Professor Sandra Díaz (Argentina) who co-chaired the assessment carried out by IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) has sounded the alarm: "The contributions that biodiversity and nature make to people are the most important safety net for the survival of humanity. But this safety net has been stretched to breaking point".

It is not enough to cry wolf, we also need to act, and quickly! This is echoed by Sir Robert Watson, President of the IPBES: "It is not too late to act, but only if we start taking action now at all levels, from local to global".

A damning indictment

Species are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. More than one million of the world's 8 million species are believed to be threatened with extinction.

Among animal species, the situation is particularly problematic for:

  • amphibians, which are paying the heaviest price: more than 40% of species are directly endangered
  • all marine mammals, more than one third of which are on the verge of extinction
  • coral reefs, nearly a third of which are in danger of disappearing for good.

Why all these mass extinctions?

The authors of the assessment ranked the direct factors that have the greatest impact at the global level. The factors responsible are, in descending order:

(1) changes in land and sea use;
(2) the direct exploitation of certain organisms;
(3) climate change;
(4) pollution;
(5) alien invasive species.

How can we solve the problem?

The report also documents a wide range of examples of actions for sustainable development and the paths to achieving them in sectors such as agriculture, forest management, marine ecosystems, freshwater ecosystems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others.

With the aim of creating a sustainable global economy, the authors believe the concept of economic growth is too limited and call for an overhaul not only of global economic systems, but also of financial systems. As such - and this is just one example - they propose changing the indicator 'Gross National Product' so that it includes criteria related to quality of life and more sustainable economic prospects.

What next?

As such, it was decided to launch a new ambitious action plan for the coming decades: the Vision 2050 for biodiversity. Adopting this plan will be the objective of the International Conference on Biodiversity in Beijing in 2020.

A summarised version of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services is available