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Impact of climate change on animal populations worse than imagined

New research indicates that ambitious global targets aimed at halting the decline in nature may already be slipping out of reach, as the consequences of climate change and habitat loss on animal populations have been underestimated. 

With scientists suggesting that preventing extinctions may require more time than previously anticipated, immediate action is necessary to prevent global biodiversity targets from becoming unattainable.

In December, nearly 200 countries agreed to halt the decline in nature by the end of the decade, setting ambitious goals to stop the loss of biodiversity and protect 30 percent of lands and seas by 2030. 

However, according to Dr. Robert Freeman of the Institute of Zoology in London, the analysis highlights that it’s even harder than we think to meet the targets. “We need to act more urgently and more quickly, and tackle more things to achieve them.”

The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, analyzed trends in populations of over 600 different species of birds and mammals. 

The researchers discovered that previous modeling efforts had largely neglected time lags of decades before the impacts of drivers such as climate change and habitat loss take effect. This finding implies that the world may be closer to a precipice of biodiversity loss than initially believed.

“We’ve seen delayed effects of up to 40 years for large mammals and birds,” Dr. Freeman told BBC News. “And that means that the longer we wait to take action, the longer it will take to see any kind of response.”

Despite these sobering revelations, the research also suggests that immediate action on issues such as unsustainable hunting and over-exploitation of natural resources can yield immediate and far-reaching benefits. The urgency of the situation is evident as more plant.and animal populations face extinction now than at any other point in human history.

In an effort to address this biodiversity crisis, 188 governments, including the United Kingdom, signed a landmark agreement in December, committing to global targets for 2030. These targets range from reducing global food waste by half to phasing out subsidies that negatively impact biodiversity. 

The new research underscores the importance of swift and comprehensive action to preserve the planet’s biodiversity and ensure the health of our ecosystems for future generations.

The commitment signed by 188 countries

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is a comprehensive plan, signed by 188 countries, designed to guide international efforts to protect biodiversity and promote sustainable use of natural resources from 2020 to 2030. It was developed under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), a multilateral treaty established in 1992 to address the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

The framework builds upon the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which aimed to safeguard ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity. Recognizing that the Aichi Targets were not fully achieved, the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework seeks to address the ongoing biodiversity crisis more effectively by setting new targets and milestones.

Key components of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework include:


The framework envisions a world where “by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.”


The framework’s mission is to “take urgent action across society to put biodiversity on a path to recovery for the benefit of the planet and people by 2030.”


The framework outlines four long-term goals for 2050, focusing on the conservation and restoration of ecosystems, species, and genetic diversity, as well as the sustainable use of biodiversity and equitable sharing of benefits.


The framework includes 21 action-oriented targets for 2030, addressing key drivers of biodiversity loss, such as habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, and unsustainable exploitation of resources.


The framework emphasizes the need for transformative change and effective implementation through national and regional strategies, integrating biodiversity concerns into all sectors of society, and mobilizing financial resources, capacity-building, and technology transfer.

Monitoring and review

The framework establishes a process for monitoring progress towards the goals and targets, including the use of global indicators, national reporting, and a comprehensive review at the midpoint and end of the 2020-2030 period.

The Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework highlights the urgency of addressing the biodiversity crisis and the importance of international cooperation, engagement of all stakeholders, and mainstreaming of biodiversity across all sectors of society. 

The success of the framework will depend on the commitment and actions of governments, businesses, civil society, and individuals worldwide.


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