The comments were largely unanimous: the outcome of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) at the end of 2022 was groundbreaking. It was seen as a breakthrough in biodiversity protection, even comparable to the Paris Agreement on climate. And there was good cause to celebrate: after years of negotiations and at the eleventh hour, delegates adopted the final text, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The framework provides, among other things, for 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface to be protected by 2030. This target, sometimes known as the “30x30 initiative”, aims to put an urgently needed stop to species loss.
The signatories to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity hope that increasing the extent of protected areas from 17 to 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface will benefit both biodiversity and human society.
Many questions remain
But questions remain, such as what exactly is to be protected, and where and how – although many projects to implement species protection are already underway or planned. For example, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework does not specify how strictly the new or existing “areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services” should be protected from human activities or use.
“Depending on how the 30 per cent target is implemented, it will not only have different environmental outcomes, but also different social, political, and economic impacts. The costs as well as the advantages and disadvantages associated with implementation will also differ regionally and locally,” says Julie Zähringer of the Wyss Academy for Nature and CDE, University of Bern. Together with a group of 29 other scientists, she calls for social aspects to be included in the implementation of the 30x30 target. As the researchers make clear in a just published statement: How successfully the global 30x30 nature conservation target can actually be implemented depends strongly on social factors.
Creating a basis for decisions
However, including social considerations is not as straightforward as it might seem. The problem is a lack of detailed analyses that would allow scientists to forecast the short- and long-term effects of different implementation scenarios on specific groups of the local population as well as on society as a whole. Such analyses are a prerequisite for decision-makers at all levels, say the researchers.
The 30 scientists have formulated four concrete recommendations for assessing the social and socio-economic effects of the creation and management of protected areas. The recommendations mainly concern data, monitoring, and cooperation among the main actors. “These actions will require close collaboration between scholars and practitioners working from multiple disciplines, perspectives and scales, including those who have been historically under-represented in debates over area-based conservation.”
The researchers’ calls and recommendations are aimed at the next UN Biodiversity Conference, which is planned for 2024 in Turkey.