Scientists’ warn of looming ecological collapse must prompt policy action

Posted on 06 May 2019

The world’s leading scientists are warning that ‘transformative changes’ are needed to restore and protect the world’s natural ecosystems
Brussels/Paris, 6 May 2019. The world’s leading scientists are warning that ‘transformative changes’ are needed to restore and protect the world’s natural ecosystems, and that the current global response to the biodiversity crisis is insufficient. In its final report on the state of nature adopted today, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) - biodiversity’s equivalent of the IPCC climate panel –, warned that the current rate of global nature decline is unprecedented in human history. According to the scientists, 1 million species are currently threatened with extinction and nature loss is accelerating, with likely serious impacts on people around the world.

“The scientific evidence is irrefutable: we are facing a ecological emergency, and the risks of climate change and nature loss for humanity are serious. Governments can no longer turn a blind eye, and this report must prompt our leaders into urgent and courageous political action,” said Ester Asin, Director of the WWF European Policy Office. “Healthy ecosystems are the foundation of our societies, our economies, our food production, our health – and yet, we are destroying them at an alarming rate. With our lifestyles and levels of consumptions, we are robbing future generations of their livelihoods, and they will hold us to account for our failure to act.”

The 1,800 page scientific study is the first comprehensive snapshot of the state of the world’s biodiversity since 2005 with evidence provided by 400 of the world’s leading experts from across 50 countries. Echoing many of the findings of WWF’s Living Planet Report published in 2018, it paints an alarming picture of species extinctions, wildlife population declines, habitat loss and depletion of ecosystem services crucial for our sustenance and economic development.

As per the findings of the IPBES report, human actions have significantly altered nature across the globe. Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered. More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production. Around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.

The report also offers a comprehensive study of the interlinkage between climate change and nature loss. Among the major contributors of ecosystem changes, human-driven climate change is identified among the key drivers exacerbating the impact of other drivers on nature and human wellbeing. Greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius while the global average sea level has risen by 16 to 21 centimeters since 1900. These changes have contributed to widespread impacts in many aspects of biodiversity including species distributions.

The IPBES report comes ahead of a crucial EU Leaders Summit on the Future of Europe on 9 May in Sibiu (Romania), and just two weeks before the EU elections – two occasions for decisively putting Europe on a firm path to a sustainable future, in which human activities respect the Earth’s ecological boundaries.The EU has a critical role to play in shaping the global response to the twin crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change, and the citizens agree. In today’s Eurobarometer on the attitudes of Europeans towards biodiversity, an overwhelming 96% of respondents emphasised that we have a responsibility to look after nature, and almost half said the EU should restore nature and biodiversity.

“In Sibiu, EU leaders must summon the political will to set Europe on a path towards a sustainable future where nature is protected for the benefit of both people and planet. Halting and reversing biodiversity loss must be a top priority on the political agenda of the next Commission, and the EU must take the lead globally in bringing about a New Deal for Nature and People by 2020. Urgent actions must also been taken domestically, by fully protecting and restoring nature in Europe, making the EU climate neutral by 2040, reforming its agricultural and financial systems, and reducing the footprint of EU consumption in third countries,” concludes Ester Asin.

Notes to the editor

IPBES report
Often described as the “IPCC for biodiversity” IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body comprising 129 member Governments. Established by Governments in 2012, it provides policymakers with objective scientific assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems and the contributions they make to people, as well as the tools and methods to protect and sustainably use these vital natural assets.
The 2019 IPBES report is the first global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services since 2005 prepared by 150 leading international experts from 50 countries, balancing representation from the natural and social sciences, with additional contributions from a further 250 experts.

Living Planet Report
The Living Planet Report is WWF’s biennial flagship publication.The report includes the latest findings measured by the Living Planet Index tracking 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species from 1970 to 2014.

Indicators include the Living Planet Index (LPI), provided by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL); the Species Habitat Index (SHI); the IUCN Red List Index (RLI); the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII); as well as Planetary Boundaries and the Ecological Footprint.

Angelika Pullen
Communications Director
WWF European Policy Office
+32 473 947 966
1 million species are currently threatened with extinction and nature loss is accelerating, with likely serious impacts on people around the world.
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