Who cares about planetary biodiversity?

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

What follows is a guest posting from Professor Stephen Martin

Yet another dire warning about the alarming loss of planetary biodiversity (Guardian 3 November: Two years to make a deal for nature or we face extinction).  Once again this highlights the telling absence of political leadership in making this, above all, a matter of the utmost importance to our very survival on planet earth.  The UN’s biodiversity chief, Christiana Pasca Palmer, is absolutely right to bang the global drum, loudly and urgently for all of us to exert immense pressure on our governments to set ambitious global targets. Our own government was one of the first to sign up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; sometimes referred to as the Global Goals) in 2015.  The 17 Global Goals and associated targets, define the universal global priorities and aspirations for 2030.  They represent an unprecedented opportunity to tackle the root causes of biodiversity loss, eliminate extreme poverty and put the world on a more sustainable path.  Yet three years after the Global Goals were agreed, the UK government does not have a compelling, coherent and transparent plan on how it is going to achieve them.  Moreover, the UK government has made a commitment to report on the UK’s progress at the UN in July 2019, and they are nowhere near delivering it.  This report should be developed through a participatory and inclusive process resulting in meaningful, measurable commitments and with the engagement of decentralised administrations, local governments and other stakeholders.  This approach is analogous to the process that is exemplified by the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) group which published a comprehensive national progress report called “Measuring Up” in July.

To add more credibility and weight to the UN’s concerns, the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature has just published another groundbreaking and deeply worrying report on the current state of planetary biodiversity (The Living Planet Report, 2018). Its underlying message is: We are the first generation to know that we are destroying the world.  And we could be the last that can do anything about it.  The report emphasises howeverything that has built modern human society is provided by nature” and provides compelling evidence of the natural world’s incalculable importance to our health, wealth, food and security.  Economic activity of all kinds ultimately depends on services provided by nature, and is thought to be worth around £100 trillion a year.

We need immediate action and committed leadership now from our government to create a movement for change that embraces and actions the Global Goals. Why is it so rare that we encounter in our political leadership the qualities needed to enable sustainability: humility, respect for all forms of life and future generations, precaution and wisdom, the capacity to think systemically and challenge unethical actions. More worryingly, on the basis of current performance, what hope of improvement is there for our collective future?

Steve can be contacted at: esmartinone@gmail.com

Posted in: Comment, New Publications


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