rise.
The “number of extinctions of birds and mammals would likely have been at least two to four times higher without conservation actions over the past decade,” according to the report. But species “continue to move, on average, closer to extinction.”
“1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history,” the U.N. warned in a report last year.
Progress, the authors found, has been insufficient and unequally distributed.
Biodiversity-related funding has flatlined in many countries. The annual funding available for projects to work toward the Aichi targets — an estimated $78 to $91 billion — is far from what is needed, at least “hundreds of billions of dollars,” according to the report. At the same time, funding for projects harmful to biodiversity has not faltered.
The setbacks have been many. Pollution levels are high. More than 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs are under threat. Only 66 percent of the stocks fished worldwide were at biologically sustainable levels in 2017, down from 71 percent seven years earlier.
Climate change “threatens to undermine all efforts to conserve and sustainably manage biodiversity,” António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, wrote in the report’s introduction. Yet the natural world Guterres wrote, “offers some of the most effective solutions to avert the worst impacts of a warming planet.”
Experts warn ecosystem loss and the wildlife trade, which reduce biodiversity, can also increase the likelihood that novel pathogens will spread to humans.
In a release, Inger Andersen, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, proposed that biodiversity projects should be included in coronavirus recovery packages, to “ensure a better future for our societies and the planet.”