People's Stories Environment

We need profound, system-wide change to prevent the unravelling of the fabric of life
by Prof. Sandra Diaz, Ana Maria Hernandez
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
Dec. 2019
Addressing the direct drivers of nature’s decline is necessary, but not sufficient to prevent the unravelling of the fabric of life on which all people and future generations depend. This requires urgent transformative change that tackles root causes, as well as the values and behaviors underpinning them.
This was the conclusion of leading biodiversity experts, core authors of the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, in an article published this week in the prestigious journal, Science (see link below).
"Urgent action on land and sea use change, exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and alien invasive species is important – but not enough," said Prof. Sandra Díaz, lead author of the new paper and Co-chair of the IPBES Global Assessment Report together with Prof. Josef Settele and Prof. Eduardo Brondizio, who also co-authored the new paper, along with a group of coordinating lead authors of the Assessment.
“The challenges posed by biodiversity loss and climate change are deeply interconnected and need to be addressed holistically at all levels. Reversal of recent declines – and a sustainable global future – are only possible with urgent transformative change tackling the interconnected economic, socio-cultural, demographic, political, institutional and technological indirect drivers of nature’s deterioration."
The new article distills for the scientific community the most salient and novel findings, messages and policy options of the Global Assessment Report, which was approved by representatives of the 132 member Governments of IPBES in May this year.
It emphasizes five priority interventions ("levers") and eight leverage points for action to address these indirect drivers of social and economic systems, where they can make the greatest difference.
Speaking about the impact of the Global Assessment Report, IPBES Chair, Ana Maria Hernandez said: "The world is more aware now than ever before of the devastating impacts of human activities on nature but also of the severe declines in nature’s ability to support people and our well-being. The power of the Global Assessment Report is the comprehensiveness of its evidence and the unanimity with which Governments accepted its findings.
This new article makes it even more clear that we need profound, system-wide change and that this requires urgent action from policymakers, business, communities and every individual. Working in tandem with other knowledge systems, such as Indigenous and local knowledge, science has spoken, and nobody can say that they did not know. There is literally no time to waste."
Among the key findings of the IPBES Global Assessment Report, underscored and further confirmed by brand new evidence covered by this new article, is that a million species of plants and animals risk extinction within a matter of decades; that almost three quarters of land and 66% of marine environments have been significantly altered by humanity and that more than 85% of wetland areas have been lost.
The article also emphasizes that the drop in the number of wild species and the reduced extent of ecosystems is accompanied by declines in ecosystem integrity, the distinctiveness of local ecological communities and the number of local domesticated varieties.
Many species that are large, slow-growing, habitat specialist or carnivores – such as large cats, large sharks, primates, reef-building corals and woody plants– are declining rapidly.
The world has increasingly managed to accelerate the flow of material contributions from nature, to keep up with rising demand. Since the 1970s, per-capita consumption has increased by 45%, global economic activity has increased by more than 300% and global trade by around 900%.
However, the benefits of the expanding global economy and the costs of declining nature’s benefits are both unequally distributed. These trends are compromising 80% of the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals.
It was also found, however, that it was not yet too late to make a difference – society has been responding but coordinated and robust international action is needed.
The Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have decided that the IPBES Global Assessment Report will form the scientific and technical evidence base for the intergovernmental negotiations in 2020, to agree on a global biodiversity framework for the next decade and to replace the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that expire next year.
Elizabeth Mrema, the Acting Executive Secretary of the CBD said: "As the world begins the negotiations of a global framework for nature that is to be agreed at the UN Biodiversity Conference next year in Kunming, China, humanity stands at a crossroads.
The pressures driving the unprecedented decline of nature are intensifying. But we can all still choose the legacy we wish to leave to future generations.
In many countries, there are real examples of transitions to sustainability, including in the use of land and sea and in the way food is produced and consumed. If scaled up, these kinds of actions can bring about the transformative change necessary to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2050 Vision of living in harmony with nature."
* Summary for Policymakers of the IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (60pp):

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COP25: UN chief laments ''lost opportunity'' as climate talks end
by Agence France Presse, agencies
16 Dec. 2019
A major climate summit wrapped up in Madrid Sunday with a compromise deal that left little to show, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to lament the "lost opportunity".
"I am disappointed with the results of COP25.. The international community has lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The summit''s final declaration "expresses the urgent need" for new carbon-cutting commitments to close the gap between current emissions and the Paris treaty goal of capping temperature at below two degrees, host country Spain said.
"Today, the citizens of the world are asking for us to move ahead faster and better," Carolina Schmidt, Chilean environment minister and President of COP25, told the closing plenary.
Tina Eonemto Stege, climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, denounced the response as inadequate for facing an existential threat of rising sea levels.
"Unfortunately, the new text we adopted this morning does not reflect anything near what we would have wanted. It is the bare minimum and we regret that countries could not agree on a more ambitious text," Ms Stege said.
Green youth activist Greta Thunberg - named 2019 Person of the Year by Time magazine - on Friday slammed world leaders for "still trying to run away from their responsibilities".
Following a year of deadly extreme weather and weekly protests by millions of young people, Madrid negotiators were under pressure to send a clear signal that governments were willing to do more.
"Based on the adopted text, there is a glimmer of hope that the heart of the Paris Agreement is still beating," Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift, said. "But its pulse is very weak."
Negotiators from nearly 200 nations came to Spain''s capital with the aim of finalising the rulebook for the 2015 Paris accord, which enjoins nations to limit global temperature to below two degrees Celsius.
With the accord set to become operational next year, it had been hoped COP 25 would show the world that governments would be moved by ongoing protests, irrefutable science, and deadly storms and wildfires that marked 2019 to redouble their efforts.
But greater ambition - how far each country is willing to cut carbon emissions or assist less wealthy countries to do likewise - has largely failed to materialise, leaving many observers aghast.
"Never have I seen such a disconnect between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a 28-year veteran of the climate process.
"Most of the world''s biggest emitting countries are missing in action and resisting calls to raise their ambition."
The call for strengthening voluntary carbon-cutting plans is led by small-island and least-developed states, along with the European Union and a number of African and Latin American States.
They have called out nations seen as blocking consensus - notably the United States, Australia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
China and India, the world''s No. 1 and No. 4 carbon emitters, made no new commitments to improve on their emissions reduction plans, which run to 2030. They instead emphasised the historical responsibility of rich nations to lead the way and provide greater financing to assist poor countries.
"Major players who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations," said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and, as France''s top negotiator, a main architect of the Paris Agreement.
"But thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries, we obtained the best possible outcome, against the will of big polluters."
The summit was also meant to finalise a chapter on carbon markets in the Paris rulebook. Instead, the focus now switches to next year''s COP 26 in Glasgow, when the true Paris deadline falls.
The US, which is leaving the Paris deal next year, was accused of playing spoiler on a number of issues. This included "loss and damage" funding to help disaster-hit countries repair and rebuild.
"The US has not come here in good faith," said Harjeet Singh, climate lead with ActionAid. "They continue to block the world''s efforts to help people whose lives have been turned upside down by climate change."
Even if all countries implement their current plans under the Paris Agreement, the Earth is on course to warm more than 3C by 2100.

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