WWF: This is the last generation that can save nature

Representational image

Representational image

"But if we squander this opportunity, we will condemn many more species to population loss and even extinction", she cautioned.

"Runaway consumption" has decimated global wildlife, triggered a mass extinction and exhausted Earth's capacity to accommodate humanity's expanding appetites, the global conservation group WWF warned Tuesday.

The group says in its its 2018 Living Planet Report that global wildlife populations have fallen by 60 per cent in the last four decades.

"In the next years, we need to urgently transition to a net carbon-neutral society and halt and reverse nature loss - through green finance and shifting to clean energy and environmentally friendly food production", Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, said in the report.

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Dr Morné du Plessis, chief executive of WWF South Africa said the organisation was "pushing hard for a new global deal for nature and people to address the crucial questions, including how we feed a growing global population, how we limit global warming below two degrees Celsius and how we restore nature".

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The U.N. warned climate change poses "an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet" that will "require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society".

In looking for answers, conservationists are turning to climate change for inspiration.

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A summary of the report says it looked at more than just population trend data.

"And this is when the world should embrace a new global deal for nature and people, as we did in Paris, and truly demonstrate the path we are choosing for people and the planet", Lambertini urged.

Similarly, he argued, threatened ecosystem services long taken for granted - drinkable water, breathable air, heat-absorbing oceans, forests that soak up CO2, productive soil - are worth tens of trillions of dollars every year. "Natural systems essential to our survival - forests, oceans, and rivers - remain in decline", he said. The key challenge is changing our approach to development, which requires a global effort.

Species highlighted include African elephants, which declined in number in Tanzania by 60% in just five years between 2009 and 2014, mainly due to ivory poaching. But an upcoming meeting of the 195-nation body could be the beginning of a "revolution" that will see the Convention re-engineered in 2020 into "a new deal for Nature".

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Populations of black and white rhinos are down by an average of 63% between 1980 and 2006, with the illegal wildlife trade for their horns the biggest threat facing the animals.

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