Every two years, the World Wide Fund (WWF) release a document detailing recent findings in global trends of human consumption, biodiversity and the overall state of the planet. Split into 4 distinct chapters, the report defines the importance of biodiversity, threats towards biodiversity, how biodiversity is changing and possible future scenarios.
The first chapter questions why biodiversity matters. Biodiversity incorporates all varieties of life on Earth. The importance of biodiversity is emphasised by the fact that the economic activity provided by natural services is valued at 125 trillion US$ a year.
The second chapter discusses threats and pressures to biodiversity. Emphasis is placed on:
• Land degradation – which impacts 75% of terrestrial ecosystems, reducing the welfare of 3 billion people.
• Bees are also threatened – and 75% of food crops benefit from pollination.
• Industrial activity – are still the dominant cause of species loss
• Overfishing – 6 billion tonnes of fish and invertebrates have been taken from world’s oceans since 1950.
• Plastic pollution – the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean in 2010 has increased from between 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes.
The third chapter analyses how biodiversity is changing. The ‘Living Planet Index’ is used, measuring the population abundance of thousands of vertebrate species around the world. The latest index shows an overall decline of 60% in population sizes between 1970 and 2014.
The Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) is also used, estimating how much of a region’s originally present biodiversity remains. The most recent data estimates that the BII fell from 81.6% in 1970 to 78.6% in 2014. Finally, the Freshwater Living Planet Index shows a 83% decline since 1970.
The fourth chapter envisions future scenarios for the future incorporating targets and deals made. Certain goals and agreements of note include:
• 1992 Rio Earth Summit: which instigated the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD was the first global agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
• CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity Target: “By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people.” CBD has developed a set of five medium-term strategic goals with 20 targets: ‘the Aichi Targets’.
• SDG goals: 3 of the 17 goals that are directed at the natural world: number 13 (climate action), 14 (life below water) and 16 (life on land).
Coverage by other outlets
The report has heavily received major coverage by the media. The Guardian especially emphasised the “60% decline” in living animals since the 1970s, stating that it was “shocking” (The Guardian, 2018). However, Brown did state that the 60% decline was actually misinterpreted. Rather, the report emphasises a decline in the amount of vertebrates by 60% instead of living things in general (2018). On the other hand, the blemishes done to the environment is clear. And many media outlets including the IISD have placed emphasis on future scenarios including a focus on the SDGs in order to attain for these damages (Mead, 2018).
My two cents
The report concludes that the main issues are connected to cultural and economic challenges.
Nature is and has always been taken for granted by humans. The report argues that this culture of overconsumption needs to stop. From an economic standpoint, the value nature provides to us cannot be underestimated. The data provided by unsustainable production models and wasteful lifestyles clearly shows a decline in economic value as biodiversity continues to be threatened.
Even with continued drilling by oil companies, such as within the Great Australian Bight, the threat towards biodiversity continues. The Bight contains 85% of species that are found nowhere else on the planet: industrial activity such as that conducted by Equinor (an Norwegian oil company) continues to threaten biodiversity. This stresses the need for changes in cultural changes in industrial activity, as emphasised in the Living Planet Report.
Additionally, a new culture for sustainable means of producing energy needs to be encouraged.
There have been attempts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. For example, Alberta, Canada are trying to diversify energy sources by promoting digital technology and automation beyond oil and gas through the likes of Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). However, Canadian oil companies are off-loading their oil well and dropping them to smaller companies. These companies do not have the money to clean-up the oil wells. Despite attempts to reduce the extraction of fossil fuels and look towards the future, countries and companies also need to take responsibility and pin the burden on secondary actors, because such actions will reduce sustainability in the long term. Therefore, collaboration between multiple actors on a national, global and corporate scale is required in order to achieve the SDGs goals and the meet the CBG targets.
Brown, E.A. (2018). Widely misinterpreted report still shows catastrophic animal decline https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/11/animal-decline-living-planet-report-conservation-news/ (last accessed 23/12/18).
The Guardian. (2018). WWF report warns annihilation of wildlife threatens civilisation – video https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2018/oct/30/wwf-report-warns-annihilation-of-wildlife-threatens-civilisation-video (last accessed 23/12/18).
Mead, L. (2018). WWF Report Reveals “Devastating” Human Impact on Planetary Health http://sdg.iisd.org/news/wwf-report-reveals-devastating-human-impact-on-planetary-health/ (last accessed 23/12/18).
World Wide Fund (WWF). (2018). Living Planet Report 2018: Aiming Higher. Grooten, M. and Almond, R.E.A. (Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.