– When UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the 193-member General Assembly last December, he focused on the smoldering climate crisis– pointing out that the last five years have been the hottest ever recorded.
Ice caps are melting, he said, In Greenland alone, 179 billion tonnes of ice melted in July. Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing 70 years ahead of projections. Antarctica is melting three times as fast as a decade ago.
“Ocean levels are rising quicker than expected, putting some of our biggest and most economically important cities at risk. More than two-thirds of the world’s megacities are located by the sea. And while the oceans are rising, they are also being poisoned,” Guterres warned.
And as the planet burns, one million species in the world’s eco-system are in near-term danger of extinction
According to a new survey of 222 leading scientists from 52 countries conducted by Future Earth, there are five global risks — failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation; extreme weather events; major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; food crises; and water crises. And four of them — climate change, extreme weather, biodiversity loss, and water crises — were deemed as most likely to occur?
Asked about the impending disaster, Dr. Anne Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) told IPS that climate change, extreme weather events, biodiversity loss and food and water crises are already happening, primarily as a result of human activities, and they are deeply impacting the lives of people around the world.
“It is therefore imperative for the science and expert community to make their voices heard – as Future Earth has done, building on the key messages of the IPBES Global Assessment Report – to provide decision-makers with the evidence and options they need to act.”
Of real significance, however, is that it is not just the voice of science that is now speaking up for nature – consider that the global business community has also become increasingly vocal about the risks of the nature crisis and the need for evidence-informed action.
For example, in the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Risk Report, the top five perceived risks are all environmental and “systems-level thinking,” as called for.
Decision-makers have a wide range of options across sectors, systems and scales to shift to more sustainable pathways.
One million species face extinction, but the solutions to the nature crisis are still within our reach, said Dr Larigauderie, in an interview with IPS.
In the run-up to October’s historic UN Biodiversity Conference, officials and experts will convene at FAO headquarters, Rome, 24-29 Feb. for negotiations on the initial draft of a landmark post-2020 global biodiversity framework and targets for nature to 2030.
The new framework will be considered by the 196 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the 2020 UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15), Kunming, China, 15-28 Oct.
Excerpts from the interview:
IPS: How many of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets—including the integration of biodiversity values into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies – have been achieved so far/will still be achieved even as the 2020 deadline is looming over the horizon?
Dr Larigauderie: The IPBES Global Assessment Report shows that, of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, good progress has been made towards components of just 4 target, moderate progress towards components of 7 more targets, with poor progress towards all components of 6 other targets. Conservation actions, including protected areas, efforts to manage unsustainable use and address the illegal capture and trade of species, and the translocation and eradication of invasive species, have been successful in preventing the extinction of some species.
Good progress has been made on less than 10% of the 54 total elements. On 39% of the elements, poor progress and even some loss of progress has been seen.
As a result, the state of nature overall continues to decline, with 12 of 16 indicators showing significantly worsening trends.
It has never been more urgent for decision-makers at every level to have the best evidence and heed the warnings of science, for the decisions made now will have direct implications for our shared future.
IPS: How is the world doing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially as regards the impact of the nature crisis and the likely missing of most of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets on efforts to achieve these?
Dr Larigauderie: Human development depends directly on nature – from food and water security, to jobs, health and general well-being. The rapid declines we are seeing now in biodiversity, and many of nature’s contributions to people, mean that most international development goals will not be achieved – unless we make fundamental, system-wide changes. The IPBES Global Assessment Report found that 80% of assessed SDG targets will be undermined by negative trends in nature.
The Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets are closely connected, with many of the Aichi Targets having been integrated into the SDGs.
Our failure to achieve the Aichi Targets does not bode well for efforts to achieve the SDGs – unless we see fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values – to tackle the direct and the indirect drivers of the nature crisis.
Besides clear connections to climate, oceans and land, the nature crisis has direct implications for poverty, hunger, health, water, and cities in addition to more a complex relationship to education, gender equality, reducing inequalities, and promoting peace and justice.
Without transformative change addressing both the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, we will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
IPS: How will the rising global population — from the current 7.6 billion to an estimated 8.6 billion in 2030, with 43 cities reaching over 10 million each by 2030– have an impact on biodiversity targets? There are already warnings that the increase in population will have negative implications on the demand for resources, including food, infrastructure and land use.
Dr Larigauderie: Population growth is a major indirect driver of change in nature. Since 1970, the human population has more than doubled, but at the same time, per capita consumption has also risen sharply [15% since 1980], the global economy has grown nearly fourfold, global trade has grown tenfold, and the environmental and social costs of production and consumption have shifted away from those most directly responsible.
In other words, population growth is important but is only one of many key indirect drivers of change underpinning the unsustainable use of our natural resources. Other important indirect drivers include economy and technology, institutions and governance and conflicts, all of these being dependant on our values and behaviours.
Addressing all of the indirect drivers, including population growth, in an integrated and holistic way, will best enable us to achieve our shared global development goals.
Indeed, as the co-chairs of the CBD’s Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework note, “the wide-ranging changes that are needed to reach the 2050 Vision will require an unprecedented degree of collaboration and whole-of-society engagement.” (Zero draft, page 3, 6(f))
IPS: In this important “super year” for nature, with major milestones expected on both climate change and biodiversity, what plans are there to bring the science/expert communities from both climate and biodiversity together to help best inform the decisions and actions for the coming decade?
Dr Larigauderie: 2020 has real potential to be a turning point for society, where we can begin to holistically transform our relationship with nature. The ‘Super Year for Nature’ is an opportunity for decision-makers at every level of society to listen and act on the science on both biodiversity and climate change. The stakes could not be higher.
Climate change and biodiversity loss are inseparable challenges that must be addressed together, in the scientific community as well as in policy and business.
From 12 –14 May this year, well before the two major UN biodiversity and climate conferences in 2020, IPBES and the IPCC will co-sponsor a workshop – the first of its kind – to bring leading scientists together to focus on the opportunities to meet both of these challenges and on the risks of addressing them separately from one another.
The workshop report will be an important document informing the CBD and UNFCCC Conferences of the Parties (COP15 and COP 26, respectively) regarding implementation of the Paris Agreement, the post-2020 biodiversity framework and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The IPBES Global Assessment found that nature-based solutions can provide more than one-third of climate mitigation needed to keep warming below 2°C.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org