Environment

We Have Failed To Meet Even a Single Target To Stop the Destruction of Nature, Says UN

In 2010, world leaders created a 10-year plan to save the planet. In 2020, not a single goal has been fully met.
September 16, 2020, 12:34pm
pollution
Photo courtesy of Ella Ivanescu / Unsplash

In 2010, about 190 member states of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity formed a series of strategies to limit the damage inflicted on the natural world. The decade of 2011 to 2020 was going to be the UN's Decade on Biodiversity. A part of this battle plan was the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, a series of 20 objectives ranging from phasing out fossil fuel subsidies to limiting habitat loss to tackling pollution. These were supposed to be fulfilled by 2020. 

Now, according to a devastating new report by the United Nations, ahead of the UN General Assembly, the world has failed to meet even a single biodiversity target. 

Only six of the 20 are deemed to have been “partially achieved”, including those in protected areas and invasive species. In a year that’s crucial for diplomacy for nature and the climate, the assessment found none of the biodiversity targets would be fully met, “undermining efforts to address climate change”. This is the second consecutive decade that governments have failed to meet targets.

“Earth’s living systems as a whole are being compromised”, said Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Director of the Convention on Biological Diversity. “And the more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our well-being, security, and prosperity.”

A WWF assessment earlier this month said that humanity’s impact on the natural world over the last five decades has been deadly: since 1970, close to 70 percent of wild animals, birds and fish have vanished. Global wildlife populations are in freefall because of human overconsumption, population growth, and intensive agriculture.

A leading target to halve the loss of natural habitats has not been met. Plastic waste and excess nutrients have not been brought to levels that do not damage ecosystem function and biodiversity around the world, according to the report. Electronics pollution is also highlighted as an issue of increasing concern, fuelled by high consumption rates. More than 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs are under threat, especially because of overfishing and destructive practices. 

“We are currently, in a systematic manner, exterminating all non-human living beings,” Anne Larigauderie, IPBES executive secretary, told AFP. She added that the global health crisis should serve as a wake-up call to world leaders.

There have been some bright spots, however. Falling rates of deforestation and raised awareness of biodiversity and its importance overall, for example. As many as 48 species have also been saved from extinction in recent decades. “Hidden behind those global aggregates, there is important progress and that gives us signs that if you do put policies in place, they do work.” said lead author of the report, and deputy executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, David Cooper. 

Regardless, this encouraging progress can’t mask the fact that the natural world is suffering badly, and that the situation is getting worse. The lack of adequate measures is evident in the funding for actions linked to biodiversity; it has been estimated at between $78-$91 billion per year. But an amount as big as this is far below the hundreds of billions needed. It also pales in comparison to the amount of money spent on activities that are harmful to biodiversity, including some $500 billion for fossil fuels, and other subsidies that cause environmental degradation.

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