In the lead-up to 2020, the year was being hailed as the “super year for nature” by the global science community. At last, biodiversity would be pushed to the top of policy agendas by a relay of major summits, conventions and new initiatives focused on the saving the planet’s declining variety of life.
The crux came recently in mid-September, when a wave of major reports on biodiversity were released in the lead-up to two UN summits. The findings, though not unexpected, were still staggering: not a single one of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets had been been met by their deadline; populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have dropped by two-thirds since 1970; the primary caretakers of biodiverse ecosystems are largely invisible in national and international policy.
The New York Times covered the UN’s Global Biodiversity Outlook in a full page in print – not in spite of COVID-19, but because of it. In this pivotal year, scientific findings paint no other picture than that conserving biodiversity underpins all of our other battles, from climate change to the spread of pandemics to economic collapse. “Biodiversity conservation is more than an ethical commitment for humanity: it is a non-negotiable and strategic investment to preserve our health, wealth and security,” stated the Living Planet report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
In this GLF Live, lead scientists from these three reports – WWF’s Rebecca Shaw, the Forest Peoples Programme’s Joji Carino and head of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility Secretariat Tim Hirsch – spoke on why science is sounding such a loud alarm bell for biodiversity at this moment and what must be done to halt its loss.
Joji Carino is an Ibaloi-Igorot from Cordillera, Philippines. She is the senior policy advisor of Forest Peoples Programme, and is a lead writer, together with Maurizio Farhan Ferrari, of the Local Biodiversity Outlooks 2. Joji has been an active campaigner and advocate for the past 35 years on Indigenous peoples’ human rights, at community, national and international levels, and is a recognized leader in Indigenous processes covering biodiversity, Indigenous knowledge and sustainable development. She strongly supports community-based research and monitoring and also coordinates a network of centers of distinction on Indigenous and local knowledge.
Rebecca Shaw is chief scientist and senior vice president of WWF. She came to WWF from the Environmental Defense Fund, where she was responsible for developing and implementing the vision and strategy of the Land, Water & Wildlife program. Prior to joining EDF in 2011, she served first as Director of Conservation Science and then as Associate State Director at the Nature Conservancy’s California Chapter. She’s also researched the impact of climate change at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.
Rebecca has been published widely, including a number of peer-reviewed works in leading journals such as Science and Nature, and is the recipient of numerous research fellowships. She is a lead author of the section of the 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report that focuses on impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability, and serves as a member of the California Climate Adaptation Advisory Panel. Rebecca holds an M.A. in environmental policy and a Ph.D. in energy and resources from the University of California, Berkeley.
Tim Hirsch is the deputy director of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Secretariat. His background is in journalism, having worked as a BBC journalist for 19 years, including as environment correspondent between 1997 and 2006. During a period as a freelance writer and consultant based in Brazil from 2006 to 2011 he worked with a number of international initiatives to help communicate environment-related scientific assessments. In this role he helped author summary reports for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). In 2011 Tim joined the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), an intergovernmental research infrastructure aimed at providing free and open access to biodiversity data, where he has been deputy director since 2013, based in Copenhagen. Tim has continued to work with the CBD in a consultancy capacity, co-authoring the Global Biodiversity Outlook in its Third (2010), Fourth (2014) and Fifth (2020) editions.