60% of living species declined due to human activity, warns WWF

Lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the most from overexploitation and continue to deteriorate at breakneck speed, with species declining by 83% since 1970, the report said. [WWF European Policy Office / © Zymantas Morkvenas]

The ways in which humans feed, fuel and finance modern societies is pushing the planet’s natural systems to the brink, threatening the very foundation on which the world economy is based, according to the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018, published on Tuesday (30 October).

Global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined on average by 60% between 1970 and 2014, with freshwater species hit hardest, according to the WWF’s Living Planet Index, published today.

“We cannot build a prosperous future for Europe and its citizens on a depleted planet, so economic and environmental agendas must converge if we are to build a sustainable Europe for all,” said Ester Asin, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office.

The Living Planet Report has been tracking 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species since 1970. Lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the most from overexploitation and continue to deteriorate at breakneck speed, with species declining by 83% since 1970, the report warned.

Although they are critical for people, nature and economies, these ecosystems are under growing pressure from pollution, dam development, and soaring demand for water to irrigate farms and fuel hydropower plants, the WWF said.

At European level, the report draws particular attention to the EU Water Framework Directive, which is currently undergoing a ‘fitness check’. WWF is concerned that the directive might end up being weakened as part of this process and launched the #ProtectWater campaign to keep the directive strong and save it from a potential revision.

WWF regards the directive as “one of the EU’s most progressive pieces of environmental legislation to date,” saying it plays a vital role in protecting Europe’s rivers, lakes, groundwater and wetlands from overexploitation.

Time for EU member states to protect lakes and rivers

The latest science shows that Europe’s freshwater bodies are in a dreadful ecological state. Governments must finally take responsibility and undertake serious efforts to comply with EU legislation, urges Andreas Baumüller.

More broadly, WWF is asking for the EU to mainstream climate and biodiversity protection into key economic sectors, including policies related to agriculture, infrastructure development, and climate and energy.

“With the upcoming EU elections and the resulting renewal of key decision-making bodies, Europe has the opportunity to revive its global leadership on climate change and nature conservation,” Asin said.

“Europe must lead by example by adopting an ambitious post-2020 EU biodiversity strategy, and integrating biodiversity and climate protection into all relevant sectoral policies,” she said.

Only 16 countries meet their commitment to Paris Agreement, new study finds

Only sixteen countries out of the 197 that have signed the Paris Agreement have defined national climate action plan ambitious enough to meet their pledges, according to a policy brief released on Monday (29 October), ahead of the crucial UN climate conference COP24 in Katowice (Poland) in December.

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