Call on governments to include population in biodiversity agreement

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity is the key international agreement protecting global biodiversity. It obliges signatory governments to develop plans to protect biodiversity in their own nations, sets targets and coordinates international action.

Following an initial set of targets to be met by 2020, governments are now negotiating the next stage of the Convention’s work. Please contact your government to ask for action on human population to be included in the CBD's programme after 2020.

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Aichi targets

Launched in 1992, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has been signed by 196 governments, whose national action plans must deliver on targets and goals set in international negotiations. The current set of targets, known as the Aichi Targets, expire in 2020. Progress in meeting them has been mixed, with most set to be missed. The Aichi Targets contain no reference to human population, despite the multiple impacts it has through climate change, habitat loss, pollution and use of animals and plants for food.

Parties to the Convention are now considering how its vision of "living in harmony with nature" by 2050 can be met. The new framework will be launched at a meeting in Kunming, China, in October 2020 and governments are participating in a series of meetings to establish the "Post-2020" framework now. 

Population Matters has already made a written submission to the process and will continue to lobby for human population to be featured in the new framework.

A sample letter addressed to the UK government which you can use, or adapt for your own government, is below.


Dear [Minister's name]

As you will be aware, the Convention on Biological Diversity is currently undergoing review, with the Post-2020 Global Framework due to be set at the Conference of the Parties in Kunming in October 2020. The government must use its influence to ensure that this new framework addresses one of the fundamental drivers of biodiversity loss: unsustainable human population.

Most of the Convention's existing ‘Aichi Targets’ have been missed. While there are many reasons for this, failure to address the issue of human population growth is certainly among them.

The two primary drivers of biodiversity loss are habitat destruction and overexploitation of species, which are directly correlated with human population size. Since 1970, according to WWF, populations of vertebrate wildlife have declined by 60%. In the same period, the human population has doubled. In its landmark 2019 report, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reported that one million species are now at risk of extinction and only one quarter of land areas and one third of oceans remain relatively undamaged by human activity. The report points out that human population growth is a key indirect driver of biodiversity loss, and that “changes to the direct drivers of nature deterioration cannot be achieved without transformative change that simultaneously addresses the indirect drivers.”

The Sixth Mass Extinction is an irreversible environmental catastrophe which, if not arrested, will inevitably bring profound harm to humans through its decimation of ecosystem services on which we are wholly dependent. Ignoring the fundamental contribution of human population growth to this crisis is untenable and irresponsible. The most effective solutions to overpopulation improve people's lives: advancing gender equity, ensuring everyone can access quality education and family planning, alleviating poverty and promoting smaller family size. Small-scale schemes taking this approach have proven very successful at protecting biodiversity at a local level – it is high-time they gain global attention.

Yours sincerely


In the UK, letters can be addressed to Secretary of State Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP via or the postal address, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF.

If you are a citizen of another country, please contact your ministry of the environment.

Thank you for taking action. Please let us know of any replies you receive. Details of how to contact us are here.

Learn more

Read our briefing, summarising the latest research on the link between human population and biodversity loss.