lkrueger1_Leonardo CarratoBloomberg_deforestation Leonardo Carrato/Bloomberg/Getty Images

A Transformative Deal for Nature

In less than one year, delegates from around the world will gather in Kunming, China, to complete a new global agreement for protecting and conserving the world's natural systems. To succeed, they must bring together not just environmentalists, but also officials with the clout to effect change across entire economies.

NEW YORK – This October, representatives of the 196 parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will gather in Kunming, China, to finalize a new Global Biodiversity Framework. Like the 2015 Paris climate accord, this new agreement could mark a turning point in how we manage our relationship to nature.

But biodiversity advocates must learn an important lesson from climate activists. Global climate action gained momentum only after it became clear that the issue was about more than the environment, and would require a transformation of transport, energy, agriculture, infrastructure, and many industries. Likewise, the rapid loss of biodiversity that we are witnessing is about much more than nature. The collapse of ecosystems will threaten the wellbeing and livelihoods of everyone on the planet. Accordingly, the CBD must move beyond traditional notions of “conservation” to engage with all relevant sectors of the economy and civil society.

Since its creation following the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the CBD has been largely successful in pushing countries to establish new protected areas, such that nearly 15% of global land areas are now under some sort of park designation (though the share of protected marine areas is much smaller). But despite this relative success, biodiversity loss has continued, suggesting that the creation of nature refuges is necessary but not sufficient. To slow and halt the rapid decline of species and habitats, we must address how human societies manage land and seascapes and the resources that are being extracted from them.

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