logoDepartment of Economic and Social AffairsSustainable Development

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Progress and Info

Forest areas continued to decline, protected areas were not concentrated in areas of key biodiversity and species remained threatened with extinction. However, Efforts were gaining traction and having positive effects that could help to reverse those outcomes, such as increased progress towards sustainable forest management; gains in protected area coverage for terrestrial, freshwater and mountain areas; and progress in implementing programmes, legislation and accounting principles to protect biodiversity and ecosystems.

The proportion of forest area fell, from 31.9 per cent of total land area in 2000 to 31.2 per cent in 2020, representing a net loss of nearly 100 million ha of the world’s forests. From 2000 to 2020, forest area increased in Asia, Europe and Northern America, while significantly decreasing in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia, driven by land conversion to agriculture. Notwithstanding the overall loss, 2017 data showed that the proportion of forests in protected areas and under long-term management plans, as well as certified forest area, increased or remained stable at the global level and in most regions of the world.  

In 2020, the average proportion of each key biodiversity area for terrestrial, freshwater and mountain biodiversity within protected areas was 44, 41 and 41 per cent, respectively, an increase of around 12 to 13 percentage points since 2000. However, most key biodiversity areas still have incomplete or no coverage by protected areas.

As at 2019, 123 countries had committed themselves to setting their voluntary targets for achieving land degradation neutrality, and in 60 countries, governments had already officially endorsed those targets. 

Species extinction, which threatens sustainable development and compromises global heritage, is driven primarily through habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture, harvest and trade; deforestation; and invasive alien species. Globally, the species extinction risk has worsened by about 10 per cent over the past three decades, with the Red List Index (which measures the risk of extinction, whereby a value of 1 indicates no threat of extinction and a value of 0 indicates that all species are extinct) declining, from 0.82 in 1990 to 0.75 in 2015 to 0.73 in 2020.

As at 1 February 2020, 122 countries and the European Union had ratified the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity  (an increase of 53 from 2019), and 63 countries and the  European Union had shared information on their access and benefit-sharing frameworks. Regarding the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, there are now 146 contracting parties thereto, and 56 countries have provided information about their access and benefit-sharing measures.

Only about a third of reporting parties are on track to achieving their national biodiversity targets as reported in national reports under the Convention on Biological Diversity. As at January 2020, 129 parties, including the European Union, had reported their sixth national report, and 113 parties had assessed progress towards their national targets related to Aichi Biodiversity Target 2. About half the parties had made progress towards their targets, but not at a rate that will allow them to meet their goals.

Source: Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, Report of the Secretary-General, https://undocs.org/en/E/2020/57