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'Transformative changes’ needed for the future of nature and people

10 May 2019
Hoach Le Dinh 74114 Unsplash


Nature is declining around the world at rates unprecedented in human history. This degradation of the fabric of life is leading to grave impacts on people across the planet, warns a landmark new report from the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), approved by over 100 governments and launched on 6 May in Paris.

The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive ever completed. Compiled over three years by hundreds of authors from 50 countries, and including many inputs from UNEP-WCMC, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades and looks to the future. It provides a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature – and how that might change.

The Report tells a number of striking stories: that around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades; that since 1980 greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius and increasing the threat to life on Earth; and that, despite progress to conserve nature and implement policies, global goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories.

As well as affecting the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, of which only four of the 20 are somewhat on track to be completed by their 2020 deadline, this also has serious implications for people’s quality of life and the Sustainable Development Goals. The Report states that current downward trends of life on Earth will undermine progress towards 80% of the assessed targets of those Goals related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land. Loss of the nature is clearly shown therefore to be not only an environmental issue, but a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well.

The Report also provides a clear steer on the transformative changes that will be required if we are to make progress towards the various global goals. It presents a wide range of actions for sustainability across and between sectors such as agriculture and forestry, energy, finance and many others. It highlights the importance of, for example, 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.

Neville Ash, Director of UNEP-WCMC, said: “The IPBES Global Assessment brings together the very best-available information on the state of the living world, the changes and threats it faces, and what can be done to ensure a sustainable future for people and nature. But it’s important to read beyond the headlines. Whilst species extinction risks are a huge concern, the most important findings of the assessment relate to how peoples’ well-being is undermined by declines in biodiversity around the world, and the leverage points for transformative change that can make for a brighter future.”

“Having been responsible for the process that led to the establishment of IPBES and the adoption of its first stream of work, it’s particularly satisfying for me to see the Platform reach maturity with the culmination of its initial phase. UNEP-WCMC has had a strong contribution to the Platform for many years, including for the Global Assessment on the development and analysis of scenarios of the future, and in ensuring that the best-available information fed into the Report’s findings.

“The momentum from the global assessment and the growing public consciousness on the crises facing the climate and the living world means that IPBES is now well-placed to launch into its future work, and we will look forward to continuing to provide UNEP-WCMC support to the Platform.”