1,000,000,000 endangered species: the alarming report from Ipbes

"Nature is globally declining at a rate unprecedented in human history. And the rate of species extinction is accelerating, with serious impacts on human populations around the world," warns the new and historic report of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the summary of which was approved at the 7th IPBES plenary session, held from 29 April to 4 May in Paris.

"The overwhelming evidence contained in the global assessment published by IPBES and obtained from a wide range of knowledge areas presents a worrying picture," said IPBES President Sir Robert Watson. "The health of the ecosystems on which we depend, as well as all other species, is deteriorating faster than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, our livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life around the world.

"The report also tells us that it is not too late to act, but only if we start doing so now at all levels, from local to global," he added. "Thanks to "transformative change", nature can still be conserved, restored and used in a sustainable way - which is also essential to meet most other global objectives. Transformative change" refers to a fundamental system-wide change that takes into account technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, objectives and values.

Member States of the IPBES plenary recognized that, by its very nature, transformative change can be opposed by those with interests in the status quo, but also that this opposition can be overcome for the benefit of all.


A comprehensive and intergovernmental report

The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive document to date. This is the first intergovernmental report of its kind. It builds on the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and introduces new ways of assessing evidence.

Developed by 145 experts? from 50 countries over the past three years, with additional contributions from 310 other experts, the report assesses changes over the past five decades and provides a comprehensive overview of the relationship between economic development trajectories and their impacts on nature. The document also proposes a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

Based on a systematic review of approximately 15,000 scientific references and government sources, the report also draws on (and for the first time on such a scale) indigenous and local knowledge, and addresses in particular issues concerning indigenous peoples and local communities.

"The contributions that biodiversity and nature make to people are our common heritage and form the most important'safety net' for the survival of humanity. But this safety net has been stretched to its breaking point," said Professor Sandra Díaz (Argentina), who co-chaired the evaluation with Professors Josef Settele (Germany) and Eduardo S. Brondízio (Brazil and United States).

"Diversity within species, between species and ecosystems, and many fundamental contributions from nature are rapidly degrading, even though we still have the means to ensure a sustainable future for humans and the planet.


An "unprecedented" and accelerating rate of species extinction

The report estimates that about 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, particularly in the coming decades, which has never happened before in human history.

Since 1900, the average abundance of local species in most major terrestrial habitats has declined by at least 20% on average. More than 40% of amphibian species, nearly 33% of coral reefs and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The situation is less clear for insect species, but the available data lead to a provisional estimate of 10% of threatened species. At least 680 vertebrate species have disappeared since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated mammalian breeds used for food and agriculture had disappeared by 2016, and an additional 1,000 breeds are threatened.


To increase the policy relevance of the report, the authors of the evaluation ranked, for the first time at such a scale and based on a thorough analysis of the available data, the five direct drivers of change that affect nature and have the greatest global impacts. The factors responsible are, in descending order:

land and sea use changes
the direct operation of certain organizations
climate change
invasive alien species.

The report points out that, since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, causing global average temperatures to rise by at least 0.7°C. Climate change is already having an impact on nature, from the level of ecosystems to that of genetic diversity - an impact that is expected to increase in the coming decades and, in some cases, exceed the impact due to changes in land and sea use and other pressure factors.


Difficult to achieve ODDs

Despite the progress made in conserving nature and implementing nature policies, the report also highlights that current trajectories are not sufficient to achieve the global objectives of conserving and sustainably exploiting nature. The objectives for 2030 and beyond can only be achieved through transformative change in the fields of economy, society, politics and technology.

With only four of Aichi's twenty biodiversity targets showing real progress in their implementation, it is likely that most of them will not be achieved by the 2020 deadline. Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems will hinder progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in 80% (35 out of 44) of cases where targets have been assessed; particularly those related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land (MDGs 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 13, 14 and 15). Biodiversity loss is therefore not only an environmental problem, but also a development, economic, security, social and ethical issue.

"To better understand and, more importantly, to address the main causes of biodiversity damage and the contributions that nature makes to people, we need to understand the global history and interconnections that exist between the complex indirect factors of demographic and economic change, as well as the social values that underpin them," said Professor Brondízio.

"The main indirect factors include growth in population and per capita consumption; technological innovation, whose damage to nature has decreased in some cases while it has increased in others; and, critically, governance and accountability issues. One emerging trend is the so-called global interconnectivity and telecoupling trend. In this case, resource extraction and production takes place in one part of the world, but is often used to meet the needs of remote consumers living in other regions.

A call to action

The report also presents a wide range of examples of actions for sustainable development and the paths to achieve them in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine ecosystems, freshwater ecosystems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others.

The document stresses the importance, inter alia, of adopting integrated management and cross-sectoral approaches that take into account trade-offs between food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal zone management, and biodiversity conservation.

In order to create a sustainable global economy, the evolution of global financial and economic systems has also been identified as a key element of more sustainable future policies. It moves away from the current too limited paradigm of economic growth.

"IPBES provides decision-makers with a reliable scientific basis, knowledge and policy options for analysis," said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, IPBES Executive Secretary. "We thank the hundreds of experts from around the world who have volunteered their time and knowledge to help combat the loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity - a truly global and generational threat to human well-being.