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Shock UN report reveals extent of mass extinction threat

Tuesday, May 7: A report just released by the United Nations has warned that 1 million species are at risk of extinction - more than at any time in human history.

The global assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), has shocked even Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director, Dr Russel Norman.

"We knew it was going to be bad, but not this bad. We are facing the sixth great extinction event in the history of planet Earth - and this one is driven by humans. It poses an existential threat because, as ever, what we inflict upon nature, we inflict upon ourselves," he says.

"What this report reveals is that the biodiversity crisis is putting all of humanity at risk unless we take action immediately.

"There’s no time to sit around and despair - it’s certainly possible to turn this around, but the window of opportunity is narrowing fast. It’s only through urgent, global action that we will fix this."

The report warns that key drivers of environmental destruction, such as land-use change, exploitation, climate change, and consumption have accelerated to unprecedented levels.

And it reveals that 66% of the ocean is experiencing multiple human pressures and marine life is showing "severe impacts", including from overfishing and pollution. It shows that as a result, the "richness and abundance" of all levels of ocean life is in decline.

Norman says there are several key areas where New Zealand can play a part in the global solution.

This starts by following in the footsteps of the UK, Wales, and Scotland, and declaring a climate and ecological emergency.

"The scale of ambition needed to solve a problem as large as climate change has been likened to a war-time effort. This is an emergency - we need to act like it," Norman says.

Greenpeace is calling for sweeping changes to land use, ocean protection, and energy to tackle the climate crisis.

Norman says one of the most urgent is agriculture, New Zealand’s biggest polluter.

"We need to ban synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, which drives the dairy intensification that pollutes our climate and our rivers. We also have to dramatically reduce the number of dairy cows in the country, and change land use to less polluting ways of farming," he says.

With the fourth largest EEZ on the planet, New Zealand could also play a leading role when it comes to protecting the world’s oceans, Norman says.

Greenpeace has launched a global campaign calling on governments to support a binding Global Ocean Treaty, which would see at least 30% of the world’s oceans classified as ocean sanctuaries by 2030 to protect wildlife and mitigate climate change.

"We have one of the world’s largest EEZs, and a Prime Minister internationally respected for her commitment to protecting the planet. New Zealand should be leveraging this to drive a binding Global Ocean Treaty," Norman says.

In the energy sector, Greenpeace is demanding an end to fossil fuel exploration on land and sea, including revoking existing oil and gas exploration permits. The organisation is also calling for a plan to phase out the import of petrol and diesel vehicles, and invest heavily in electric transport and renewable energy like wind and solar and batteries.

The UN biodiversity report follows the release of the Environment Aotearoa 2019 report last month, which revealed that climate emissions in New Zealand are on the rise, biodiversity continues to decline, and pollution from agriculture is trending upwards.

Read the more from the UN report on biodiversity here:



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