The United Nations has declared that the nations of the world did not achieve any of the goals of environmental protection and conservation of biodiversity that were set a decade ago. The impact of humans on wildlife over the last five decades would simply be described as cataclysmic. Since 1970, almost 70 percent of the wildlife, birds, and fish that existed at the time have disappeared. These are the findings of the WWF report.
Last year, the United Nations Biodiversity Council warned that almost one million animal species are currently threatened with extinction as human activities have affected three quarters of our planet’s surface. In 2010, 190 countries to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity committed themselves to a plan to limit human damage to wildlife by 2020. The individual items in this plan include a commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, a reduction in the destruction of wildlife habitats, and the protection of fish stocks. But, as the United Nations points out now, none of the objectives of that convention has been achieved.
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted plans to hold two major congresses of UN leaders to address biodiversity issues. The purpose of these conventions was to stimulate international conservation efforts. The General Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity pointed out that communities are gradually gaining awareness of the importance of nature. The UN report also assessed the potential for reducing wildlife destruction trends by 2030, but this would require far-reaching changes in agricultural practices and a reduction in food over-consumption and waste. An essential element is that of the tribal indigenous populations, which still control as much as 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity.
A Special Situation on a Worldwide Scale
The GBO points out that the result to protect nature has not been completely zero in the last decade. For example, the rate of deforestation has dropped by about a third compared to the previous decade. Over a 20-year period, since the turn of the century, protected areas have grown from 10 percent of all land to 15 percent and from 3 percent of the ocean to at least 7 percent.
However, the biggest threat to nature in this report is the continued use of fossil fuel subsidies, which the authors estimate is an annual global subsidy of about $500 billion. There are segments of society whose financial interest prevents governments from reducing support for polluting industries. Subsidies are detrimental to biodiversity and, in many cases, detrimental in the long run, both economically and socially.
Andy Purvis, a spokesman for the Life Sciences Unit at the British Natural History Museum, said he was shocked that the world had failed to achieve any of the 20 conservation goals it set itself. We should admit to ourselves that we are in a special situation on a planetary scale. It is not just some animal species that will die out. Ecosystems will be damaged to such an extent that they will no longer be able to meet the needs of humanity.