The Decline of Wildlife: Our greatest challenge and opportunity

In October 2018 the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a report that shocked the nation; the ‘Living Planet Report’.

Since the release of the first edition in 1998, 59 scientists from Zoological Society of London (ZSL), WWF, and other organisations around the world have been monitoring the changes in the populations of thousands of animal species around the world. The report announced a 60% decrease of the size of wildlife populations had taken place globally between 1970 to 2014, and that in the last 50 years wildlife populations have halved. To give an indication of what this population decrease would look like on a human scale would be equivalent to removing the populations of North and South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania.

Why is it worth protecting?

Our livelihood and the livelihood of future generations are dependent on wildlife, ecosystems and biodiversity. Modern society is built on nature, it underpins our life-support system from our health and food to our businesses and economic activity. The services delivered by nature are estimated to be worth around 125 Trillion US dollars a year.

What are the human impacts on wildlife, nature and biodiversity?

As a species, humans have made the greatest impact on our planet than any other species due to the rapid increase in human consumption and the consequential rise in demand for energy, land and water. Below is a few examples:

Global Warming: The release of Greenhouse gases (GHGs) most notably carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere is causing an accelerated increase in the planet’s temperature. This is proven to have drastic and dramatic consequences on our habitats and ecosystems. Scientists have highlighted the urgency to keep warming to below 2o as outlined in The Paris Agreement and more recently in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s special report (IPCC SR15), stressing the need to limit warming to 1.5o.

Pollution: Since Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, the terrifying reality of our plastic pollution hit home. 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea each year damaging wildlife. Plastic pollution has been detected in all major marine environments worldwide, from shorelines and surface waters to down at the deepest parts of the ocean, including the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Land Use and Degradation: The production of food and energy from terrestrial ecosystems is having a significant negative impact on biodiversity through agricultural intensification, deforestation and excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers.

Impact of Supply Chains: The products we consume can be traced back through the supply chain to have a substantial impact on the natural environment through extraction and manufacturing processes.

Greatest challenge but also our greatest opportunity

Now we have a clear picture of the value and importance of nature and our impact on it, we have the opportunity to make a difference. It will take the right political, financial and consumer choices at every level, from individuals to communities, companies and countries. It is evident that we need to act now, but what is currently being done and what can we focus on?

Clean energy and renewables: Clean growth is at the heart of economy and this year the government held the UKs first ever Green GB week promoting the use of clean energy and renewables. 154 RE100 companies have made a commitment to go 100% renewable. Find out how we have helped support The University of Winchester.

Raising awareness: By running campaigns and events you can help to reduce human impact on the environment. Advocate to stop fossil fuel emissions by 2050, end plastic pollution and support local wildlife by calling on MPs to protect UK nature.

Report your emissions: To fight climate change, we need to reduce the GHG’s we emit into the atmosphere and the waste we dispose of. As a first step businesses should monitor and report on these metrics in order to define targets and implement a strategy. Find out how we support The Crown Estate to manage the collation, aggregation, and analysis of a large set of environmental data streams across its diverse portfolio to provide accurate data for the purpose of compliance, reporting and analysing sustainability performance.

Measure your footprint and set a target: 476 companies have committed to setting a science-based target, a target in line with reducing warming to well below 2 degrees. In May 2017, we helped Tesco to set an ambitious target in line with 1.5 degrees warming.

New Technologies: Emerging technologies such as big data and sophisticated imaging methods are helping to paint a clearer picture of the business supply chain and more and more companies are reporting on their scope 3 emissions. Matching commodities and their supply chains to specific impacts on biodiversity increases transparency and therefore awareness. We help a range of global organisations quantify the emissions across their value chains, identifying priority areas and building strategies to create a positive impact.

Conservation Projects: WWF has more than 3000 projects on the go at any one time. Due to the efforts of these projects tiger numbers are increasing for the first time in over a century, the Irrawaddy dolphin population is rising after decades of decline, and more and more countries in Asia are banning sales of elephant ivory.

What next?

In 2020 panels will be meeting to review progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement and convention on Biological Diversity.

Get in touch to find out how we can help your organisation reduce its environmental impact and create positive change at info@carboncredentials.com.