Delivering Paris Agreement could help save most endangered species, report reveals

More than nine in ten plant and animal species will face challenges if the current global warming trajectory continues, a new study has revealed. But most species could be saved from extinction if the world delivers on the Paris Agreement.

Delivering Paris Agreement could help save most endangered species, report reveals

Tropical forests and islands

Published in the Biological Conservation journal late last week and including research from teams across Europe, New Zealand, the Caribbean and South America, the paper collates data from hundreds of existing papers on the climate and nature crises.

It reveals that, if the planet heats by 3C or more above pre-industrial levels, 95% of land-based species and 95% of marine species will face negative consequences. About half of species across the whole cohort will face extinction risks. The UN estimates that the world will be 3.2C warmer in 2100 than pre-industrial levels in a business-as-usual scenario.

The paper states that all regions and habitat types will see native species facing extinction on this trajectory. However, mountains and islands face greater risks. In these locations, 84% and 100% of endemic animals and plants will face extinction by 2100 respectively.

It also emphasises how the climate and nature crises are interlinked and perpetuate each other. Warming can decrease species numbers but, with fewer plants and animals, habitats are less equipped to absorb carbon and heat.

Not too late

While the findings are bleak, hope is offered. The paper reveals that, if the world delivers the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious 1.5C trajectory, just 2% of endemic land and marine species will face extinction. This proportion rises to 4% under the 2C scenario.

In either scenario, the potential to reduce nature risk is more than tenfold higher than in a 3C pathway, the report concludes. Species that could be saved include

“Climate change threatens areas overflowing with species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world,” lead author Stella Manes, from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said. “The risk for such species to be lost forever increases more than ten-fold if we miss the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

“Biodiversity has more value than meets the eye. The greater the diversity of species, the greater will nature’s health be. Diversity also protects from threats such as climate change. A healthy nature provides indispensable contributions to people, such as water, food, materials, protection against disasters, recreation, and cultural and spiritual connections.”

The publication of the study comes hot on the heels of the much-awaited Dasgupta Review. Commissioned by the UK Government, the Review outlines how Governments can embed the true value of nature in decision-making processes and support the private and public sectors to do the same.

A plea from the Prince

In related news, Prince William used his platform at a meeting of the World Bank and the IMF late last week to urge banks and asset managers to “invest in nature”.

He touched on the fact that pressure has been increasing for banks to approach nature risks, including deforestation, with the same appetite for the low-carbon transition. Barclays and HSBC have notably been targeted by recent protests in the UK while, in Denmark, the Sunrise Project and Greenpeace have been pressing for action from Generali and Zurich.

The Prince emphasised the importance of investing in reforestation, forest creation, sustainable agriculture and marine habitats – all of which are believed to be under-invested in by the UN. He said such projects “remove carbon from the atmosphere, help build more resilient communities, tackle biodiversity loss and protect people’s livelihoods.”

“We cannot recover sustainably from coronavirus, eradicate global poverty, achieve net-zero emissions, or adapt to climate change, without investing in nature,” he said.

“All of you here at the World Bank and across each of the multilateral development banks have that crucial part to play by supporting a green, inclusive and resilient recovery from the pandemic, by valuing nature and putting it at the heart of your work, and by increasing investment in a future where the natural world can thrive.”

A recent analysis from Positive Money notably found that most national development banks are not implementing strong monetary and financial policies to align their activities with the Paris Agreement.

Taking place next week: edie’s biodiversity webinar featuring Kering and Unilever

Readers keen to explore how to better include biodiversity in their organisation’s sustainability strategy are encouraged to tune in to edie’s next premium webinar, featuring expert speakers from the Woodland Trust, Kering and Unilever. 

The webinar is taking place at 11am BST on Wednesday 21st April. Registration costs £25 and ticket holders will be able to re-watch the webinar on-demand after the event. For full details and registration, click here. 

Sarah George

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