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Saturday 7 December 2019
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The danger upon us

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

ONE MILLION plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, the biomass of wild mammals has fallen by 82 per cent, natural ecosystems have lost half their area, and the human race has pushed the planet to the edge, jeopardising its own existence if no corrective action is taken, according to the most comprehensive report of its kind ever compiled.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) this week published the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The report was compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors. Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, it also draws on indigenous and local knowledge.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.”

The dire findings of the report must be taken into account by policymakers and influencers worldwide. The matter goes beyond petty politics or the whims of climate change deniers. Here is compelling cause for action, and that action must be far greater than it is now.

Negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the report, except those that include transformative change, due to the projected impacts of increasing land-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, although with significant differences between regions.

In the face of such terrifying prospects, it is no good simply saying small-island states do not have the means to make much difference. Every little counts and in addition to measures directly relating to the environment, we must ensure our foreign policy is aligned with UN goals.

The report lends urgency to even the most seemingly trivial of measures, such as the Port of Spain City Corporation’s recycling trial in Woodbrook, the campaign to encourage CNG use in cars, the elimination of plastic bags at some supermarkets, and the efforts to ban the use of plastic straws.

Public awareness initiatives, such as the Green Screen Environmental Film Festival, are also equally key. But the State has a special duty to ensure the action is co-ordinated. It must attempt to ascertain how effective measures are. The conflicting reports about the Woodbrook pilot, for instance, are not promising. Are our environmental reforms being properly implemented? And are they having the desired impact?

The State has a duty to co-ordinate efforts in a manner that ensures goals are being met. It cannot simply pass laws and hope for the best. It must better appreciate the danger upon us.

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