Later this month it will be World Biodiversity Day, and we will again celebrate the remarkable contributions that biodiversity makes to the resilience and productivity of the earth’s ecosystems. But it will also be a fitting time to face the continued failure of our institutions to grasp the scale of biodiversity loss. Or, if not to grasp it, to respond in any way adequately.

The figures speak for themselves. Since 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity has been charged with agreeing global targets for biodiversity conservation. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2011-2020, for instance, aimed to halve the rate of habitat loss, protect 17% of terrestrial ecosystems, and much else besides.

None of those targets were met. In response, the Kunming-Montreal Agreement recently agreed to protect 30% of ecosystems by 2030, to restore 30% of degraded ecosystems, and so on and so on and so on. On current projections, these targets are going to be missed too, by some distance. Like Canute ordering the tides to stop, it turns out that setting targets, by itself, achieves nothing. [click to continue…]