Environmental Emergency: How will you respond?
David Wood outlines the recent intergovernmental report on the state of global nature and highlights a forthcoming event to discuss how organisations should respond.
Late last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report informing the world that there were only 12 years remaining to make the changes necessary in order to avoid the most severe effects of climate change.
On 6 May 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (‘IPBES’) issued a wake-up call to the world with a report highlighting the widespread damage humanity has inflicted to nature across every continent, and the effects this will have to the global economy.
The IPBES report is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the state of global nature. It assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature.
It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades. Its key points include:
- Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating.
- The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever and we are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.
- The diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems, as well as many fundamental contributions we derive from nature, are declining fast.
- Around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades - more than ever before in human history.
- The current global response to this is wholly insufficient - ‘transformative changes’ are needed to restore and protect nature and meet the UN global goals (SDGs).
- Transformative change means a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.
The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900.
More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. Evidence suggests that 10% of insect species are threatened.
At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.
Since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius – with climate change already impacting nature from the level of ecosystems to that of genetics – impacts expected to increase over the coming decades.
Current trends will undermine progress towards 35 out of 44 of the assessed targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, relating to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land (SDGs 1, 2, 3, 6, 11, 13, 14 and 15).
Loss of biodiversity is not only an environmental issue but also a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well.
The Report ranks the five largest direct drivers of the impacts on nature:
- Changes in land and sea use
- Direct exploitation of organisms
- Climate change.
- Invasive alien species
Key indirect drivers include increased population and per capita consumption; technological innovation, which in some cases has lowered and in other cases increased the damage to nature; and, critically, issues of governance and accountability.
Global interconnectivity often means that resource extraction and production occur in one part of the world to satisfy the needs of distant consumers in other regions.
The Report highlights the importance of adopting integrated management and cross-sectoral approaches that take into account the trade-offs of food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal management, and biodiversity conservation.
Also identified as a key element of more sustainable future policies is the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy, steering away from the currently limited paradigm of economic growth.
How should organisations respond?
In response to these reports, national and sub-national governments around the world are declaring states of climate emergency, but how can your organisation respond?
- Have you considered the impact of your operations on nature or the dependencies you have on natural assets such as water?
- Have you considered your supply chain and the impacts and dependencies you have indirectly on nature?
- Have you undertaken a full lifecycle analysis of your products and services, to look for opportunities to reduce, reuse, recycle – or repair, repurpose, remanufacture?
Join the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital for a special event at the University of Edinburgh Business School, where a high-level panel from the public and private sectors will discuss how their organisations are responding to these threats, and find out what your organisation can do too.
- Jo Pike, Chief Executive, Scottish Wildlife Trust
- Gary Gillespie, Chief Economist, Scottish Government
- Andrew Griffiths, Head of Value Chain Sustainability, Nestlé
The event takes place at the University of Edinburgh Business School, 29 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh from 5pm to 7pm on Monday 24 June.
For more information and to register your attendance