Reaching full nature recovery by 2050: catalysing a new global nature-positive strategy

mbolina / AdobeStock
22 January 2021

While the COVID-19 lockdowns have shown how life could be different for our planet, they have also shed light on how unsuitable our current socioeconomic systems are for the well-being of nature and people. Nature is in crisis, undermining nature’s contributions to human well-being, and representing a major risk to the global economy. Yet a ‘Nature Positive’ future can now be paired with a ‘Carbon Neutral’ future with a goal of full recovery by 2050 – the goal is ambitious and also achievable. But ‘bending the curve’ on biodiversity loss requires transformative change. 

The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity will meet to adopt in 2021, is an opportunity to drive such change, with a bold vision of ‘living in harmony with nature’ by 2050. However, ambitious goals are only meaningful if they can be mainstreamed into society and translated into action.

To help devise a mainstreaming strategy around no-net loss and nature-positive principles, the Luc Hoffmann Institute convened a diverse group of leaders and thinkers at the World Economic Forum in early 2020, including representatives from the United Nations, WWF, the Business for Nature coalition, Systemiq, Microsoft, IUCN, the universities of Oxford and Kent, the MAVA Foundation and other representatives from government, conservation organisations and the private sector. The group explored what an apex target for biodiversity could look like and debated the merits of no-net-loss and net-positive approaches. 

Stemming from that convening, and in preparation for this year’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, researchers from 22 institutions, led by the University of Oxford’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science and including Jon Hutton, Director of the Luc Hoffmann Institute and now Global Conservation Director for WWF International, have authored a bold new method that provides a way for everyone to play a role in achieving harmony with nature by 2050. The paper, published by One Earth, shows how to change our overall impact from negative to positive through a four-step ‘Mitigation and Conservation Hierarchy’:

  • The refrain step involves avoiding negative impacts on nature as far as possible.
  • The reduce step involves minimising damage to nature where it cannot be completely avoided.
  • The restore step involves remediating any immediate damage to nature.
  • The renew step involves investing in revitalising nature.

“This decade and indeed this year must be the turning point, where we transform humanity’s relationship with nature and put the planet on a path to recovery,” says Hutton.

Indeed, the upcoming meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the future adoption of a new Global Biodiversity Framework, represent an opportunity to transform humanity's relationship with nature. Restoring nature while meeting human needs requires a bold vision which will only succeed if biodiversity conservation becomes mainstream. The One Earth publication presents an overarching framework to support this, with practical implementation tips for policymakers, individuals, private sector organisations, non-governmental organisations and researchers available on the Mitigation and Conservation Hierarchy website

What is the Convention on Biological Diversity? 

United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is one of three international environment agreements that emerged from the Rio Earth Summit held in 1992.

The other two agreements are:

  • the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and
  • the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

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