As global biodiversity declines, WWF urges wildlife protection and changes to energy, food systems
The report’s authors note that wildlife species have already declined by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012, the most recent year with available data. They recommend a series of changes in the way society views wildlife, food and energy if we are to reverse these trends.
“Globally, wildlife is disappearing at an alarming rate, and here in the Greater Mekong we are seeing those trends accelerate,” said Stuart Chapman, WWF Greater Mekong Regional Representative. “Biodiversity is the foundation of healthy forests, rivers and oceans and we are paving the way for ecosystem collapse, along with the clean air, water, food and climate services that they provide us.”
Fortunately, there are solutions. In the Greater Mekong, that includes increased enforcement against poaching and illegal logging, transboundary cooperation on illegal wildlife trade and landscape protection.
And 2020 holds great promise – in that same year, commitments made under the Paris climate deal will kick in, and the first environmental actions under the globe’s new sustainable development plan are due. If implemented, these measures, along with meeting international biodiversity targets set for 2020, can help achieve the reforms needed in the world's food and energy systems to protect wildlife across the globe.
The WWF report uses the Living Planet Index, provided by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), to monitor trends in wildlife abundance. This index reports how wildlife populations have changed in size, rather than the specific number of animals that have been lost or gained.
Additional evidence of a man-made era
The top threats to species identified in the report are directly linked to human activities, including habitat loss, degradation and overexploitation of wildlife. The report’s findings provide additional evidence that the planet is entering completely unchartered territory in its history in which humanity is shaping changes on the Earth, including a possible sixth mass extinction. Researchers are already calling this period the Anthropocene. Understanding why we are moving into this new epoch enables us to identify solutions for restoring the ecosystems we depend upon.
According to the report, food production to meet the complex demands of an expanding human population is leading the race in the destruction of habitats and overexploitation of wildlife. At present, agriculture occupies about one-third of the Earth’s total land area and accounts for almost 70 per cent of water use.
The Living Planet Report 2016 outlines solutions to reform the way we produce and consume food to help ensure that the world is well-fed in a sustainable way. The report also focuses on the fundamental changes required in the global energy and finance systems to meet the sustainability needs of future generations. A recent report from WWF Greater Mekong and partners finds that 100 percent of the region’s power supply can be generated by renewable and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, biogas, geothermal and biomass by 2050.
Pushing the planet to its limits
Living Planet Report 2016 draws on leading research about the scale and impact of human activity on our planet. One such framework, developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in collaboration with partners, demonstrates that humanity has surpassed four out of nine Planetary Boundaries – safe thresholds for critical Earth system processes that maintain life on the planet.
The report also features research from the Global Footprint Network that shows that while we only have one Earth, humanity is currently using the resources of 1.6 planets to provide the goods and services we use each year.
“No matter how you add it up, the math does not look good. The more we continue to exceed Earth’s limits, the more damage we do to our own future,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. “We are at a decisive moment in time when we can seize the solutions to steer our food, energy and finance systems in a more sustainable direction.”
Charting the way forward
The WWF report demonstrates that we need to rethink how we produce, consume, measure success and value the natural environment. Adequately protecting the environment alongside economic and social development requires an urgent system change by individuals, businesses and governments to move from a short-sighted approach to a visionary approach that values future generations.
The report also illustrates the positive momentum that is building by highlighting recent global agreements on climate change and sustainable development. In particular, the report recognizes the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an essential guide to decision-making that can ensure that the environment is valued alongside economic and social interests.
Living Planet Report 2016: Risk and resilience in a new era is the eleventh edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication. The report tracks over 14,000 vertebrate populations of over 3,700 species from 1970 to 2012.
Contact: Lee Poston
Communications Director, WWF-Greater Mekong
Mobile: +66 (0)9 188 322 90
About WWF Greater Mekong: The Greater Mekong is home to some of the planet’s most endangered wild species, including the tiger, saola, Asian elephant, Mekong dolphin and Mekong giant catfish. Over 2,216 new species have been found in the Greater Mekong since 1997. WWF-Greater Mekong works on conservation initiatives through country programmes in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. WWF-Greater Mekong’s mission is a future where humans live in harmony with nature. To learn more about WWF’s activities, please visit us at www.panda.org/greatermekong
About Zoological Society of London: Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our groundbreaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. For more information visit www.zsl.org
About Stockholm Resilience Centre: Stockholm Resilience Centre conducts independent research and is part of Stockholm University. Founded in 2007, the Stockholm Resilience Centre advances research on the governance of social-ecological systems with a focus on resilience - the ability to deal with change and continue to develop - for global sustainability.
About Global Footprint Network: Global Footprint Network is an international research organization that is changing how the world manages its natural resources and responds to climate change. Since 2003 Global Footprint Network has engaged with more than 50 nations, 30 cities, and 70 global partners to deliver scientific insights that have driven high-impact policy and investment decisions. Together, we’re creating a future where all of us can thrive within our planet’s limits.