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Protecting Our Planet’s Biodiversity
The Global Biodiversity Outlook reveals we need to get to work, and fast
There’s nothing quite like the first time you plunge beneath the ocean’s surface with SCUBA gear and become immersed in a world that was invisible to you just moments ago; a world full of corals and kelp, fishes and turtles, soft sands and cold muds and even sharks, stingrays, seals or whales, if you’re lucky. So, when my 8-year-old niece asked about becoming a certified SCUBA diver, I not only saw the opportunity to solidify my “Cool Aunt” status, but also was excited to share with her the awe that marine biodiversity in our ocean can inspire. However, the biodiversity found in our ocean, on the whole planet, is in crisis. My niece is only 8, and I can’t be certain what coral reefs will look like by the time she has all her diving certifications and we can plan that first plunge together beneath the waves.
Right now, Heads of State are convening at the United Nations (UN) for a Summit on Biodiversity and their words and commitments will determine a lot more than just the timing of my family SCUBA adventure. The Summit comes on the heels of the release of Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO5), a report card that tells us how governments are doing to reach targets that they set for themselves in 2010 to protect biodiversity. Their grade: Needs serious improvement. If we want to turn things around and pull off a Satisfactory by 2030 —before it’s too late —then it’s time to step up our level of ambition and seriously scale-up our actions.
Ocean Conservancy and our peer organizations are working hard to preserve the biodiversity of our planet and ocean. We can’t do it alone, though. We need ocean lovers and governments to help, and there are so many reasons to take action. Protecting marine biodiversity will not only preserve recreational diving and sustainable tourism, it will also preserve the livelihoods, food and nutrition security, and economies of many coastal communities. The benefits of protecting biodiversity come from the animals and plants themselves, whether we’re using them as resources for food, taking trips to see them or deriving medicines from them, as well as from keeping the soils, rivers or ocean they live in healthy. The same habitats and ecosystems that support biodiversity provide us with clean air and drinking water, and—increasingly importantly —they help regulate our climate by storing carbon. Protecting biodiversity and working to prevent catastrophic climate change go hand in hand. In order to achieve one, we have to achieve the other.
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Of the 20 biodiversity targets (and 60 sub elements) that governments agreed to in 2010, many are specifically related to protecting marine biodiversity and coastal communities. Here are some examples of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (named for the Aichi Prefecture in Japan where they were agreed to) set in 2010 and the reported progress towards their achievement:
Target 6. Sustainable Fisheries: The target has not been achieved (high confidence).
Target 8. Preventing plastic pollution: The target has not been achieved (medium confidence).