Major UN study to issue warning over wildlife losses

Destruction of wildlife is as big a threat to people as climate change, scientists are warning, as a major new UN report on the state of nature is published.

The global assessment, the first such report since 2005 and the most comprehensive of its kind, is expected to warn that a million species are at risk of extinction as a result of human activity unless swift action is taken.

Experts warn that the damage to nature, and the vital services it provides including food, pollination and clean water, poses a critical threat to human well-being.

The report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has taken three years and draws on thousands of pieces of scientific evidence and government information.

It has been prepared by 150 leading experts from 50 countries, with additional contributions from a further 310 experts.

The assessment looks at the causes of wildlife loss, its impacts on people and how it affects efforts to reduce poverty, put the world on a sustainable development path and tackle climate change.

Speaking as governments and experts gathered to approve the assessment, which will be made public on Monday, Sir Robert Watson, leading British scientist and chairman of the IPBES said the evidence of the problem was “incontestable”.

“Our destruction of biodiversity and ecosystem services has reached levels that threaten our well-being at least as much as human-induced climate change.”

And he warned of a “closing window of opportunity to act and narrowing options” for protecting nature and securing a more sustainable future.

It is hoped that the report, like the UN’s major climate change studies, will prompt global action to protect wildlife and habitats around the world.

Pointing to the world’s first comprehensive deal to tackle climate change, the Paris Agreement struck in the French capital in 2015, Sir Robert called for the report’s publication to start a “Paris moment” for nature.

It has been finalised in Paris ahead of its publication, and will lay out a number of scenarios for the future based on decisions taken by governments and policymakers over the coming years.

The study will be used as the basis for negotiations on new targets to tackle wildlife losses from 2020, with calls from environmental group WWF to create a new “global deal for nature and people”, similar to the Paris Agreement.

Greenpeace UK’s executive director John Sauven said:  “This report is set to be an urgent wake-up call for governments and corporations to stop turning our land into a chemically intensive monoculture and start a process that enables us to live alongside nature.

“The UK government urgently needs to play its part by restoring our peatlands, planting millions of trees, providing ocean sanctuaries around our coast and supporting a shift from meat and dairy to healthy, plant-based meals.”

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