New CBD framework for nature must include ambitious freshwater targets

Posted on 05 December 2022

WWF and partners are calling for freshwater to be elevated to same level as land and sea in new global framework for nature
Key Freshwater Asks:
  • Explicit inclusion of inland water ecosystems in Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) goals, targets, and indicators is required to restore and safeguard these most threatened and least protected ecosystems and biodiversity on the planet
  • Goal A must ensure that the ecological integrity, area, connectivity and resilience of natural terrestrial, inland water, coastal and marine ecosystems increase by 2030 and are fully restored by 2050
  • Target 1 must ensure that “all terrestrial, inland water, coastal and marine areas” are included within biodiversity-inclusive participatory spatial planning or other effective management processes
  • Target 2 must include numerical ecosystem-specific objectives for progress to be measured against and to avoid inland water ecosystems being neglected within an overall percentage for terrestrial ecosystems. For inland water ecosystems this should be at least 350 million hectares and 300,000 km of rivers under restoration by 2030
  • Target 3 needs to ensure that at least 30 per cent, globally, of terrestrial, inland water, coastal and marine areas, respectively, are conserved
  • Inland water ecosystems are key to climate mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction
Ambitious restoration targets for rivers and inland waters under Target 2
  • Freshwater habitats, of which rivers are an important habitat type, cover only about 2% of the Earth’s surface but are home to 10% of known species and are suffering declines in species abundance more than twice as fast as the declines observed on land or in the oceans.
  • Restoration of river flows and connectivity are important restoration activities that need to be considered by the post-2020 GBF and included in Target 2.
  • The amount of riverine restoration is best monitored in linear units (km) given the linear nature of river systems. Therefore, metrics limited to areal extent (e.g., hectares) as currently proposed in Target 2 will fail to adequately include this important ecosystem.
  • As Target 2 will be more effective if expressed in absolute numbers, it is suggested that it includes “at least 300,000 km of rivers” among the other ecosystems.
  • It should also include a target of restoring 350 million hectares of inland waters.
To achieve the overall goal of reversing biodiversity loss, it is crucial to highlight the role played by free flowing rivers in ensuring ecological connectivity for inland water species.

Restoring rivers means restoring the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on earth. Removing barriers and other actions to restore flows and connectivity in rivers are important restoration activities that need to be considered by the GBF Target 2.

To avoid known issues with defining the current extent of ‘transformed’ or ‘converted’ areas, draft text for Target 2 is moving away from a percentage target and toward the expression of a restoration target in terms of a global area in (billions of hectares). While this is readily applicable for terrestrial ecosystems and certain types of inland waters or wetlands, an area-based approach is “poorly adapted” to river ecosystems.
Briefing for CBD on river restoration target
Major dam removal in Finland involving government, hydropower company and WWF
© Mikko Nikkinen/WWF
Free Flowing Rivers
© Hkun Lat / WWF-Australia