A new “global deal for nature and people” is urgently needed to halt wildlife declines, reverse deforestation, clean up plastic pollution and battle climate change, according to conservationists.
The call comes as a new report paints a grim picture of the state of the planet, illustrating that mankind is exploiting the world beyond its means and wiping out life on Earth in the process.
The latest Living Planet Report, published by international conservation charity WWF, shows populations of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish have crashed by 60 per cent on average worldwide in less than half a century.
The report, a collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, blames overuse of natural resources and agricultural activity driven by human consumption as the key causes of wildlife declines and destruction of oceans and landscapes.
Cimate change and pollution, including plastic, are identified as significant and growing threats, while poaching is also taking a huge toll.
The paper reveals that only a quarter of land is free from human impact, but this will fall to a tenth by 2050; 90 per cent of all seabirds are thought to have plastic in their stomachs – up from five per cent in 1960; about half of all shallow-water corals have vanished in just 30 years; atmospheric carbon dioxide reached the highest level in at least 800,000 years in April 2018.
The reports states: “Exploding human consumption is the driving force behind the unprecedented planetary change we are witnessing, through the increased demand for energy, land and water.”
It concludes that reversing the loss of nature and biodiversity is critical to achieving climate and sustainable development commitments laid out in the Paris Agreement.
To do this requires “a new global deal for nature and people that addresses the crucial questions of how to feed a growing global population, limit warming to 1.5C and restore nature”, it says.
“We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it,” said Tanya Steele, WWF chief executive.
“Our wanton destruction of nature, coupled with the brutal chaos of climate change, is the biggest threat to humanity.
“The collapse of global wildlife populations is a warning sign that nature is dying. But instead of putting the world on life support, we’re using a sticking plaster.
“If we want a world with orangutans and puffins, clean air and enough food for everyone, we need urgent action from our leaders and a new global deal for nature and people that kickstarts a global programme of recovery.”
The worst-hit species include hedgehogs, which declined by 75 per cent in urban parts of the UK from 2002 to 2014, and puffins, which are facing losses of up to 79 per cent by 2065.
Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said: “The same sad story is to be seen played out across Scotland, where habitat loss and climate change are combining to threaten our precious wildlife.
“Nature is not just nice to have – we depend on nature for the food we eat, the air we breathe and the medicines that keep us healthy. We cannot survive without it. However, the scale of the global response does not yet match the urgency of the situation.”