Urgent action needed to save planet, says UN
A shocking new report has found the world’s nations have failed to meet targets set out 10 years ago to protect nature.
Humanity is at a crossroads and we have to take action now to make space for nature to recover and slow its “accelerating decline”, according to a report by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
There is still time to halt—and even reverse—the loss of biodiversity, the report concludes, but that will require rapid and substantial changes in agriculture, industry, and other activities.
It sets out a bullet point list of eight major changes that could help stop the ongoing decline in nature.
“Things have to change,” said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the convention’s executive secretary.
“If we take action, the right action – as the report proposes – we can transition to a sustainable planet.”
In 2010, the 196 nations that belong to the U.N. CBD agreed to 20 goals for preserving nature and progress has been evaluated every few years.
But 10 years later only six targets have been even partially reached and some indicators are headed the wrong way. As a consequence, biodiversity continues to be lost, the report finds.
“Covid-19 has been a stark reminder of the relationship between human action and nature,” Ms Maruma Mrema told the BBC. “Now we have the opportunity to do better post-Covid.”
The pandemic itself has been linked to wildlife trade and human encroachment into forests, which scientists say increases the risk of a “spillover” of diseases from wildlife into humans.
Dubbed a “Paris climate agreement for nature”, eight major transitions that all 196 nations will now be expected to commit to are:
- Land and forests: Protecting habitats and reducing the degradation of soil;
- Sustainable agriculture: redesigning the way we farm to minimise the negative impact on nature through things like forest clearance and intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides;
- Food: Eating a more sustainable diet with, primarily, more moderate consumption of meat and fish and “dramatic cuts” in waste;
- Oceans and fisheries: Protecting and restoring marine ecosystems and fishing sustainably – allowing stocks to recover and important marine habitats to be protected;
- Urban greening: Making more space for nature in towns and cities, where almost three-quarters of us live;
- Freshwater: Protecting lake and river habitats, reducing pollution and improving water quality;
- Urgent climate action: Taking action on climate change with a “rapid phasing out” of fossil fuels;
- A ‘One Health’ approach: This encompasses all of the above. It essentially means managing our whole environment – whether it is urban, agricultural, forests or fisheries – with a view to promoting “a healthy environment and healthy people”.
“Many good things are happening around the world and these should be celebrated and encouraged,” said Ms Maruma Mrema. Nevertheless, she added, the rate of biodiversity loss was unprecedented in human history and pressures were intensifying.
“We have to act now. It is not too late. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren will curse us because we will leave behind a polluted, degraded and unhealthy planet.”