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CLIMATE ACTION PROGRAMME

15 May 2012

Rio must address decline in nature

The mountain bongo is critically endangered

Rio+20 must consider nature protection says the WWF, as the Living Planet Report shows a 30% decline in nature over the last 40 years. The report combines data from around 9,000 global populations of animals to assess the current state of species trends.

David Nussbaum of the WWF says, "The Rio+20 conference is an opportunity for the world to get serious about the need for development to be made sustainable. We need to elevate the sense of urgency, and I think this is ultimately not only about our lives but the legacy we leave for future generations."

The results of the report are split however. In tropical regions, there has been a decline of 60 per cent, whilst in temperate climates nature has effectively recovered by around 30 per cent. It is a stark contrast, and shows both the encouraging environmental measures put in place in the developed world, and the problems rife in the developing world.

In the developed world, one might thank environmental regulation, which has reduced pollution in waterways and on land, emissions controls, which have reduced problems such as acid rain, and countryside management, which has reduced the use of harmful chemicals and increased fallow land and the number of protected areas and nature reserves.

The developing world remains mired in all of the problems the 1st world has come close to solving over the same period. Pollution, exploitation, and habitat destruction mean biodiversity is in a sharp decline and of course, tropical regions are inherently more diverse, meaning there is much more to lose in these regions.

Once again there have been calls to revise economic indices, citing GDP as an ineffective measure of value. It is hard to believe that this will change in the near future however, and emphasis is likely to be put elsewhere.

For example, the current wastage of huge quantities of grain in India has led to calls for better food storage in developing countries, whilst 30 per cent of food in developed countries is wasted largely due to poor business practices and bad behaviours.

Dealing with issues like this can certainly create a knock on effect on biodiversity – as less food production is necessary, less pressure is exerted on the natural environment. But more direct measures may be necessary to ease the problems in the developing world and it remains to be seen whether this will happen at the Rio+20. As always the worry is that one step forward could lead to two steps back.
 

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