According to leading scientists, the “fate of the entire living world” will be decided at the UN Biodiversity Summit Cop15.
They said the gathering of the world’s nations, which began Wednesday in Montreal, was “significantly more important than Cop27,” the latest high-profile UN climate meeting. “We say this because of the many dimensions of anthropogenic global change…the most critical, complex and challenging is biodiversity loss,” the researchers said.
The current rapid loss of wildlife and natural sites is seen by many scientists as the beginning of a sixth mass extinction, destroying the life support systems humanity depends on for clean air, water and food. Protecting the natural world, such as rainforests, is also critical to ending the climate emergency.
Cop15 aims to ensure 30% of the planet is protected by 2030, as well as diverting $500 billion in farm subsidies that support nature’s destruction.
The warning from scientists came in an editorial in the journal Science Advances, written by Prof. Shahid Naeem at Columbia University, USA; Prof. Yonglong Lu from Xiamen University, China; and Prof. Jeremy Jackson at the American Museum of Natural History.
They said an earlier 10-year plan known as the Aichi Biodiversity Goals had not met any of its goals by its 2020 deadline, despite being endorsed by 196 nations. “Failure is not an option this time, as Earth’s terrestrial, marine and freshwater systems are collapsing under pressure to meet the needs of a world population that will soon approach 10 billion,” the researchers said.
However, they added that there are some reasons for optimism, including broad and growing support for the 30×30 conservation plan and the fact that the drivers of biodiversity loss are well understood, providing a clear direction for action.
Destruction of wild lands for agriculture and mining is the main cause of biodiversity loss, along with overexploitation of wild animals and plants on land and in the sea, and pollution. The climate crisis and the global spread of invasive species also contribute to this. UN environment chief Inger Andersen has dubbed these drivers the “five horsemen of the biodiversity apocalypse.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the summit with a clear message: “Without nature we are nothing. Nature is our life support system, and yet humanity seems bent on destruction.
“With our boundless 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 and move from discord to harmony.”
In addition to the “30×30” target, other draft targets for the Cop15 agreement include reducing the introduction rate of invasive species by 50%, reducing pesticide use by at least two-thirds, stopping the flow of plastic pollution and requiring large companies to reduce their Disclose effects on nature.
In the editorial, Naeem and his colleagues said, “Ample scientific evidence has shown how global change, including climate change, is ultimately related to biodiversity conservation.” For example, healthy forests and oceans could absorb vast amounts of climate-warming carbon dioxide.
They said a leading study on the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns showed how “reducing traffic, industrial noise and pollution, and human-wildlife contact resulted in a multitude of positive impacts on nature around the world.” ‘, with ‘animals rapidly responding to reductions in human presence’. However, a reduction in conservation work also led to illegal hunting and habitat destruction.
“The takeaway message was that biodiversity loss can be addressed not only by reducing human pressures, but also by increasing human activity in research, restoration and conservation,” the researchers said.
They said the Cop15 agreement must recognize the rights of tribal peoples and ensure long-term funding from wealthier nations to meet the goals, as many of the places with the greatest biodiversity are in low-income countries.
French diplomat Laurence Tubiana, an 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, similar to how in 2015 the Paris Agreement started to push for climate action. In seven years, the dynamic can be clearly seen. We need the same momentum to protect all life on Earth.”
Prof. Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said: “We need a ‘Paris moment’ in Montreal. Only by protecting and regenerating the Earth’s nature can we truly protect the Earth’s climate.”