Home Nature preserves More protected areas will not save biodiversity, experts warn

More protected areas will not save biodiversity, experts warn

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France Media Agency

January 19, 2022 | 5:20 p.m.

PARIS, France — Expanding nature reserves won’t be enough to stem a rising tide of extinctions, a panel of experts warned Wednesday, aiming for a draft treaty to save Earth’s animal and plant life.

Setting aside at least 30% of land and oceans as protected areas is the fundamental goal of the so-called global biodiversity framework due to be finalized in May at UN negotiations in Kunming, China.

But a report from more than 50 top experts said the draft plan was still far short of what was needed.

“We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, with one million species threatened with extinction,” lead author Paul Leadley, a professor at Paris-Saclay University, told AFP.

“There is good evidence that we will again fail to meet ambitious international biodiversity targets if too much focus is placed on protected areas at the expense of other urgent actions.”

The plan, being negotiated by nearly 200 countries, sets a score of targets for 2030 and aims by 2050 to reverse biodiversity loss and “live in harmony with nature”.

The world has almost entirely failed to meet a similar set of 10-year goals set a decade ago at UN talks in Aichi, Japan.

“We keep trying to treat a critically ill patient with dressings – this needs to stop,” Leadley said.

Echoing a similar warning issued by the UN’s scientific advisory group on climate change, Leadley and colleagues said reversing damage to nature will require “transformative change” in society, starting with how we produce and consume food.

Several pilots

Policy makers must also realize that all drivers of extinction – habitat loss and fragmentation, overhunting for food and profit, pollution, the spread of invasive species – must be tackled at the same time. .

“Biodiversity loss is caused by multiple direct drivers in almost all cases, meaning that actions on just one or a few will be insufficient to halt continued loss,” the report said.

Climate change is also rapidly emerging as a major threat to many animal and plant species on land and in the oceans, exceeding their capacity to adapt.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – “essential” to protect nature – is not sufficiently reflected in the draft targets, according to the authors.

The Earth’s surface has already warmed by 1.1°C, enough to trigger a crescendo of climate-enhanced storms, heat waves, droughts and floods.

And it works both ways, the report warns: “The protection and restoration of biodiversity is essential to achieving the climate change mitigation and adaptation goals of the Paris Agreement.”

Nature-based solutions

As with the climate, there is no time to waste.

“The sooner we act, the better,” said co-author Maria Cecilia Londono Murcia, a researcher at the Humboldt Institute in Colombia.

“The time lags between action and positive outcomes for biodiversity can take decades.”

The report also criticizes the draft treaty for not specifying how the objectives will be achieved and applied.

Goals are all well and good, he suggests, “but it’s how those goals are implemented…that will determine success.”

Other targets set for 2030 include:

  • reduce by 50% the rate at which alien species spread across the world;
  • reduce nutrients such as fertilizers that leach into the environment by at least half and pesticides by at least two-thirds;
  • eliminate the discharge of plastic waste;
  • use nature-based solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10 billion tonnes of CO2 or its equivalent;
  • cut subsidies that harm biodiversity by at least $500 billion (€440 billion) a year.

“For every euro we spend around the world to help biodiversity, we spend at least five on things that destroy it,” said co-author Aleksandar Rankovic, a researcher at the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

The nations will gather in Geneva in March for technical meetings ahead of critical talks in April and May.