Place biodiversity at the heart of planning: summit

Plants and animals can be saved and the quality of human life can be improved if governments, businesses, and individuals keep nature and environment at the heart of all development planning.

This was one of the messages delivered at a major international summit on biodiversity in Medellín, Colombia, last week.

The impact on biodiversity should be analysed threadbare before decisions are taken on farming, fishing, forestry, mining, or infrastructure development. Such green policies and their effective implementation will ensure humankind a sustainable future, scientists and government envoys, who participated in the summit, were told.

Another important message was the urgent need for governments to take strong action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change may become the biggest threat to biodiversity by mid-century, said Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Biodiversity is not confined to saving rare butterflies, turtles, trees, or birds. It is more than an environmental issue, Watson said.

Over the past three years, 550 international experts went through 10,000 scientific documents on biodiversity and land quality approved by 129 governments. They presented at the summit five UN-backed studies on biodiversity in Africa, the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Central Asia.

“By 2100, climate change could … result in the loss of more than half of African bird and mammal species,” said Emma Archer of South Africa, the co-chair of the African assessment.

Her comments came days after the world’s last male northern white rhino named Sudan died in Kenya.

The study also expressed concern over degradation of 500,000 square km of land in Africa caused by overexploitation of natural resources, soil erosion and pollution.

In EU, only 7% of marine species showed a favourable conservation status. However, populations of Iberian lynx and Amur tiger are coming back from the brink of extinction due to conservation.

The Asia-Pacific region showed better results. Forest cover has risen by 22.9% in China and other nations in northeast Asia between 1990 and 2015. Parks and other protected areas are expanding. Tiger population is improving.

However, eight of 10 rivers around the world with most plastic waste are in Asia. Due to over-fishing, there could be no exploitable fish stocks in the Asia-Pacific region by mid-century, the study said.

In the Americas, the loss of species is expected to 40% by 2050.