Earth day 2020

10 years. 196 world leaders. Business as usual approach and a bad report card. In 2010, leaders from 196 countries gathered in Japan and agreed on a long list of goals to save the only planet inhabitable known to mankind, Earth. They set a 2020 deadline to save nature and meet the 20 targets, but not a single target has been met.

According to the UN's Global Biodiversity Outlook Report, the fifth report published on Tuesday in the matter, the world has achieved to fail even a single goal from the list of Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Aichi Targets are to biodiversity, what Paris Convention is to climate change. These targets were established under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and are the best bet of nations for biodiversity conservation.

First the sad news, then the scary news

As per the UN report, 1 million species are at risk of extinction. "Pollution, including from excess nutrients, pesticides, plastics and other waste, continues to be a major driver of biodiversity loss. Plastic pollution is accumulating in the oceans, with severe impacts on marine ecosystems," the report states.

It must also be noted, the report further warns, "The number of extinctions of birds and mammals would likely have been at least two to four times higher without conservation actions in the past decade."

So small steps, though not nearly enough, still truly count.

woolly mammoth,extinct species, resurrect, genetics,
People in protective suits examine a frozen woolly mammoth named "Yuka" during a media preview at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei November 6, 2013.Reuters

Twenty targets, only six achieved... partially

Let's start with the lesser bad news. Each nation was supposed to meet each of the 20 targets. The six targets that have been partially met in the past decade are to do with - preventing invasive species, conservation of protected areas, sharing benefits from genetic resources, biodiversity strategies and improvement and dissemination of knowledge, the science base and technologies relating to biodiversity.

On average, the participating countries reported that more than a third of national targets are on track to be met, fifty percent of them were seeing slower progress, 11 percent showed no progress and 1 percent were in fact moving in the wrong direction.

Money spent vs money needed

The 212-page report also zeroes things down to funding. The half-hearted approach and the significance governments attach to the environment and climate crisis reflect in the funding. Governments at a global level spend $78 to $91 billion annually towards the conservation and promotion of biodiversity. That is significantly lesser than the hundreds of billions of dollars needed to give the cause, the momentum it needs.

 The faint silver lining

As per the report, the recent rate of deforestation is lower than that of the previous decade, but only by about one-third, but deforestation may be accelerating again in some areas. Programmes to eradicate invasive alien species, especially invasive mammals on islands have benefitted native species. However, the report cuts short the celebration, "These successes represent only a small proportion of all occurrences of invasive species."

Now what?

"This flagship report underlines that humanity stands at a crossroads with regard to the legacy we wish to leave to future generations," said CBD, Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.

The statement further reads, "As nature degrades, new opportunities emerge for the spread to humans and animals of devastating diseases like this year's coronavirus. The window of time available is short, but the pandemic has also demonstrated that transformative changes are possible when they must be made."

If the pandemic also doesn't make humanity drive home the lessons, nothing else really will.