SEOUL: A United Nations conference on preserving the earth’s dwindling resources opened on Monday with grim warnings that the depletion of natural habitats and species was outpacing efforts to protect them.
Just a week after conservation group WWF said wildlife numbers had halved in 40 years, governments met in South Korea to analyze progress since they agreed four years ago on 20 targets for stemming the tide of biodiversity loss.
Addressing the opening session of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), the executive director of the UN Environment Program Achim Steiner said a progress report to be published later Monday made for “very sobering” reading.
“It is a document that should make the whole world sit up. It is about all of life on earth,” Steiner said.
“We need to do more – and do it fast—to protect the very fabric of the natural world,” he added.
The Global Biodiversity Outlook report makes it clear that many of the so-called “Aichi Targets”—which include halving habitat loss, reducing pollution and overfishing, and putting a brake on species extinction by 2020—would not be met.
The most recent update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species in July said a quarter of mammals, over a tenth of birds, and 41 percent of amphibians are at risk of extinction.
Last week, the WWF’s 2014 Living Planet Report highlighted a 52 percent decline in mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish overall from 1970 to 2010.
It said humans were consuming resources at a rate that would require 1.5 Earths to sustain—gobbling up animal, plant and other resources at a faster rate than nature can replenish them.
In a bid to arrest the decline, nations agreed on the 2011-2020 Aichi Targets at a meeting in Nagoya, Japan, in 2010.
But they have struggled to find common ground on funding, especially for poor nations whose scarce resources are already committed elsewhere.
At the CBD’s last meeting, in Hyderabad, India, in 2012, the world agreed to double biodiversity aid to developing countries by 2015.
But they did not quantify either the base amount or the target – and the numbers are still far from being resolved.
“All indicators suggest the status of biodiversity continues its decline and requires urgent attention,” said CBD executive secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias.
The meeting in Pyeongchang, which will host the 2018 Winter Olympics, will mark the entering into force of the Nagoya Protocol, which deals with the proprietary rights of traditional communities to the genetic data of species used by foreign scientists.