THE World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) last week released its 2018 Living Planet Index and the picture is grim.
Since 1970, there has been a 60 per cent decline in earth’s wildlife populations — the stark consequence of pressures humans have imposed on all other living things in our 200,000 years of existence — a tiny blip in the 4.5 billion-year history of our planet.
Imagine the shoe on the other foot: 60 per cent of humanity — the population of Asia — wiped off the planet.
People the world over are cutting down forests, withdrawing too much water from rivers, choking oceans with plastic and other pollutants, and pushing many animals to extinction by destroying their habitat.
For the sake of both people and wildlife, now and in the future, we need a healthy planet, with a rich variety of plants and animals and vibrant ecosystems.
Thankfully, there are growing calls for a new global deal for nature, backed by concrete commitments from global leaders and businesses, communities and individuals to tackle wildlife loss, climate change and development in an integrated way.
We urgently need real change, all over the world.
With that in mind, the global community will meet this month to open negotiations on a new action framework on biodiversity. In collaboration with the government of Egypt, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will hold its 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Sharm el Sheikh.
The event will feature a High-Level Segment (Nov 14 and 15), at which up to 80 ministers of environment, infrastructure, energy, industry and other sectors will discuss mainstreaming biodiversity protections into their respective fields of work.
Following that, the 196 Parties to the CBD will meet for 12 days of talks on last-minute efforts to reach the world’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2010-2020), mainstreaming biodiversity issues, and to begin two years of negotiation on a post-2020 global action framework for biodiversity, scheduled for final agreement at COP15 in China.
Commenting on the WWF report, Sir Robert Watson, my friend and successor as Chair of the IPBES — often called the IPCC for biodiversity, and the source of several recent authoritative and influential assessment reports to inform the world’s coming negotiations — stressed that “nature contributes to human wellbeing culturally and spiritually, as well as through the critical production of food, clean water, and energy, and through regulating the earth’s climate, pollution, pollination and floods.
The Living Planet report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the wellbeing of current and future generations”.
Said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini: “The nature conservation agenda is not only about securing the future of tigers, pandas, whales and all the amazing diversity of life we love and cherish on earth. It’s bigger than that.
“Our day-to-day life, health and livelihoods depend on a healthy planet.
“There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilised climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all.”
“In the next years, we need to urgently transition to a net carbon neutral society and halt and reverse nature loss, through green finance and shifting to clean energy and environmentally friendly food production. In addition, we must preserve and restore enough land and ocean in a natural state to sustain all life.”
The WWF report underscores dramatically the need to put more rigour into our efforts. And, as noted, the government is only one of the partners in this global endeavour.
There is also a role for civil society and the corporate sector.
As part of their response, it has been encouraging to note the initiative of the AEON Environmental Foundation and the Secretariat of the CBD in establishing the MIDORI Biodiversity Prize in 2010 “to honour three individuals on a biannual basis who have made outstanding contributions to conservation and sustainable use at local and global levels, and who have influenced and strengthened various biodiversity-related efforts, as well as raised awareness about biodiversity”.
Takuya Okada, chairman of the AEON Environmental Foundation and honorary chairman of AEON Co Ltd, said: “Safeguarding the earth’s biodiversity and tackling climate change are two of the greatest challenges of our time. We hope that the MIDORI Prize will help to inspire action to meet the global challenge, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and the objectives of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020.”
CBD executive secretary Cristiana Pașca Palmer said: “The MIDORI Prize is a unique international prize focused on biodiversity, shining a spotlight on the work of dedicated individuals. We hope it will contribute to raising public awareness on the essential role of biodiversity to human wellbeing and the solutions that biodiversity provides to global challenges like climate change.”
The writer was the founding chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), and a recipient of the 2018 MIDORI Biodiversity Prize.