In an interview with The Guardian, the United Nations’ executive secretary of the convention on Biological Diversity Christiana Pașca Palmer has warned that humanity could face extinction if it is unable to stop the accelerating loss of earth’s biodiversity. Terming biodiversity loss a “silent killer”, she added that it is imperative that all countries put pressure on their governments to draw up ambitious global targets by 2020 to protect insects, birds and mammals that are vital for food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.
Palmer’s warning comes less than two weeks after the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018, which warned that wildlife populations had declined by over 50 percent in less than 50 years.
“It’s different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late” said Palmer.
She added that compared to climate change, loss of biodiversity receives woefully little attention from heads of state. She lamented that this had led to a worrying situation and that the already high rates of biodiversity loss from habitat destruction, chemical pollution and invasive species could accelerate over the next three decades if sufficient action is not taken by the international community. By 2050, Africa could lose 50 percent of its birds and mammals. Asia’s fisheries could also be affected, suffering total collapse. Meanwhile, the loss of plant life will reduce earth’s ability to recycle carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change and creating a vicious cycle.
Members of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity are set to hold their fourteenth meeting later this month to initiate discussions on a new framework for managing the earth’s ecosystems. Palmer hopes this will result in ambitious new goals by the time of the next meeting in 2020, which will be held in Beijing. Conservationists hope the deals struck will culminate in a biodiversity accord which will carry the same weight as the Paris climate agreement.
For now, the issue has not been given much priority in global political agendas. However, Palmer remains optimistic.
“Things are moving. There is a lot of goodwill,” she told The Guardian. “We should be aware of the dangers but not paralysed by inaction. It’s still in our hands but the window for action is narrowing. We need higher levels of political and citizen will to support nature.”