The ‘Super Year for Biodiversity’ is underway and Nature is trending. Relatable, universal, and cross-cutting, Nature will be a dominant and uniting theme for many of the milestone events leading up to the adoption of a new, post-2020 framework for biodiversity in October.

With half of humanity living in urban areas, where biodiversity often comes in the forms of roaches, rats, monkeys, and mosquitoes, any push to save the planet needs a concept everyone can embrace. The messaging this year will be broad and it will be accessible. From slum to skyscraper, Nature is all around. Air to breathe, fresh water and food. A stunning sunset. A vicious storm. Nature envelopes us, and for better or worse, it ‘leaves no one behind.’ Communications will encourage the reconnection of people to Nature, like for instance the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’ (IPBES) emphasis on ‘Nature’s Contributions to People.’

Going into 2020, data show that we won’t achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Aichi Targets by their deadline in December. Evidence will come from the fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5), which is tasked, inter alia, with reporting on each of the Aichi Targets and is due out in May. Last year, the IPBES Global Assessment of the State of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service report, which will serve as the scientific basis of the post-2020 biodiversity framework negotiations, informed that approximately a million species are a risk of extinction and that nature continues to decline due to human activities. The report warned that current trajectories will not achieve the global goals on nature as articulated in the Aichi Targets and the SDGs.

Perhaps a wider and softer net – one woven by Mother Nature herself – can help. Anchoring biodiversity to Nature may make it easier to incorporate biodiversity considerations into the everyday decisions of people, governments and companies. This has long been a CBD priority, with the Convention dedicating its 2018 meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to mainstreaming biodiversity into the agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism sectors – recognizing that these sectors depend on nature’s contributions. Without a doubt, the plight of biodiversity must be universally understood and addressed, if humanity is to solve the ecological crisis. As the 2019 World Economic Forum, Conservation International, the World Wildlife Fund are saying, it’s time for a “New Deal for Nature.”

Further, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and SDG implementation has demanded an end to siloed development approaches and encouraged a focus on the linkages between the environmental, economic and social aspects of development. No more is biodiversity to be considered in a vacuum – not if it is to be truly integrated into the universally agreed, global development platform. Arguably, the concept of Nature offers a way to link biodiversity more easily into the SDG framework. Nature’s systems, of which biodiversity is a critical component, sustain life on Earth and offer a touchstone for the achievement of all the Goals. Nature is cross-cutting.

The theme for biggest meeting on biodiversity in ten years does not contain the word biodiversity.

When the CBD does convene its COP in October to adopt the post-2020 biodiversity framework, it will do so under the theme of ‘Ecological Civilizations: Building a Shared Future for all Life on Earth.’ Note that the theme for the biggest meeting on biodiversity in ten years does not contain the word biodiversity. Instead it links people (civilizations) to nature (ecology). Ecology is the branch of biology dealing with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. By its theme, the CBD COP won’t just be talking about conserving biodiversity for biodiversity’s sake. It will be talking about the core of humanity – our civilizations – and their relationship to the natural world all around. It is an approach that strikes an additional nail into the coffin of siloed approaches to conservation.

The other major biodiversity-related COP in 2020, that of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) in February, will also have ecology at the heart of its theme. For its part, the CMS will present the concept of ‘Ecological Connectivity,’ which it defines as “the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on Earth.” With a concept that links the migration of species to the sustenance of all life on Earth, the CMS is calling for both an Ecological Connectivity stand-alone target as well as integration of the concept into other relevant targets of the new biodiversity framework.’ Will the bigger pictures sync? Can our “ecological civilizations” be “ecologically connected”? 

In addition to ecology, nature-based solutions are also likely to feature in the big biodiversity-related and climate meetings this year. These approaches, which offer a linked way to incorporate biodiversity considerations into multidimensional development problems, rose to global attention in 2019. They were stressed in parallel to the Climate Action Summit, especially with regard to forests, as well as at the UN Convention on Desertification COP (UNCCD COP 14) and the High-level Panel on Oceans, during Climate Week. Nature-based solutions have been framed as a way to address multiple priorities at once – for instance mangroves offer protection from climate-related disasters like storm surges, while fostering the biodiversity that supports fisheries (food and employment) and sequestering carbon.  

In announcing the theme of the next World Environment Day, which will take place in June 2020 and focus on biodiversity, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said, “2020 is a year for urgency, ambition and action to address the crisis facing nature; it is also an opportunity to more fully incorporate nature-based solutions into global climate action.” It is likely that nature-based solutions will also receive attention at the forthcoming meetings of the World Conservation Congress, the second UN Ocean Conference, and the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

As a final point of reference for the 2020 word of the year, when world leaders convene in New York for the UN General Assembly, they will have an opportunity to participate in a ‘Nature Summit.’ The meeting will offer one more step towards achieving the CBD’s long-term (2050) Vision of ‘Living in Harmony with Nature.’

We are all touched by her hand, and for the Biodiversity Super Year, we will see that our hope lies in Nature.