Chapter 11

Conclusions and opportunities

The past decade has seen substantial gains in coverage, with 42% of the area now within protected and conserved areas added to the network since 2010. The extraordinary potential of OECMs to further enhance these figures is clear from this report, with data from only a handful of countries already having an impact that can be seen at the global level. The decade has also seen increases in connectivity, ecological representation and coverage of important areas for biodiversity. While it remains challenging to assess management effectiveness and equitable governance at the global level, assessments of both are being conducted more widely and methodologies are being refined. These elements, too, are likely to be dramatically affected by OECMs as more data become available over the coming years.

In the fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook, Target 11 stood out as one of the few to have been partially achieved (CBD, 2020). When the available data are disaggregated to the regional level, it becomes clear that the global picture obscures even more positive progress in some regions (e.g. Latin America and the Caribbean, Box 14), and this is not the only reason for optimism. In 2021, the concept of protected and conserved areas is better understood than ever, as we close the decade with guidance on governance diversity (Borrini-Feyerabend et al., 2013), a Green List standard to support the effective management and governance of protected and conserved areas (including through advancing gender equity) (IUCN and WCPA, 2017), an MPA Guide supporting a shared understanding of conservation in the marine realm (Oregon State University et al., 2019), and a definition to guide the identification of OECMs (CBD, 2018). With better data (Bingham et al., 2019), new methodologies (e.g. Saura et al., 2017), and evolving and ever-improving technologies like remote sensing, we now have the means to monitor the world’s protected and conserved areas in ways that were out of reach in 2010.

Nevertheless, biodiversity continues to decline and there have been clear shortfalls in the achievement of Aichi Target 11.

The need for more and better protected and conserved areas is as urgent as ever, and it is therefore essential that the shortfalls described in this report are not taken as cause for despondency or a loss of momentum for the future.

The Aichi Targets and the ambitions that will succeed them have always been a milestone towards the CBD’s 2050 Vision for Biodiversity:

By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.

Achieving this vision will be challenging, but governments around the world are taking up this challenge through the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework as a roadmap towards the vision. Alongside the development and adoption of the framework, many governments and other actors are already committing to more ambitious action on biodiversity loss (e.g. United Nations, 2020; Leaders' Pledge for Nature).

No summary of the decade can be complete without an acknowledgement of the way it ended.

COVID-19 (Box 15) has devastated lives, livelihoods and economies. It has forced us to recognise that biodiversity loss cannot continue.

When governments adopt the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, they will do so with the knowledge that their commitments must be followed by action, and that the wellbeing of people and planet depend on addressing the biodiversity crisis. The Protected Planet Report 2020 identifies the following opportunities to support the implementation of the framework, accompanied by efforts to address the broader drivers of biodiversity loss:

  1. Protected and conserved area expansion can be achieved in part by recognising and accounting for the existing efforts of indigenous peoples, local communities and private actors. This can be achieved by supporting such areas in ways deemed appropriate by their custodians, including through the recognition of their rights and responsibilities (inclusive of those of women). A further opportunity lies in identifying, recognising and supporting OECMs across all governance types, with the consent of their custodians.

  2. Effectiveness and efficiency (both spatial and economic) can be enhanced if new protected and conserved areas are designated with a focus on the network as a whole. This could equate to prioritising new designations that complement the existing network by enhancing connectivity, ecological representation, and/or coverage of areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

  3. It remains important to scale up conservation even in countries without large areas of intact biodiversity or other obvious candidates for protection. Efforts will be needed to identify suitable solutions in such countries, such as a focus on numerous small but well-connected protected and conserved areas, or achieving ecological representation though transboundary and regional cooperation.

  4. Consideration should be given to nationally-differentiated targets to optimise the global network of protected and conserved areas – by providing high levels of connectivity and ecological representation, and covering areas of importance for biodiversity – preceded by the identification of mechanisms to prevent the costs of conservation falling disproportionately on poorer economies or local people.

  5. Particular efforts are needed to expand marine protected and conserved areas beyond coastal waters, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

  6. The enabling conditions for effective management and equitable governance will be better understood if assessments are applied more widely and reported to the Protected Planet Initiative. Developing and operationalising meaningful global indicators would support these efforts and enable best practices to be scaled up. At site-level, assessments of effectiveness and equity can be used to improve governance and management over time.

  7. It is vital that protected and conserved areas achieve their conservation objectives, and/or sustain the positive conservation outcomes for which they have been recognised. Ongoing monitoring of outcomes at site-level would be beneficial, as would reporting of results to the Protected Planet Initiative to inform global indicators.

  8. More integrated approaches to conservation and sustainable use can be developed if protected and conserved areas are mainstreamed across national policies and planning.

  9. The potential of protected and conserved areas to act as nature-based solutions to multiple socio-environmental challenges, including climate change, water security, and disaster risk management, thereby contributing to the implementation of several global conventions, should be recognised and enhanced.