UN Report: Biodiversity Crisis Threatens Global Economy

Business Green, May 10, 2010

By James Murray

The natural systems that underpin the global economy are at risk of ” collapse” due to the accelerating loss of biodiversity, according to a shocking new report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released earlier today.

The third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook, which is based on a series of recent scientific assessments and national reports, confirms the world will miss the UN target to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 and warns that biodiversity loss could begin to have a sizable economic impact.

“Humanity has fabricated the illusion that somehow we can get by without biodiversity or that it is somehow peripheral to our contemporary world: the truth is we need it more than ever on a planet of 6 billion [people], heading to over 9 billion by 2050,” said Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP. ” Business as usual is no longer an option if we are to avoid irreversible damage to the life-support systems of our planet.”

Drawing on an international project known as the The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) that is attempting to put a financial value on the services provided by biodiversity, the report warns that dwindling fish stocks, deforestation, and soil erosion for example are all having negative economic impacts.

It also warns that numerous ecosystems are approaching “tipping points”, noting how the “dieback” of the Amazon rain forest could serve to accelerate climate change, while the bleaching of coral reefs is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people in the fishing and tourism industries.

“The news is not good,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). “We continue to lose biodiversity at a rate never before seen in history – extinction rates may be up to 1,000 times higher than the historical background rate.”

The report was released at the opening of a two-week meeting at UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, where diplomats are expected to discuss proposals for curbing biodiversity loss ahead of a formal meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in October in Japan.

The report outlines plans for a new global biodiversity strategy that aims to bring an end to potentially harmful subsidies and address the issues that are driving habitat and biodiversity loss, such as unsustainable consumption patterns and demographic changes.

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