(Big Desert, pre-dawn. de Chelard, H. 2020)

Habitat and Species Protection Goals

7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

The most relevant international goals for habitat and species protection for the latest decade, 2010-20, were the so-called ‘Aichi goals’. (‘Aichi’, because the location where the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was signed by 193 signatory nations was Aichi, a prefecture of Japan, whose capital is Nagoya).

In Nagoya, 20 goals and targets were developed to act as a framework for nations and international agencies re biodiversity protection, and three of these goals are particularly relevant to this section on habitat and species.

  • Aichi Target 5: “By 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced.”

This is a fine, strong and direct target, recognising as it does the dire state of the planet and the huge losses already incurred. To track progress against the target, the UN has an excellent website that maps and scores progress against each Aichi target and it should be checked here1: Convention on Biological Diversity (cbd.int) . The site contains further resources, videos of presentations on the subject, and national targets that were established under the Aichi ‘umbrella’.

The summarised findings for Target 5 were as follows:

Sadly, progress on this target was very poor, with 14% of nations only reporting that the target had been met, and it must be remembered that this data is arrived at from ‘self-reporting’, so perhaps the actual figure is even lower. Habitat is being lost, fragmented and degraded at an alarming rate – see webpages 7.2 and 7.3.

  • Aichi Target 11: “By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.”

Progress on this target was better than for Target 5, and for at least terrestrial areas, may have been achieved, depending on various vagaries of reporting. The ‘Protected Planet’ website – Explore the World’s Protected Areas (protectedplanet.net) – holds the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), the official database for same for the IUCN and UNEP, and stated: “As of January 2019, designated protected areas covered almost 15% of terrestrial land and nearly 7.5% of oceans”2. This increased steadily through the decade 2010-20, and continues to do so, so they think the target may have been achieved on land, albeit a little late, and probably would have been achieved had there been a thorough accounting of OECMs – ‘Other Effective, Area-based Conservation Measures’, e.g. private-land reserves.

Where are these reserves and what comprises ‘protected’? ‘Protected and conserved’ is defined by the treaty as areas that “aim to achieve, or are effective in achieving, conservation outcomes”, and as such they have adopted the first six IUCN categories for the classification of protected areas, (for example, many National Parks around the world fit within IUCN category II), plus an ‘uncategorised’ group (Biosphere Reserves, Ramsar sites, World Heritage Areas, etc.) – see map of global protected areas.

The colour choice for the legend is unfortunate as it is hard to distinguish, but basically, the darker the purple the ‘stricter’ the protected area, i.e. more conservation-oriented it is, apart from the dark colour for ‘uncategorised’, which has mixed orientation and focus.

While all areas are important for the protection of habitat and species, I think the adoption by the treaty of IUCN categories 1-6 for this measure (as well as ‘uncategorised’) is overly generous and that this should have been restricted to categories 1-4 (as is often the case), plus some of ‘uncategorised’, e.g. World Heritage Areas, as these are the so-called ‘strict’ (but I prefer ‘strong’) nature reserves whose priority is unambiguous. Categories V to VI and parts of ‘Uncategorised’ are well-intentioned, but are often vague and interpreted by nations and regions as guidelines only, and honoured as much in the breach as the observance. Examples of this are Category V which covers measures such as planning overlays, VI, which can refer to Game Reserves, or Indigenous Areas, or Uncommitted Public Land, where degrading land uses can occur, and ‘Uncategorised’ Biosphere and Ramsar reserves where too often business as usual seems to continue.

It is difficult to get a breakdown of recent proportions of protected areas within reserve categories, but I have located a graph (Fig. 2.7) from UNEP, 20073, and we will have to assume that proportions are largely similar today (although we know that categories V and VI are growing somewhat faster than others). The graph indicates that if we take categories 1-4, and 50% of ‘No Category’ (Uncategorised), then this comprises 56% of the total. Extrapolating this to Aichi Target 11, I would suggest that, in reality, the progressive score for genuinely protected areas is more like 8-9%.

The world map of protected areas is just one of the amazing databases and maps held by the UN Biodiversity Lab. At this website – UN Biodiversity Lab – Providing decision makers with the best available spatial data to put nature at the center of sustainable development. – you can check dozens of nations, regions and layers covering everything from Protected Areas, to Forest Connectivity, to Global Mangrove Watch4. One can drill down to surprisingly small scales and the detail is remarkably accurate.

Target 11 has six qualitative measures as well as its quantitative “17% and 10%”. The qualitative measures are that protected areas need to:

  1. Cover areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services;
  2. Cover a representative sample of species and ecosystems;
  3. Be effectively managed;
  4. Be equitably managed;
  5. Be well-connected; and
  6. Be integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.

Each of these quality elements is essential to a successful network of protected and conserved areas.”

Each of these six items is covered on the Protected Planet website – Explore the World’s Protected Areas (protectedplanet.net) , see Thematic Areas, and the 2020 Report2. There is too much to go into here, but an example is the following map of connectivity for Europe. (Very light green = <5% connectivity of protected areas, light green = 5-10%, and dark green = 10-17%).

(Protected Planet. 2020. Connectivity of Protected Areas. UNEP/IUCN)

  • Aichi Target 12: “By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.”

Disappointingly, this target has not been met, or anywhere near it. As per Target 5, which sought to put a floor under habitat loss and say ‘no more’, we have failed to improve, let alone sustain, the lot of so many of our fellow travellers on earth, especially those already threatened with extinction. (See, also, ‘State of the Environment’, Fig. SPM 3, ‘B’ and ‘C’ re trends for declines in taxonomic groups and for Red List species).

An additionally disappointing result from the Convention has been the ‘failure to report’ by so many countries. 56% have failed to report, despite being signatories, and perhaps beyond all the official 20 Aichi measures, this lack of commitment and seriousness by over half of the world’s nations is the most damning result of all.


(b) Future Goals?

With the Aichi timeline over it is time to develop a new Global Biodiversity Framework, and it is hoped that this will occur, after several delays, later this year in Kunming, China, at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 15).

In the meantime, a range of NGOs and other interested parties and governments have been developing draft goals and targets in an attempt to promote worthwhile, and ambitious, targets for the next decade and beyond. Their call is for an “equitable, nature-positive and carbon-neutral future” and their program is called ‘A Global Goal for Nature’, with the tagline: “nature-positive by 2030 and living in harmony with nature by 2050”5. Enlarging on this:

  • “By 2030, we must have more nature through improvements in the health, abundance, diversity and resilience of species, populations and ecosystems. We need all future development and infrastructure to be planned and implemented through a nature-positive lens (ibid.);
  • By 2030, we must conserve and protect 30% of the world’s land and ocean (‘30 x 30’) (ibid.); and

“By 2050, we must be living in harmony with nature. Actions for nature cannot be achieved without addressing both the climate emergency and social justice” (ibid.) .

The Convention on Biological Diversity presents a summary of the draft goals thus6:

“The Framework comprises 21 targets and 10 ‘milestones’ proposed for 2030, en route to ‘living in harmony with nature’ by 2050. Key targets include:

  • Ensure that at least 30 per cent globally of land areas and of sea areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and its contributions to people, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.
  • Prevent or reduce the rate of introduction and establishment of invasive alien species by 50%, and control or eradicate such species to eliminate or reduce their impacts.
  • Reduce nutrients lost to the environment by at least half, pesticides by at least two thirds, and eliminate discharge of plastic waste.
  • Use ecosystem-based approaches to contribute to mitigation and adaptation to climate change, contributing at least 10 GtCO2e per year to mitigation; and ensure that all mitigation and adaptation efforts avoid negative impacts on biodiversity.
  • Redirect, repurpose, reform or eliminate incentives harmful for biodiversity in a just and equitable way, reducing them by at least $500 billion per year.
  • Increase financial resources from all sources to at least US$ 200 billion per year, including new, additional and effective financial resources, increasing by at least US$ 10 billion per year international financial flows to developing countries, leveraging private finance, and increasing domestic resource mobilization, taking into account national biodiversity finance planning.”

It can be examined in detail here on the CBD website – WG2020-03 – Documents (cbd.int) – go to document #5. It will be noticed that whereas there is a flow-on and extension of Aichi Target 11 – Protected Areas, the draft target equivalent for Aichi Target 12 (threatened species) is fairly weak and vague, and there is no direct follow-on in the draft for Aichi Target 5 – Loss of Habitat, it being replaced by ‘Net Gain’.

A diagrammatic summary of The Global Goal for Nature has been developed thus:

(The Nature Conservancy7. 2018. Global Goal for Nature)


The whole ‘net loss/net gain’ debate is fraught, as on the one hand it gives greater chance of signatory success through being more flexible and ‘open’ to development (basically, losses of habitat and abundance in one area are said to be able to be offset by gains in other areas; for example, through better protection of a previously unprotected area, or revegetation projects, etc.). Sadly, having worked with a number of ‘Net Gain’ processes and programs over the years, e.g. for native vegetation in Victoria, I have to say that it is largely untrue and a pale cover for ‘cake and eat it to’/business-as-usual, development and degradation of the natural world. This has gone too far already and it is far better to be strong and direct and say something like ‘Zero Loss of Nature from 2020’ and when there are exceptional, rare and truly unavoidable losses, that they be offset as much as possible. Nature, habitat and species are unique and irreplaceable.

Initial reports are that although the process of development and buy-in for the goals and targets is, as always, tortuous and perhaps even excruciating, there is strong support in certain quarters: the heads of over 80 countries have signed a ‘Leaders’ Pledge for Nature’, committing to reversing biodiversity decline by 2030, and 53 countries have joined the ‘High Ambition Coalition’ committed to conserving at least 30% of the world’s land and sea by 20305. These are genuinely hopeful developments.

Less hopeful is the language around these new goals and targets. While allowing for a lot of ‘UN-speak’, the ‘environment language’ is highly revealing. It is full of caveats, accommodations, and other agenda items and goals: calls for ‘social justice’, ‘equitable management’ and an ‘equitable society’, as well as the ‘climate emergency’ and ‘carbon-neutrality’ abound, reinforcing the deeply anthropocentric world of the UN and the subservient, weak and marginalised place of Nature. It seems that only when and if human’s wants and ‘needs’ are taken care of will we address the needs of Nature. All these social and economic goals and aspirations are highly desirable, if not essential, but can you imagine the other subject-matter goals of the UN and affiliated bodies being couched within a nature-framework? Of course not; they are strong and direct and focussed on their topic. ‘Nature goals’ should – absolutely – be cognisant of wider and potentially complementary goals and actions and partnerships, but they are for the finer details, the implementation programs and the like, not upfront and by inference, superior to and prior to, any Nature goals and aspirations.

Presenting these other policy goals and cautions upfront within goals for Nature makes the additional and extremely old-fashioned inference, that protecting the environment is not a ‘good’, an automatic and unambiguous benefit for people and the world, but the opposite, a handicap and a debt. This is extended further into notions that the environment must make up for, atone, compensate for, present, past and future social and economic injustices. Apparently, it is not we who have created poverty, inequality, greed, unemployment, racism, overpopulation, etc. and so forth, nor is it up to us to solve them; Nature will do it.

(Note: it is this positioning of Nature as purely a service, a handmaiden of humanity, that I think is at the heart of the interesting documentary ‘Bright Green Lies’8. While some of the criticism made of certain renewable energy projects is perhaps a bit unfair because, of course, they do require energy and materials for their manufacture and operations, I do share their frustration with aspects of modern environmentalism which is really nothing of the sort: it is designed to shore-up the great human project and either has little to do with Nature, or worse, is in opposition to the recognition and protection of the natural world. They have not crossed ‘the intrinsic divide’).



(c) Conclusion

In webpage 7.1 we ascertained that there are three broad zones on the earth now – the intensively used and alienated (50%), the predominantly natural and lightly used (25%), and the in-between or transitional (25%). We have also seen, again and again, that we are in planetary overshoot by at least 70% (1.7 earths/year) and are using the earth far beyond capacity (see 2.1 ‘Consumption’, Fig. 12 Humanity’s Footprint9). As such, future goals for Nature should be directed to these three, different, environments, and they need to recognise how late in the day we are to do anything worthwhile for Nature, just as we seem to be – belatedly – recognising that there is a ‘climate emergency’. This extreme situation demands that goals be direct, focussed and unequivocal, not apologetic and contingent upon a raft of other desires and excuses. Protecting the natural world is the most democratic, universal action for all life on earth, for now and in the future, and seeks to safeguard the unparalleled gift that is Nature.

As such, future goals should be along the lines of:

  • Protect what we have left: (i) Habitat: Halt any further loss of the largely intact 25% of the globe, and protect and conserve this 25% as well as an additional 5% of the ‘in-between/transitional’ zone, by 2030, in line with the proposed ’30 x 30’ goal currently in circulation5 & 10; (ii) Species: Halt the extinction of threatened species and the decline of populations (Living Planet Index9) of wild species and commence improvement of their conservation status;
  • Repair the damage: Complement and enhance the above with further protection, revegetation, restoration, re-wilding, etc…of the ‘in-between/transitional’ zone;
  • Build a culture that recognises, respects and rejoices in the natural world: Maximise opportunities for Nature and relationships with Nature in the largely degraded 50%.

Goals and targets shaped around this framework would show that we recognise how dire the situation is, and how serious we are in tackling it. If it is not now, it is never.


1 Convention on Biological Diversity. <https://www.cbd.int/convention/>

2 Protected Planet. <Explore the World’s Protected Areas (protectedplanet.net)>

3 UNEP. 2007. World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Cambridge, UK. <https://www.unep-wcmc.org/en>

4 UNEP/IUCN. UN Biodiversity Lab. <https://unbiodiversitylab.org/>

5 Heath, M. 2021. A Global Goal for Nature. Australian Birdlife, Vol. 10, No. 3, Sept., Birdlife Australia/ Birdlife International, Carlton, Australia.

6 Convention on Biological Diversity. Draft Goals Kunming. <WG2020-03 – Documents (cbd.int) – go to document #5>

7 The Nature Conservancy. Goals for 2030. <https://www.nature.org/en-us/what-we-do/our-priorities/>

8 Barnes, J. 2021. Bright Green Lies.  <Watch Bright Green Lies Online | Vimeo On Demand on Vimeo> . Note: the following quote from Lierre Keith gives the gist of the documentary’s argument: “The environmental movement used to be a very impassioned group of people who cared very deeply about the places we loved and the creatures we loved. What happened, though, in my lifetime, was that this movement which was so honourable and impassioned, it turned into something completely different. And now its about protecting a destructive way of life, while it destroys the creatures and the places we love. It’s all become, ‘how do we continue to fuel this destruction?”

9 WWF. 2020. Living Planet Report 2020 – bending the curve of biodiversity loss. WWF, Gland, Switzerland.

10 Robbins, J. 2020. The Plan to Turn Half the World into a Reserve for Nature. March 19th, BBC <The plan to turn half the world into a reserve for nature – BBC Future> Note: provides a good list and links to those urging for ‘30 x 30’ and more, but remainder is poor: alarmist and repeats the tired mantra of the Old Right – “Nature is being locked up” with a new pejorative of parts of the New Left – “fortress conservation”.

Explore Other Natural Habitat and Species

7.1 Introduction

New York is an exciting, mesmerising place. Human culture is extraordinary and often wonderful. Our powers of transformation of the natural world seem limitless. The trouble is, we don’t seem to be able to stop, let alone want to stop. How far ...

7.2 State of Habitat

The Worldwide Fund for Nature’s exceptional ‘Living Planet Report 2020’1, Fig. 19 – reproduced below, attempts to show the global distribution of highly modified, largely natural, and in-between habitats. The dark green areas approximat...

7.3 Threats: Land Clearing and Direct Habitat Loss

This is the big one. As pointed out in 7.1 and 7.2 it accounts for over half of all population declines (see Figure 5, webpage 7.2) of native species and is as obvious as it is crude. We burn, chop, bulldoze, log, graze, and drain remaining habita...

7.4 Threats: Species Overexploitation

After land clearing and direct habitat loss, the next biggest threat for native species is overexploitation. It accounts for approximately 24% of declines1 (see webpage 7.2, figures 4 and 5) and can be as simple and direct as overhuntin...

7.5 Threats: Invasive Species and Diseases

Again, strangely, an unfashionable topic for modern environmentalism, but nonetheless, third on the list of threats to the natural world, with an average score across regions of 13%  (to recap: #1 is habitat loss at 50% and #2 is exploitation of s...

7.6 Threats: Fire

Running across and through almost all threats to habitat is fire. Whether indirectly, through clearing, draining and ‘opening up’ of the bush, and as a result of climate change, or directly, through the deliberate lighting of fires, we are seeing ...

7.7 Threats: Erasing Nature from the Mind

I am going to help you here before you make a terrible faux pas and condemn yourself as a “morally repugnant”  ‘conservationist’, or worse, an old-fashioned ‘preservationist’. You cannot see this picture of the Peruvian Amazon. Look awa...

7.8 Habitat and Species Protection Goals

The most relevant international goals for habitat and species protection for the latest decade, 2010-20, were the so-called ‘Aichi goals’. (‘Aichi’, because the location where the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was signed by 193 signatory n...

7.9 Acting for Habitat and Species

Everything in T10 is designed either to increase the protection of habitat and species, or reduce the pressures on same. As such, actions outlined in each of the 10 sections will – directly or indirectly – make a significant contribution. This sai...

7.10 The Future

Jorgen Randers was one of the authors of the seminal ‘Limits to Growth’ in 19721, as well as the 30-year update published in 20042. In 2012 he published ‘2052 – A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years’3. It woul...

Explore Other Sections

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship
1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses

1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship

This section is designed to foster appreciation and insight that will – hopefully – lead to novel ways to build a better relationship between human beings and Nature. This section is also atypical ...
2. Reduce Consumption
2. Reduce Consumption

2. Reduce Consumption

I hope Reneé Descartes would forgive us for saying that, at least for the modern world, he was wrong.  When, in 1637, he said: “I think, therefore I am”, he could not have anticipated that the majo...
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality
3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

3. Replace God of Growth with God of Quality

In a supposedly secular age there has arisen a global religion and god like never before, a religion whose reach and power makes every other belief system before it seem pitiful and insignificant: ...
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment
4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

4. Work, Volunteer, Act for the Environment

What we do in our day-to-day lives can have great impact. Section Four divides up these actions into three groups – Work (4.2 & 4.3), Volunteering (4.4), and Action, e.g. voting, protesting, et...
5. Reduce Population
5. Reduce Population

5. Reduce Population

Even on top of Mt. Everest, in one of the remotest, most difficult places on earth, there is a great traffic-jam of people jostling for position. And yet, ever more vociferously, we deny that overp...
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context
6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

6. Ensure Media Acknowledgement of Environmental Context

The media is one of the three, great ‘poles’ of power in the world (alongside political and corporate power) and how they frame and present ‘the environment’ has a profound effect on how we respond...
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species
7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

7. Stop Further Loss of Natural Habitat and Species

New York is an exciting, mesmerising place. Human culture is extraordinary and often wonderful. Our powers of transformation of the natural world seem limitless. The trouble is, we don’t seem to be...
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition
8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

8. Assist Energy Descent and Transition

Our current energy largesse is an extraordinary ‘gift’, an unprecedented gift of the ages; millions of years to produce and from millions of years ago. Coal, oil and gas, forming...
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems
9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

9. Support New, Environmentally-Aware, Economic Systems

Just as with the previous section – ‘Energy’ – which is, inescapably, all about fossil fuels so pre-eminent and extraordinary has been their dominance and transformation of the world in the last 20...
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

Section 10 will attempt to organise this enormous topic by addressing the context and status of pollution in 10.2, before focussing in on air pollution; particularly greenhouse gas pollution and cl...