(CNN) In 2010, leaders from 196 countries gathered in Japan and agreed on a list of goals designed to save the Earth.
The Aichi Biodiversity Targets laid out a 10-year plan to conserve the world's biodiversity, promote sustainability, and protect ecosystems. The targets were ambitious, but crucial. One, for instance, aimed to prevent the extinction of threatened species and improve their status by 2020.
We've reached the deadline -- and the world has collectively failed to fully achieve a single goal, according to the United Nations' Global Biodiversity Outlook report, published on Tuesday.
"Humanity stands at a crossroads with regard to the legacy it leaves to future generations," the report warned. "Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, and the pressures driving this decline are intensifying."
If we continue our trajectory in the accelerating climate crisis, biodiversity will continue to deteriorate, driven by "currently unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, population growth and technological developments," the report said.
Of the 20 goals, only six have been "partially achieved." On average, the participating countries reported that more than a third of national targets are on track to be met; half of the national targets were seeing slower progress; 11% of targets show no significant progress, and 1% are actually moving in the wrong direction.
There is some scant progress to celebrate, but "the rate of biodiversity loss is unprecedented in human history and pressures are intensifying," said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity, in a press release.
"Earth's living systems as a whole are being compromised. And the more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own wellbeing, security and prosperity."
What the world achieved
First, the good news: the past decade has seen some limited progress.
The six targets partially met are: preventing invasive species, conserving protected areas, access to and sharing benefits from genetic resources, biodiversity strategies and action plans, sharing information, and mobilizing resources.
The global rate of deforestation has fallen by a third compared to the previous decade. A number of places have successfully eradicated invasive species. Some countries have introduced good fisheries management policies, which helped build back marine fish stocks that have been hard hit by overfishing and environmental degradation.
This is what climate change looks like
An iceberg floats in a fjord near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland, in June 2018. Greenland is often considered by scientists to be ground zero of the Earth's climate change.
The massive island is mostly in the Arctic, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Melting ice from Greenland's ice sheet is the largest contributor of all land sources to the rising sea levels that could become catastrophic for coastal cities around the world. "Seeing the size of these icebergs in the water was like looking at entire city blocks floating around," Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson
A neighborhood is flooded in Beaumont, Texas, a day after Hurricane Harvey
came ashore in August 2017. The Category 4 storm caused historic flooding. It set a record for the most rainfall from a tropical cyclone in the continental United States, with 51 inches of rain recorded in areas of Texas. An estimated 27 trillion gallons of water fell over Texas and Louisiana during a six-day period. "Warmer sea water from our changing climate is causing tropical storms to be more wet and powerful," photographer George Steinmetz
Peia Kararaua, 16, swims in a flooded area of Kiribati's Aberao village. Kiribati is one of the countries most affected by sea-level rise, photographer Vlad Sokhin
said. During high tides many villages become inundated, making large parts of them uninhabitable. This photo was taken in an area that, when dry, is a soccer field. "Prior to this, a man moved his vehicle from the lower part of the field to the higher point, and the vehicle ended up being parked on an 'island' when the water came," Sokhin said. "Young people started swimming there and playing when I took this shot. It was strange to see such a scene: happy kids swimming along the remains of the dead palm trees."
A woman walks through a cactus field in a drought-stricken area of western Somaliland, a breakaway state from Somalia. "In 2016 I came across a group of women washing their clothes in a roadside puddle — the only water they could find," photographer Nichole Sobecki
said. "We spoke for a while of the challenges they faced, of the animals they'd lost in the drought, and the wells that had dried up. Somalia has long been a place of extremes, but climate and environmental changes are compounding those problems and leading to the end of a way of life."
Jorgen Umaq and his dogs traverse an icy area near Qaanaaq in northern Greenland. It is one of the northernmost towns in the world. Because ice thickness there has been declining, hunters like Umaq can't travel as far as they could before, said photographer Anna Filipova.
"Navigating this terrain was dangerous and difficult," she said. "We needed to manually move the sledge and twice needed to rescue the dogs who had fallen into the cracks in the sea. ... Each year, people lose their lives on the sea ice because of fast-changing conditions."
Bangladesh was recently ranked by research firm Maplecroft as the country most vulnerable to climate change,
due to its exposure to threats such as flooding, rising sea levels, cyclones and landslides as well as its susceptible population and weak institutional capacity to address the problem. This aerial photo, taken by Ignacio Marin,
shows where some homes used to be before the river washed them away. "From where I was standing, at the riverbank, it was hard to imagine that there were nine houses where I could only see water," Marin said. "So I decided to fly the drone. Only then, watching the area from above, I realized the scale of the disaster."
Sheep graze in the dry, dusty fields of Farmersville, California. "This image was made in 2014 while working on a short film about the ongoing drought in California," photographer Ed Kashi
said. "Tens of thousands of acres of arable land was turning to dust, massive orchards were being ripped out due to a lack of irrigation water, and farmers and ranchers who for generations had worked this land were wondering if their way of life was sustainable." Intense droughts like the one that plagued California this decade are becoming more likely due to global warming.
Oil refineries are seen in Carson, California, in this 2017 photo taken by Edward Burtynsky
for The Anthropocene Project, which explores how humans have contributed to climate change and the state the planet is in today. Part of the project
includes a film, "Anthropocene: The Human Epoch," that opens September 25 in 100 theaters across the United States.
Two people are seen at an ice cave entrance on the Rhone Glacier in the Swiss Alps. Every summer, the glacier is covered with huge sheets of white fleece blankets to slow down its melting, according to photographer Orjan F. Ellingvag.
"The fleece-covered cave attracts more and more tourists worried about global warming and wanting to see the remnants of a dying glacier," Ellingvag said.
A wildfire burns in Tocantínia, Brazil, in September 2018. In the Cerrado region, wildfires are common for two reasons, said photographer Marcio Pimenta.
One is extreme heat. The other is farmers clearing space for soybeans and livestock.
This aerial photo shows Ejit, an islet in the Marshall Islands, in 2015. The islands are threatened by rising seas. "I flew a drone above the island showing just how precarious its location is: Homes clinging to the edge of an eroding coastline as unrelenting waves chisel away at what remains," said Josh Haner,
a photographer with The New York Times. "After I saw what was happening on Ejit, I realized that climate change is not something nebulous that will only start affecting us in the future, but rather something happening right now. Residents are being forced to make the most difficult decision: Do they stay and build sea walls to buy some more time, or do they relocate?"
We have significantly expanded the number of protected natural areas, both on land and in the sea. And we've introduced more conservation measures like restrictions on hunting, which have paid off.
"Without such actions, extinctions of birds and mammals in the past decade would likely have been two to four times higher," the report said.
What we failed to do
The list of achievements is encouraging, and show that it's possible for governments to take unified action with concrete results, but, the report warns, it's nowhere near enough.
The 20 targets can be further broken down into 60 "elements," of which 13 show either no progress or, worse still, moving in the opposite direction, according to the report.
Habitat loss and degradation remains high, especially in forests and tropical regions. Global wetlands are declining and rivers are fragmenting, posing a "critical threat to freshwater diversity," the report said.
Pollution is still rampant, with plastic in our oceans and pesticides in ecosystems. Our coral reefs are dying. Our demand on natural resources is increasing. Meanwhile, Indigenous communities are still largely excluded from these conversations, and their valuable knowledge on sustainable resource management isn't reflected in national legislation.
We have also plunged headfirst into the sixth mass extinction; wildlife populations dropped by more than two thirds since 1970, and have continued to decline in the past decade, the report said.
These lackluster efforts are reflected in our funding. Governments globally spend about $78-91 billion a year on biodiversity efforts, the report estimated -- way below the hundreds of billions of dollars needed.
Even in areas that have made progress, the situation isn't really improving -- just declining slower, and perhaps with less severity than if no action were taken at all. For instance, though some countries have managed more sustainable marine fish stocks, globally a third of marine stocks are still overfished -- a higher proportion than 10 years ago, the report said.
What we need to do
Immediate action is needed more urgently than ever; the devastation of the Earth's biodiversity will affect us all, and be particularly damaging for "indigenous peoples and local communities, and the world's poor and vulnerable, given their reliance on biodiversity for their wellbeing," the report said.
It added that despite our failure to meet any of the Aichi Targets, "it is not too late to slow, halt and eventually reverse current trends in the decline of biodiversity." Many of the actions needed have already been identified and agreed upon under international treaties like the Paris Climate Change Agreement (which the United States is currently withdrawing from).
The report outlined eight areas where we need to transition to sustainability: land and forests, agriculture, food systems, fisheries and oceans, cities and infrastructure, freshwater, climate action and an integrated "One Health" global framework.
There are more specific steps laid out within each area -- for instance, cities need to create more green spaces, consider the impact on biodiversity when building new roads or infrastructure, and promote local food production.
Finding these solutions is "challenging" but critical, and we've seen what happens when we fail. The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, has illustrated "the link between our treatment of the living world and the emergence of human diseases," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in the report.
"Stepping up action to safeguard and restore biodiversity -- the living fabric of our planet and the foundation of human life and prosperity -- is an essential part of this collective effort," he added.