“Humanity is waging a war against nature," said the UN Secretary General António Guterres during his opening remarks at the United Nations Biodiversity Summit on 30 September. That is the unalloyed truth, as recent reports on the state of the planet’s biodiversity have borne out. We have also seen this play out in real time, with the annual cataclysmic fires in California, the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic Circle. As world leaders gathered by video conferencing to pledge to protect nature, and look forward to the UN Biodiversity Conference to be held in Kunming, China, in May 2021, the message on the state of the world was quite dire.
The UN’s fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO) report on September 15 stated that none of the 20 biodiversity targets from 2010 that had been agreed to by world leaders in Aichi, Japan, had been fully met. The report warned that the failure to achieve these targets would seriously hamper efforts to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the climate change commitments of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Living Planet Report 2020 on 10 September stated that global populations of vertebrate animals had dropped by 68% between 1970 and 2016. Another international report released on 30 September, cited global data to state that 40% of the world’s plant species are in danger of going extinct. Led by the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), the State Of The World’s Plant And Fungi report involved 210 scientists from around the world. One of the more disturbing highlights from that report is the fact that food supplies for much of the world’s population could be affected by new diseases and climate change. This is especially important since human beings depend on just 15 out of 7,039 edible plants for 90% of our calorific intake.
Moreover, the connection between biodiversity loss and newer diseases and viruses making the jump to human beings, of which the novel coronavirus is the most famous example. During the release of the GBO report, Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, said, “As nature degrades, new opportunities emerge for the spread to humans and animals of devastating diseases like this year’s." It’s high time the world heeded this warning.
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