You are here

United Nations Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Tags: Climate Change, Biodiversity, Extinction

UN IPBES Adjournment Speech: Woodruff


Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to read into the House the summarial findings from the United Nations Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The report, tabled on 6 May this year, was a summary for policy makers around the world of their global assessment on the state of the world's biodiversity and ecosystem services. It was a very wide and highly august panel of many scientists around the world representing national governments. Their findings, their key messages, were that nature and its vital contributions to people which together embody biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services are deteriorating around the world.

Both nature and its contributions to people are vital for human existence and the good quality of our lives. We know that more food, energy and materials than ever before are now being supplied to people in most places by nature. This is increasing at the expense of nature's ability to provide the other contributions that we need for our health and wellbeing and for our very survival, things like water quality and sense of place and pollination.

The biosphere upon which we all depend is being altered to an unparalleled degree across all space and scales and biodiversity, that is the diversity within the species and between species and of ecosystems, is declining now faster than at any time in human history.

Mr Deputy Speaker, they find that nature plays a critical role in providing food and feed, energy, medicines and genetic resources, and that more than 2 billion people rely on wood fuel to meet their primary energy needs. An estimated 4 billion people rely primarily on natural medicines for health care and some 70 per cent of drugs used for cancer are natural or are synthetic products produced by nature. Nature sustains us through the quality of the air, fresh water, and soils on which we all depend. It distributes fresh water, regulates the climate, provides pollination and pest control, and reduces the impact of natural hazards. More than 75 per cent of global food plot types, including fruit and vegetables, and some of the most important cash crops around the world rely on animal pollination. Nature underpins all dimensions of human health and contributes to every aspect of the quality of our life.

Their findings are that most of the globe has now been significantly altered by many human drivers and that the great majority of ecosystems and biodiversity are showing signs of rapid decline. Seventy-five per cent of the land surface is significantly altered; 66 per cent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts; and 85 per cent of all wetland areas across the globe have been lost.

Approximately half the live coral cover on coral reefs has been lost just over the last century, and there is, as we all know, accelerating losses in very recent times.

The average abundance of native species in most parts of the world's land surface has fallen by at least 20 per cent. This decline has mostly taken place in the last 20 years. An average of around 25 per cent of species are now assessed by the United Nations as being threatened and around one million species face extinction within many decades unless action is taken very quickly to reduce the intensity of the drivers that are creating this biodiversity loss.

Without strong and quick action, there will be a further acceleration in the global rate of the species that become extinct, the extinction rate is already at least 10s to 100s of times higher than it has been over the past10 million years.

The rate of global change in the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history and the land use change is having a massive impact on nature. They find it is being caused by the over-exploitation of animals, plants and other organisms, mostly because of harvesting, logging, hunting and fishing at unsustainable levels.

The goals they find for conserving and sustainably using nature and becoming sustainable will not be met on the current approach, the current trajectories we have, and the goals for 2030 and beyond will only be achieved by a transformative change.

They also note that climate change is expected to become the increasing and major driver of the rapid increasing acceleration of the loss of species.

Even for the global warming of 1.5 to 2 degrees, which seems increasingly difficult to achieve, the majority of terrestrial species, that is species on land, are projected to shrink profoundly.

Nature can be conserved, they find, and it can be restored and used sustainably while we also meet other social goals. That is the point that we must take on board. Although this is an incredibly devastating assessment, an unprecedented global emergency and we really are in the midst of a mass extinction of all species that has been created under our own hands, there is a response and we are capable of turning around this mass extinction.

The conclusion that they make is that we need action and we need it now, within the next 18 months at the global level, some really direct action on restoring landscapes, ending the deforestation of native areas of recovery plans for plants and animals. All the sorts of things that we would expect to be hearing from this government. Funding directed as a form of urgency in this budget towards those things. Landscape restoration, working with farmers to increase soil health, as we have seen in that good news story from the north-west today, with the dairy farmer who has been taking that approach and finding it not only benefits the environment it massively benefits the output and the productivity for that farmer himself.

People need hope and they will get it when governments take action.