UN report highlights grim state of nature
Diplomats from around the world gather in Paris to discuss the impact of humanity's footprint on the planet
PARIS : Diplomats from 130 nations have started gathering in Paris from yesterday to validate a grim United Nations (UN) assessment of the state of nature and lay the groundwork for an 11th-hour rescue plan for life on Earth.
A 44-page draft "Summary for Policy Makers" obtained by AFP catalogues the 1001 ways in which our species has plundered the planet and damaged its capacity to renew the resources upon which we depend, starting with breathable air, drinkable water and productive soil.
The impact of humanity's expanding footprint and appetites has been devastating.
Up to a million species face extinction, many within decades, according to the report.
Three-quarters of Earth's land surface has also been "severely altered".
A third of ocean fish stocks are in decline, and the rest, barring a few, are harvested at the very edge of sustainability.
A dramatic die-off of pollinating insects, especially bees, threatens essential crops valued at half-a-trillion dollars annually.
Twenty 10-year targets adopted in 2010 under the UN's biodiversity treaty - to expand protected areas, slow species and forest loss, and reduce pollution - will, with one or two exceptions, fail badly.
Based on an underlying report that draws from 400 experts and weighs in at 1,800 pages, the executive summary has to be vetted line-by-line by diplomats, with scientists at their elbow.
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) document, once approved, will be released on May 6.
Historically, conservation biology has focused on the plight of pandas, polar bears and a multitude of less "charismatic" animals and plants that humanity is harvesting, eating, crowding or poisoning into oblivion.
But in the last two decades, that focus has shifted back to us.
"Up to now, we have talked about the importance of biodiversity mostly from an environmental perspective," Mr Robert Watson, chairman of the UN-mandated body that compiled the report, told AFP.
"Now we are saying that nature is crucial for food production, for pure water, for medicines and even social cohesion."
And to fight climate change, he added.
Forests and oceans, for example, soak up half of the planet-warming greenhouse gases we spew into the atmosphere.
If they did not, Earth might already be locked into an unliveable future of runaway global warming.
And yet, an area of tropical forest five times the size of England has been destroyed since 2014, mainly to service the global demand for beef, biofuels, soy beans and palm oil.
"The recent IPCC report shows to what extent climate change threatens biodiversity," said Ms Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a main architect of the Paris Agreement, referring to the UN's climate science panel.
"And the upcoming IPBES report - as important for humanity - will show these two problems have overlapping solutions."
That overlap, she added, begins with agriculture, which accounts for at least a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. - AFP
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