In this horizon scan, we highlight 15 emerging issues of potential relevance to global conservation in 2020. Seven relate to potentially extensive changes in vegetation or ecological systems. These changes are either relatively new, for example, conversion of kelp forests to simpler macroalgal systems, or may occur in the future, for example, as a result of the derivation of nanocelluose from wood or the rapid expansion of small hydropower schemes. Other topics highlight potential changes in national legislation that may have global effect on international agreements. Our panel of 23 scientists and practitioners selected these issues using a modified version of the Delphi technique from a long-list of 89 potential topics.