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The Science Behind Global Biodiversity Targets

As the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos, Switzerland, closed up shop on Friday, another meeting of scientists began a few icy and slippery steps down the road. The Earth Commission, hosted by Future Earth, kicked off a four-day workshop on the science behind biodiversity and what is feasible to expect in reversing biodiversity’s decline.

Specifically, the Commission is seeking to give scientific input to the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on potential targets for reversing or slowing biodiversity decline – “bending the curve”, in the jargon, a reference to what it looks like on a graph.

There is a well-known climate change goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C by 2030. The problem is that biodiversity comprises so many facets (e.g. species, varieties, ecosystems, interactions), one goal is probably not possible .

And scientists need to tell the politicians who will agree the CBD targets – most likely not a single one — later this year what goals are biophysically feasible and, if necessary, what will it take to make them feasible.

The meeting was bringing to together some 50 scientists  from around the world – including many by video link – with specialties that included coral reefs, islands, plants, scientific modelling, land use, aquatic ecology, social science, indigenous and local knowledge, genetic diversity, and economics.

That alone explains why biodiversity targets are not easy to come by.