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The world must seek a new deal for nature in the next two years, or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nations biodiversity chief.
Ahead of a key international conference to discuss the collapse of ecosystems, Cristiana Pașca Palmer said that people in all countries must pressure their governments to come up with ambitious global goals by 2020 to protect insects, birds, plants and mammals that they are vital for global food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.
"Biodiversity loss is a silent killer," he told The Guardian. “It is different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear, but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late.
Biodiversity loss is a silent killer.
Cristiana paula palmer, UN
Pașca Palmer is Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the global body responsible for maintaining the natural life support systems on which humanity depends.
Its members, 195 states and the EU, will meet in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, this month to kick off discussions on a new framework for managing the world's wildlife and ecosystems. This will kick off two years of frenzied negotiations, which Pașca Palmer hopes will culminate in an ambitious new global agreement at the next conference in Beijing in 2020.
Conservationists are desperate for a biodiversity deal that will carry the same weight as the Paris climate agreement. But so far this topic has received little attention, although many scientists say it poses at least an equal threat to humanity.
The last two major biodiversity agreements, in 2002 and 2010, have failed to contain the worst loss of life on Earth since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
Eight years ago, under the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, nations promised to at least halve the loss of natural habitats, ensure sustainable fishing in all waters, and expand nature reserves from 10% to 17% of the total. the world's lands by 2020. But many nations have been left behind, and those that have created more protected areas have done little to control them. "Paper reserves" can now be found from Brazil to China.
The issue is also low on the political agenda. Compared to climate summits, few heads of state attend talks on biodiversity. Even before Donald Trump, the United States refused to ratify the treaty and only sends one observer. Along with the Vatican, it is the only UN state that does not participate.
Pașca Palmer says there are glimmers of hope. Several species in Africa and Asia have recovered (although most are in decline) and forest cover in Asia has increased by 2.5% (although it has declined elsewhere at a faster rate). Marine protected areas have also been expanded.
But overall, she says, the image is disturbing. Already high rates of biodiversity loss from habitat destruction, chemical pollution, and invasive species will accelerate over the next 30 years as a result of climate change and the growth of human populations. By 2050, Africa is expected to lose 50% of its birds and mammals, and Asian fisheries to collapse completely. The loss of plants and marine life will reduce the Earth's ability to absorb carbon, creating a vicious cycle.
"The numbers are staggering," says Romania's former environment minister. "I hope we are not the first species to document our own extinction."
Despite the government's weak response to such an existential threat, she said her optimism about what she called "the infrastructure of life" was unimpeded.
One cause for hope was the convergence of scientific concerns and the growing interest from the business community. Last month, the main UN institutions and scientists on climate and biodiversity held their first joint meeting. They found that nature-based solutions, such as forest protection, tree planting, land restoration and soil management, could provide up to a third of the carbon sequestration needed to keep global warming within parameters. of the Paris agreement. In the future, the two arms of the UN for climate and biodiversity should issue joint assessments. He also noted that although politics in some countries were moving in the wrong direction, there were also positive developments, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, who was recently the first world leader to point out that the climate problem cannot be solved without stopping. loss of biodiversity. This will be on the agenda of the next G7 summit in France.
“Things are moving. There is a lot of good will, "he said. “We should be aware of the dangers but not paralyzed by inaction. It's still in our hands, but the window for action is narrowing. We need higher levels of political and citizen will to support nature. "
Original article (in English)