12 Nov 2020

What birds tell us about building a new global framework for nature

As well as quantifying progress (or failure) and highlighting successes and good news stories in relation to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, data from birds can inform the development and implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and its targets

By Noelle Kumpel

The rich data from birds show that while we have failed to meet most of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets – and indeed the overarching mission to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2020 – there are also positive examples and success stories, with encouraging trends in particular places, for subsets of species, or for particular aspects. Highlighted in BirdLife's new report, Birds and Biodiversity Targets, these results also provide valuable insights for the next set of biodiversity commitments: the goals, targets and implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that is under negotiation through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Here we summarise the key implications.

1. The new framework needs a clear, communicable, overarching aim, comparable to the Paris Agreement's goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. The 2020 mission was lengthy, lacked the clarity needed to focus political attention and was insufficiently ambitious. The stakes are now far higher, and only transformational change across society will enable us to achieve the 2050 vision of living in harmony with nature. The new mission must be clear that we must not only halt the loss of biodiversity but start to recover it by 2030, in order to ensure full recovery by 2050.

2. There needs to be a clear ‘theory of change’ mapping a pathway to achieve this mission, distinguishing outcome-focused aims – which should deliver against the three over-arching goals of the Convention (conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of genetic benefits of biodiversity) and the three levels of biodiversity (ecosystem, species and genetic) – from action-orientated targets and a set of enabling conditions.

3. Ultimately, the plan needs to prevent extinctions, recover the abundance and diversity of life, and retain and restore ecosystem integrity with KBAs at the core, so that all people and nature can thrive.

4. New targets must not only be more ambitious in certain areas, but critically much more ‘SMART’ – specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic and time-bound – so the action needed is clear and progress trackable.


Patricia Zurita, BirdLife's CEO, at the 2018 High-Level Political Forum © Franz Dejon / IISD


Targets are important, but implementation is key

While our report shows that ambitious, focused, ‘SMART’ targets are critical, the greatest failure of the current Strategic Plan for Biodiversity has not been the targets themselves, but the lack of implementation. The following set of enabling conditions must be addressed if we are to have any hope of reversing biodiversity loss:

Monitoring, reporting and verification

1. An improved and transparent means of planning, monitoring, reporting and verification is needed to ensure the framework as a whole is delivered.

2. Global targets and indicators must be translated into measurable and binding national equivalents so that we can add up and track the contributions of individual countries towards shared goals.

Adequately resourced implementation strategies

3. Clear implementation strategies are essential to map out the route to achieve individual targets, identifying actors, actions, milestones and resources needed, supported by capacity development and funding.

Finance and funding

4. The underlying core biodiversity datasets, such as those on Key Biodiversity Areas and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and the monitoring programmes that underpin them, such as those for threatened and common species, require specific resourcing, as well as spatially explicit national conservation and development strategies to guide planning and implementation by governments and business.

5. More widely, governments and the private sector must incorporate the true value of nature into economic systems and redirect financial flows away from activities that harm biodiversity towards those that protect, restore and manage it sustainably, removing harmful subsidies, valuing natural capital and investing in nature-based solutions.

A framework for all

6. Biodiversity must be 'mainstreamed' more effectively across society. The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is intended to be a ‘framework for all’ of society (governments, business and citizens, including women, youth and Indigenous Peoples and local communities) and through a ‘whole-ofgovernment’ approach, including at local level. Both inter- and intra-generational equity is needed to ensure that decision-making and implementation are inclusive and effective.


Delegates to CMS COP 13 applaud the signing of the Gandhinagar Declaration © Franz Dejon / IISD


Nature for climate and development

7. While being developed under the CBD, the new framework is envisaged as a UN-wide plan, and needs to transform how we value nature and unlock its full potential in underpinning the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate, both developed in 2015 with 2030 as a key milestone.

8. The new framework should commit Parties to incorporate nature-based solutions to climate change that protect and restore biodiversity and ecosystem integrity into both National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to meet the Paris Agreement. Where relevant, targets and indicators should replicate or build on those used for the SDGs. Implementation of the new framework must be central to the upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and UN Decade of Action on the SDGs.

International cooperation

9. Synergies between the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and other global policy processes are essential because biodiversity loss, climate change, land and marine degradation, the deprivation of human rights and unsustainable development are inseparable challenges caused by interdependent drivers. Parties and others therefore need to work together to raise the profile, relevance and integration of the framework with such processes, particularly those which transcend national borders.

As one example, in its Gandhinagar Declaration of February 2020, the Convention on Migratory Species highlighted the importance of international cooperation through the post-2020 framework to ensure that conservation and development is undertaken considering ecological connectivity, including across national boundaries or along entire flyways.

Similarly, international coordination is urgently needed on biodiversity in the high seas (areas beyond national jurisdiction, which cover nearly 50% of the planet and 70% of the oceans), including through a new UN treaty currently under negotiation


As this report demonstrates, individual successes show that we have the knowledge and tools to turn things around, but transformative change, through stronger and sustained political commitment and coordinated action across society, is urgently needed to safeguard and restore the biodiversity on which we depend. We are at a pivotal moment in human history. The UN Secretary-General recently warned that “the coming years will be a vital period to save the planet and to achieve sustainable, inclusive human development”. An ambitious, effective post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is absolutely essential to ensure that this coming decade is the one in which we change our relationship with nature, for the sake of all people and the planet.


Download the full report here to read our specific recommendations for each focal area.