URGENT ACTION: Call on governments to include population in biodiversity agreement

The Convention on Biodiversity 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. The UK and other Western European governments  will be attending an important consultation meeting as part of this process on 19 March. Please contact them to ask for action on human population to be included in the CBD's programme after 2020.

African nations will be meeting in April. If you are a citizen of an African country, please also contact your government.

Convention on Biodiversity logo
Aichi targets

Launched in 1992, the convention on biodiversity 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 Beijing 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.


The next consultation meeting to take place will be for Western European Governments (known as WEOG), on 19-21 March 2019. If you are a citizen of a WEOG country, please contact your government before 19 March to urge them to press for action on human population in the new framework.

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


Dear Mr Gove

As you will be aware, the Convention on Biodiversity is currently undergoing review, with the post-2020 targets and mechanisms due to be set at the Conference of the Parties in Beijing 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.

As you will also know, many of the Convention's existing "Aichi Targets" are not expected to be reached by their deadline of next year. While there are many reasons for this, failure to address the issue of human population growth is certainly among them.

Since 1970, according to WWF, populations of vertebrate wildlife have declined by 60% - in the same period, the global population has doubled. Those extra four billion people have each required land, food, water, energy and finite and renewable resources. They have also contributed to the climate change that is driving some animals and plants from their habitats, killing them through extreme weather events and acidifying the oceans. Plastic pollution and eutrophication of waterways through fertiliser use are among the multiple other problems exacerbated by unsustainable population growth.

The Sixth Mass Extinction is an irreversible environmental catastrophe which, if not arrested, will inevitably bring profound harm to human beings through its decimation of ecosystem resources on which we are wholly dependent. Ignoring the fundamental contribution of human population growth to this crisis is untenable and irresponsible. Human population growth can be ended and reversed through actions which also improve their lives in multiple other ways: Lifting them out of poverty, providing high quality education, empowering women, and ensuring everyone can access and freely use high quality family planning services all reduce family size and population growth. Schemes taking this approach have also proven successful successful at local level in protecting biodiversity. 

Later this month, the UK will take part in the WEOG consultation meeting regarding the post-2020 targets. I urge you to ensure that measures to reduce human population growth are included in discussions, and to press for their inclusion in the final agreement.

Yours sincerely

In the UK, letters can be addressed to Secretary of State Rt Hon Michael Gove MP via defra.helpline@defra.gsi.gov.uk or the postal address, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF.

A full list of WEOG member states can be found on the United Nations website here. If you are a citizen of a member state, please contact your ministry of the environment before 19 March. If you are a citizen of an African state, please contact your government before 29 March.

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