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IPBES Reports nature’s decline is ‘unprecedented’ and species extinction ‘accelerating’

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is the intergovernmental body which assesses the state of biodiversity and of the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests from decision makers. It has issued its first Global Biodiversity Assessment Report since 2005.

CLICK HERE to read the Report's Summary for Policy Makers


The Report's first key message is as follows:

A. Nature and its vital contributions to people, which together embody biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are deteriorating worldwide.

Nature embodies different concepts for different people, including biodiversity, ecosystems, Mother Earth, systems of life and other analogous concepts. Nature’s contributions to people embody different concepts such as ecosystem goods and services, and nature’s gifts. Both nature and nature’s contributions to people are vital for human existence and good quality of life (human well-being, living in harmony with nature, living well in balance and harmony with Mother Earth, and other analogous concepts). While more food, energy and materials than ever before are now being supplied to people in most places, this is increasingly at the expense of nature’s ability to provide such contributions in the future and frequently undermines nature’s many other contributions, which range from water quality regulation to sense of place. The biosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends, is being altered to an unparalleled degree across all spatial scales. Biodiversity – the diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems – is declining faster than at any time in human history.

B. Direct and indirect drivers of change have accelerated during the past 50 years.

The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history. The direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impact have been (starting with those with most impact): changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasion of alien species. Those five direct drivers result from an array of underlying causes – the indirect drivers of change – which are in turn underpinned by societal values and behaviors that include production and consumption patterns, human population 4 dynamics and trends, trade, technological innovations and local through global governance. The rate of change in the direct and indirect drivers differs among regions and countries.

C. Goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories, and goals for 2030 and beyond may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors.

Past and ongoing rapid declines in biodiversity, ecosystem functions and many of nature’s contributions to people mean that most international societal and environmental goals, such as those embodied in the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, will not be achieved based on current trajectories. These declines will also undermine other goals, such as those specified in the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity. The negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystem functions are projected to continue or worsen in many future scenarios in response to indirect drivers such as rapid human population growth, unsustainable production and consumption and associated technological development. In contrast, scenarios and pathways that explore the effects of a low-to-moderate population growth, and transformative changes in production and consumption of energy, food, feed, fibre and water, sustainable use, equitable sharing of the benefits arising from use and nature-friendly climate adaptation and mitigation, will better support the achievement of future societal and environmental objectives.

D. Nature can be conserved, restored and used sustainably while simultaneously meeting other global societal goals through urgent and concerted efforts fostering transformative change.

Societal goals – including those for food, water, energy, health and the achievement of human well-being for all, mitigating and adapting to climate change and conserving and sustainably using nature – can be achieved in sustainable pathways through the rapid and improved deployment of existing policy instruments and new initiatives that more effectively enlist individual and collective action for transformative change. Since current structures often inhibit sustainable development and actually represent the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, such fundamental, structural change is called for. By its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good. If obstacles are overcome, commitment to mutually supportive international goals and targets, supporting actions by indigenous peoples and local communities at the local level, new frameworks for private sector investment and innovation, inclusive and adaptive governance approaches and arrangements, multi-sectoral planning and strategic policy mixes can help to transform the public and private sectors to achieve sustainability at the local, national and global levels.

As noted in an article published in the Los Angeles Times, Nature is in the worst shape in human history, by Associated Press:

"Nature is in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals, scientists said Monday in the United Nations' first comprehensive report on biodiversity. It's all because of humans, but it's not too late to fix the problem.

"We have reconfigured dramatically life on the planet," report co-chairman Eduardo Brondizio of Indiana University said at a news conference. Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, the report said. More than half a million species on land "have insufficient habitat for long-term survival" and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored."

By now it should be obvious that everyone on our planet has to start asking themselves what they can do in the home, in their businesses, and in the way the spend and invest their money to bring about change.

Without immediate, significant changes to how we conduct our lives, consume, produce and deliver goods and services, and so much more, the consequences will not only be environmental, but deeply impact human health, food resources, economic sustainability and perhaps more troubling civil society.

A lot to consider and there are as many places to start as there are people on the planet.