The ‘fate of the living world’ will be decided at COP15, say scientists

The “fate of the entire living world” will be determined at the UN COP15 biodiversity summit, leading scientists say.

They said the gathering of the world’s nations, which began in Montreal on Wednesday, is “much bigger than COP27”, the UN’s recent high-level climate meeting. “We say this because of the many dimensions of anthropogenic global change…the most critical, complex and challenging is that of biodiversity loss,” the researchers said.

The current rapid loss of wildlife and natural places is seen as the start of a sixth mass extinction by many scientists and is destroying the life support systems that humanity depends on for clean air, water and food. Protecting the natural world, like rainforests, is also vital to ending the climate emergency.

COP15 aims to ensure the protection of 30% of the planet by 2030, as well as the redirection of $500 billion in agricultural subsidies that support the destruction of nature.

The scientists’ warning came in an op-ed in the journal Science Advances, written by Professor Shahid Naeem of Columbia University, USA; Prof Yonglong Lu of Xiamen University, China; and Professor Jeremy Jackson at the American Museum of Natural History.

They said an earlier 10-year plan, known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, had failed to meet any of its targets by the 2020 deadline, despite being backed by 196 countries. “Failure is not an option this time around as Earth’s terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems begin to crumble under pressure to meet the needs of a global population that will soon approach the 10 billion,” the researchers said.

However, they added there were reasons for optimism, including broad and growing support for the ’30×30′ protection plan and the fact that the drivers of biodiversity loss are well understood, giving direction. clear for action.

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The destruction of wild spaces for agriculture and mining is the main cause of the loss of biodiversity, together with the overexploitation of wild animals and plants on land and in the seas and pollution. The climate crisis and the spread of invasive species around the world are also contributing. UN environment chief Inger Andersen called the pilots “five horsemen of the biodiversity apocalypse”.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the summit with an unequivocal message: “Without nature, we are nothing. Nature is our survival system, yet humanity seems bent on destruction.

“With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,” he said. “[Cop15] is our chance to stop this orgy of destruction, to move from discord to harmony.

Besides the “30×30” target, other interim targets of the COP15 agreement include reducing the rate of introduction of invasive species by 50%, reducing the use of pesticides by at least two thirds, l stopping the flow of plastic pollution and making it mandatory for big companies to disclose their impact on nature.

In the editorial, Naeem and his colleagues said, “A comprehensive body of scientific evidence has highlighted how global change, including climate change, is ultimately linked to biodiversity conservation.” For example, they said, healthy forests and oceans can absorb huge amounts of climate-warming carbon dioxide.

They said a leading study of the effect of Covid-19 lockdowns showed how “the reduction in traffic, industrial noise and pollution, and human-wildlife contact has led to a wide range of positive impacts on nature worldwide”, with “animals rapidly responding to reductions in human presence”. However, a reduction in conservation work has also led to illegal hunting and habitat destruction .

“The take-home message was that stemming biodiversity loss can be achieved not only by simply reducing human pressures, but also by enhancing human activities in research, restoration and conservation,” the researchers said.

They said the Cop15 deal should recognize the rights of indigenous peoples and secure long-term funding for wealthier nations to meet the targets, as many of the most biodiverse places are in low-income countries. .

French diplomat Laurence Tubiana, architect of the Paris climate agreement, said: “We need a global target to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. This will guide targets, laws, policies and funding at all levels and regions, much like the 2015 Paris Agreement began to do for climate action. In seven years, the momentum is clear. We need the same momentum to protect all life on Earth.

Professor Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said: “We need a ‘Parisian moment’ in Montreal. Only if we protect and regenerate Earth’s nature can we truly protect Earth’s climate.

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