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UN outlines Paris-style plan to drastically cut extinction rates

Today, human activity has brought extinction rates 100 times above natural baselines. Ahead of the Kunming Biodiversity Conference in October, the UN is drafting up a Paris-style plan to finally address the issue in a big way.

Faced with the prospect of Earth’s sixth mass extinction and losses of over 500 land species, the UN is finally drafting together a dedicated list of global biodiversity goals for 2030.

Much like the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) now demands urgent action in the reduction of animal extinctions.

We’re talking as much as a 90% cut by the mid-century. Sounds promising, right?

Comprised of several policy milestones and 21 additional ‘action-orientated targets,’ the initial draft aims to ‘transform economic, social, and financial models’ to allow for full recoveries of natural ecosystems over the next 20 years.

The draft will be formally introduced at a climate summit in Kunming China scheduled for October, where the final document will be signed off and national pledges negotiated. In the meantime, paperwork is being looked over by the 196 attending governments.

As it stands today, major objectives include eliminating all plastic pollution, reducing pesticide use by two-thirds, halving the rate of invasive species damage – an introduced organism which negatively alters its new environment – and eliminating $500bn USD worth of harmful government subsidies per year.

As CBD co-chairman Basile van Harve stated, ‘I’m sure they’re going to raise some eyebrows.’

Secondary targets include efforts to restore freshwater and marine habitats, maintain genetic diversity of wild and domesticated species, and to respect the rights of all indigenous communities in any decision making processes.

In order to change capitalist attitudes towards the natural world, these obligations are tied together by a new CBD system that demands financial accountability from all involved.

The global goal is to amass $700bn worth of financing from public and private sectors to go into conservation, reforestation, and regenerative agriculture efforts before 2030.

‘We wanted to put [the contribution of nature] into an absolute number. We don’t control what is happening on the climate change agenda, but science is telling us this is what we can bring to the issues,’ van Harve said. ‘The challenge is going to be how we do the carbon accounting.’

Scientists have long warned that human activity is causing the sixth mass extinction – a sudden loss of around three quarters of all species in existence – in the planet’s history. Facing the possibility of losing 500 species within just 20 years, data shows that the same number perished over the entirety of last century.

Putting humanity’s obvious moral negligence aside, more than $44trn (around half of all global GDP) is exposed to risks from nature loss. Research from WWF claims that without genuine coordinated efforts to change now, the global economy will suffer setbacks in the region of $8trn by 2050.

Though we live in hope, judging by our woeful performance in tackling the last bunch of biodiversity commitments – The Paris Agreement’s ‘Aichi Targets’ – it’s safe to presume that the targets on paper today likely won’t be met in full before 2030.

This new legislation could, however, help to stem the immediate threat of irreversible damage carried by another major extinction event.