Biodiversity has decreased by an average of 28 percent globally since 1970 and the world would have to be 50 percent bigger to have enough land and forests to provide for current levels of consumption and carbon emissions, conservation group WWF said yesterday.
Unless the world addresses the problem, by 2030 even two planet Earths will not be enough to sustain human activity, WWF said, launching its Living Planet Report 2012, a biennial audit of the world’s environment and biodiversity.
Yet governments are not on track to reach an agreement at next month’s sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro, WWF International director-general Jim Leape said.
“I don’t think anyone would dispute that we’re nowhere near where we should be a month before the conference in terms of the progress of the negotiations and other preparations,” Leape said. “I think all of us are concerned that countries negotiating in the UN system for an outcome for Rio have not yet shown a willingness to really step up to meet these challenges.”
The Rio+20 meeting on June 20 to 22 is expected to attract more than 50,000 participants, with politicians under pressure to set goals for sustainable development.
Despite the Kyoto Protocol pact, global average temperatures are on track for a “catastrophic increase” by the end of the century, WWF said.
Leape said there were many initiatives governments could take unilaterally without being “held hostage” to the wider negotiations for a binding deal to replace Kyoto, which expires this year.
It said the world should move away from “perverse” subsidies on fossil fuels that amount to more than US$500 billion annually and ensure global access to clean energy by 2030.
Asked why environmentalists were still struggling to win the argument that something needed to be done, Leape said the inertia of the system should not be underestimated.
“We’ve built an economy over the last century that is built on fossil fuels and on a premise that the Earth’s resources could not be exhausted,” he said.
“Secondly, we’re doing it in the context of a marketplace that continues to send the wrong signals. So many of the costs that we’re talking about are not built into the prices you see,” Leape added.
Consumers were helping to turn the tide, he said, because of certification regimes for products that force companies to abide by certain standards.
“You see a growing number of commodities in which this approach is rolling out. It’s in timber, it’s in fish, but it’s also now in palm oil and in sugar and in cotton and so forth. I think that’s part of creating market signals, to allow consumers to send signals, to show their preferences and to actually begin to build a market that’s heading towards sustainability,” Leape said.