As an audience of nearly 20,000 including heads of government, journalists, activists and celebrities from around the world gathered to take the lead in Glasgow at a crucial climate summit to be held in Starting at the end of the month, another equally important global environmental meeting began this week. The major theme that is central to discussions and concerns is the rapid collapse of the species and techniques that collectively sustain life on earth.
Many scientists agree that both conferences are equally important. However, there is one that remains in the spotlight while the other receives much less media coverage.
"If the world community continues to see it as a side event, and if it continues to believe that climate change has become, on its own, the major event that must gather all our attention, the day it decides to take place. focus on biodiversity, it may be too late, ” said Francis Ogwal, one of the many leaders of the task force tasked with developing a settlement between nations.
“Because local climate change and biodiversity loss are closely linked, they should be tackled collectively, ” say the scientists. "But their international summits are separate, and one of them eclipses the other."
“Awareness is not yet where it should be,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, biologist and meteorological researcher who helped lead a global analysis on each of the themes. He calls them “the two existential crises that humanity has caused on the planet”.
Why are biodiversity issues so important?
Apart from all the moral and ethical reasons that cause humans to care about the different species on Earth, there are some that are purely practical. The first of which is survival. Indeed, at the most fundamental stage and we will say the most important, humans depend on nature to live.
"The diversity of all plants and animals makes the planet work properly," said Anne Larigauderie, an environmentalist who heads a leading intergovernmental group on biodiversity. “This diversity ensures that we have oxygen in the air and fertile soils. "
Let's run the risk of losing too many elements in an ecosystem, and it will stop functioning. The average abundance of native species in the composition of most of the major terrestrial biomes (large biogeographic region in the same climate) has declined by at least 20%, mainly since 1900, according to a major report on the state of global biodiversity published by Dr Larigauderie's group of experts, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services . The studies carried out conclude with an estimate of one million species threatened with extinction.
Climate change is only one factor in the loss of biodiversity. For now, the main culprit on earth is habitat destruction through actions like farming, mining and logging. At sea, it's overfishing. Other causes come into play such as air pollution and the introduction of new species into territories which will drive out the original species.
“When you have two simultaneous existential crises, you can't choose just one to focus on - you have to address both, no matter how difficult they are ,” said Brian O'Donnell, Campaign director for nature, a defense group. “It's the equivalent of having a flat tire and a dead battery in your car at the same time. You're still stuck if you fix only one. "
How does it really work?
This week, environmental officials, diplomats and various observers from around the world gathered online, and a small group met in person in Kunming, China for the Assembly; the Fifteenth United Nations Convention on Biodiversity.
The United States is the only nation on earth outside the Vatican that will not take part in the treaty: the Convention on Biological Diversity . An attitude largely attributed to the Republican opposition. US representatives are participating, however, but on the sidelines of the talks, as are environmental teams and various organizations.
Due to the pandemic, the agreement was split into two parts. While this digital part was largely aimed at sparking political momentum, countries will meet once again in China in the spring to ratify a series of goals aimed at tackling biodiversity loss. The goal will be to adopt a nature pact similar to the Paris Agreement on climate change, said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, chief secretary of the conference.
Over the past 12 months, experts have reported that the nations of the world have largely failed to meet the targets set in the last international biodiversity regulation, concluded in 2010.
If the brand new commitments do not translate into "effective policies and concrete actions ," Mrema told the assembly this week, "we risk repeating the failures of the past decade" .
After that ?
The working draft consists of 21 goals that serve as a model for reducing biodiversity loss. Many are concrete and measurable, others are more abstract. None are simple. Here they are in summary:
- Create a plan, across the land and waters of each nation, to make the optimum trade-offs as to where to take action in agriculture and mining while keeping areas untouched.
- Ensure that wildlife is hunted and fished in a sustainable and safe manner.
- Reduce agricultural runoff, pesticides and plastic air pollution.
- Use ecosystems to limit local weather changes by storing carbon that warms the planet
- Reduce subsidies and various monetary programs that harm biodiversity by at least $ 500 billion a year, the estimated amount that governments spend to support fossil fuels and undoubtedly harm agricultural practices.
- Save a minimum of 30% of the planet's land and oceans by 2030.
In the run-up to the convention, this latest measure, pushed by environmentalists and a growing number of nations, drained a lot of money and aroused great interest. Last month, 9 philanthropic teams donated $ 5 billion in support, known as “30 × 30” .
“It's eye-catching,” said EO Wilson, influential biologist and professor emeritus at Harvard University. He said he hoped “30 × 30” could be a major step towards devoting half the planet to nature sooner or later.
Indigenous groups watched with hope and awe. Some welcome the growth, calling for a larger share of 30%, while others fear losing use of their land, as has traditionally happened in many conservation areas.
The debate highlights a certain tension that accompanies negotiations on biodiversity.
“If this becomes a purely nature conservation plan, it will fail,” said Basile van Havre, a representative, along with Mr. Ogwal, from one of the conference's many working teams. “What we need is a plan for nature and people. "
With the constant increase of humanity, scientists say that a radical and profound change is necessary for the planet to have the capacity to keep us in time.
“We really need to consider every initiative of each individual through the prism of biodiversity and nature,” said Dr Larigauderie. “Since everyone will depend on nature,” she said, “everyone is part of the solution”.