7 May 2019
PARIS, 6 May – Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the summary of which was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES Plenary, meeting last week (29 April – 4 May) in Paris.
“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
“The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”
“The member States of IPBES Plenary have now acknowledged that, by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but also that such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good,” Watson said.
The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive ever completed. It is the first intergovernmental Report of its kind and builds on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence.
Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.
Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, particularly addressing issues relevant to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
“Biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people are our common heritage and humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’. But our safety net is stretched almost to breaking point,” said Prof. Sandra Díaz (Argentina), who co-chaired the Assessment with Prof. Josef Settele (Germany) and Prof. Eduardo S. Brondízio (Brazil and USA).
“The diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems, as well as many fundamental contributions we derive from nature, are declining fast, although we still have the means to ensure a sustainable future for people and the planet.”
The Report finds that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history.
The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.
“Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing. The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” said Prof. Settele. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”
To increase the policy-relevance of the Report, the assessment’s authors have ranked, for the first time at this scale and based on a thorough analysis of the available evidence, the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far. These culprits are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.
The Report notes that, since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius – with climate change already impacting nature from the level of ecosystems to that of genetics – impacts expected to increase over the coming decades, in some cases surpassing the impact of land and sea use change and other drivers.
Despite progress to conserve nature and implement policies, the Report also finds that global 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. With good progress on components of only four of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, it is likely that most will be missed by the 2020 deadline. Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will undermine progress towards 80% (35 out of 44) of the assessed targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land (SDGs 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 13, 14 and 15). Loss of biodiversity is therefore shown to be not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well.
“To better understand and, more importantly, to address the main causes of damage to biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people, we need to understand the history and global interconnection of complex demographic and economic indirect drivers of change, as well as the social values that underpin them,” said Prof. Brondízio. “Key indirect drivers include increased population and per capita consumption; technological innovation, which in some cases has lowered and in other cases increased the damage to nature; and, critically, issues of governance and accountability. A pattern that emerges is one of global interconnectivity and ‘telecoupling’ – with resource extraction and production often occurring in one part of the world to satisfy the needs of distant consumers in other regions.”
Other notable findings of the Report include:
The Report also presents a wide range of illustrative actions for sustainability and pathways for achieving them across and between sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others. It highlights the importance of, among others, adopting integrated management and cross-sectoral approaches that take into account the trade-offs of food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal management, and biodiversity conservation.
Also identified as a key element of more sustainable future policies is the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth.
“IPBES presents the authoritative science, knowledge and the policy options to decision-makers for their consideration,” said IPBES Executive Secretary, Dr. Anne Larigauderie. “We thank the hundreds of experts, from around the world, who have volunteered their time and knowledge to help address the loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity – a truly global and generational threat to human well-being.”
Species, Populations and Varieties of Plants and Animals
Food and Agriculture
Oceans and Fishing
Mining and Energy
Urbanization, Development and Socioeconomic Issues
Sustainable Development Goals
“Nature makes human development possible but our relentless demand for the earth’s resources is accelerating extinction rates and devastating the world’s ecosystems. UN Environment is proud to support the Global Assessment Report produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services because it highlights the critical need to integrate biodiversity considerations in global decision-making on any sector or challenge, whether its water or agriculture, infrastructure or business.”
– Joyce Msuya, Acting Head, UN Environment
“Across cultures, humans inherently value nature. The magic of seeing fireflies flickering long into the night is immense. We draw energy and nutrients from nature. We find sources of food, medicine, livelihoods and innovation in nature. Our well-being fundamentally depends on nature. Our efforts to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems must be underpinned by the best science that humanity can produce. This is why the scientific evidence compiled in this IPBES Global Assessment is so important. It will help us build a stronger foundation for shaping the post 2020 global biodiversity framework: the ‘New Deal for Nature and People’; and for achieving the SDGs.”
– Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme
“This essential report reminds each of us of the obvious truth: the present generations have the responsibility to bequeath to future generations a planet that is not irreversibly damaged by human activity. Our local, indigenous and scientific knowledge are proving that we have solutions and so no more excuses: we must live on earth differently. UNESCO is committed to promoting respect of the living and of its diversity, ecological solidarity with other living species, and to establish new, equitable and global links of partnership and intragenerational solidarity, for the perpetuation of humankind.”
– Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO
“The IPBES’ 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services comes at a critical time for the planet and all its peoples. The report’s findings – and the years of diligent work by the many scientists who contributed – will offer a comprehensive view of the current conditions of global biodiversity. Healthy biodiversity is the essential infrastructure that supports all forms of life on earth, including human life. It also provides nature-based solutions on many of the most critical environmental, economic, and social challenges that we face as human society, including climate change, sustainable development, health, and water and food security. We are currently in the midst of preparing for the 2020 UN Biodiversity Conference, in China, which will mark the close of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and set the course for a post 2020 ecologically focused sustainable development pathway to deliver multiple benefits for people, the planet and our global economy. The IPBES report will serve as a fundamental baseline of where we are and where we need to go as a global community to inspire humanity to reach the 2050 Vision of the UN Biodiversity Convention “Living in harmony with nature”. I want to extend my thanks and congratulations to the IPBES community for their hard work, immense contributions and continued partnership.”
– Cristiana Pasca Palmer, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity
“The Global Assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services adds a major element to the body of evidence for the importance of biodiversity to efforts to achieve the Zero Hunger objective and meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Together, assessments undertaken by IPBES, FAO, CBD and other organizations point to the urgent need for action to better conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and to the importance of cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary collaboration among decision-makers and other stakeholders at all levels.”
– Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations