SBSTTA23: An apex goal for the Post- 2020 biodiversity framework: Proposals from science – Montreal

Exploring the best approaches for implementable and SMART overarching goal(s) for the post 2020 biodiversity framework
Held on November 26th during Montreal SBSTTA23, this side event explored the relevance of setting a unique apex target for the Post-2020 biodiversity framework, or a small number of overarching targets, with a view of translating the post 2020 biodiversity framework into action. Inspired by the approach developed within the framework of the UNFCCC, the biodiversity scientific community proposes different ways of simplifying, making more visible and more measurable the objectives of the Post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The side event showcased several of these approaches and the metrics that they will be able to propose as part of a Measurement, Reporting and Verification system.

This side event explored the relevance of setting a unique apex target, or a small number of overarching targets, for the Post-2020 framework.

Piero Visconti (IIASA) first recalled the SBSTTA recommendation XXI/1, which suggested the need to articulate the 2050 Vison into a small set of measurable goals. This is deemed susceptible to galvanize action, through being easier to communicate to the broadest possible audience, measurable over time – track progress, and give a positive vision that inspire action. Piero Visconti then discussed desirable properties for such targets:

  • Be in line with the three objectives of the CBD: conserving biodiversity, use it sustainably and equitably share its benefits
  • Be in line with the 2050 vision and a possible 2030 mission
  • Communicable
  • Result-oriented
  • Measurable
  • Achievable by 2030
  • Scalable nationally
  • Relatively immune from perverse outcomes (i.e. the target cannot be achieved while the state of biodiversity deteriorates to undesirable level).

Science community shouldn’t give up on trying to provide a goal. The communicators need the input by scientists, even if it is difficult. People won’t mind if something is clumsy if there is movement in the right direction.” Jane Smart, IUCN

In his presentation, Bernardo Strassburg (IIS) stressed the importance of having overarching outcome-oriented targets in the post-2020 framework, and evaluate the action targets and their implementation based on their contribution to achieving the outcome targets. He presented the works of IIS on the global prioritisation for restoration. The work covers 2.9 billion hectares of converted lands, includes an individual focus on extinction risk for 22,431 species, estimates carbon sequestration (in aboveground and belowground biomass and in soils, estimates agriculture opportunity costs, and includes forests, grasslands, shrublands, wetlands, and arid ecosystems. The work suggests that there are important differences in biodiversity outcomes depending on where the restorations efforts take place: the same target of restoring 5% of converted lands can reduce extinctions by 4% or by 43%. At the global level, 55% of current agricultural lands could be restored without compromising agricultural production (1.4 billion hectares). Bernardo Strassburg concluded notably that:

  • Decision support tools can support the planning and implementation of targets in a way compatible with reaching the overarching outcomes;
  • The ambition of halting [net] negative human impacts on biodiversity by 2030, and reversing a considerable fraction by 2050, is eminently feasible;
  • To be sustainable, this needs to be done is a manner that the responsibilities and benefits are equitably shared by all people.

Aleksandar Rankovic (IDDRI) discussed the parallels that are made between discussions on overarching targets at the CBD and UNFCCC. He recalled that in the Paris Agreement, the long-term temperature goals of 2°C/1.5°C (Article 2), which is an “outcome goal”, are not the only goals. Article 4.1. of the Paris Agreement concerns greenhouse gases emissions, aid aims at a “carbon neutrality” in the second half of the century. While there is still much attention paid to the “galvanizing potential” of overarching long-term outcome targets for biodiversity, Aleksandar Rankovic recalled that for climate it is the net-zero / carbon neutrality goal that is gaining more political traction, rather than long-term temperature goals. He suggested that discussions overarching targets should reflect on the geopolitics of efforts that are associated with different options. In climate change talks, temperature targets are a proxy to negotiate efforts in emissions reduction. The linkages between current ideas for the post-2020 framework (e.g., 30 by 30) and the efforts in terms of socioeconomic transformations should be made clearer, because they are key in negotiations and for implementation. He stressed three aspects to take into account when developing the overarching goals for the post-2020 framework:

  • Political constraint: the overarching goals will need to reflect the three objectives of CBD.
  • Should enable measuring individual efforts and collective progress.
  • The strongest political dynamics might not happen around overarching outcome goals, but around action targets.

During the discussion, Jane Smart (IUCN), who chaired the event, noted that there were several interchangeable terms that were being used in post-2020 discussions (apex target, overarching goals, etc.) and that clarification will be necessary. A participant suggested that the framing and use of terms should be discussed according to concerns expressed in society, recalling that it took forty focus groups to understand that the US Clean Air Act would be best understood if linked to the asthma issue.

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