UNESCO: Climate Change, Loss of Biodiversity Most Pressing Global Challenge

408 views | Akanimo Sampson | April 2, 2021

The World in 2030 Survey report by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is seeing climate change and loss of biodiversity as the most pressing challenge over the decade.

In November 2018, while sounding the alarm about the urgent need to protect coral reefs from extinction within decades, a new coalition of organisations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was launched in Egypt during the UN Biodiversity Conference, to galvanise global leadership before it is too late.

“It’s clear to anyone who puts their head below the waves that the fate of the world’s coral reefs is hanging in the balance”, said UNEP chief Erik Solheim. “At the moment these undersea explosions of colour and life face an extremely bleak future.”

Coral reefs provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world, support more than a quarter of all marine life, and protect communities and coastlines from natural disasters — and if urgent action is not taken, they could be lost forever.

Eight international organisations joined forces to advocate for decisive action to protect these natural wonders: UNEP, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Vulcan Inc., the Ocean Agency, and the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“The expectations for this coalition could not be higher. Coral reef protection must become a global priority. Coral reefs need a better deal”, said Solheim, who unveiled the new partnership in the Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh.

Dozens of ministers whose countries are party to the CBD gathered there, together with experts and representatives of civil society organisations, to start a two-year process to adopt a global framework for protecting biodiversity, including coral reefs, around the world.

The conference, which lasted till November 29, 2018 was a platform for decision-makers from more than 190 countries to make commitments and step up efforts to halt the biodiversity loss and protect the ecosystems that support health, and food and water security for billions of people worldwide.

Governments, private companies, NGOs and inter-governmental organisations; indigenous peoples and local communities; youth and civil society; pledged their support for the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity which ran its course last year.

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published in October 2018 warned that, even if we collectively manage to stabilize global surface temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, 70 to 90 per cent of coral reefs will be lost by the middle of this century. Continued failure to take action on climate change will result in even greater losses, the report warns.

However, climate change is not the only major threat that reefs face.

Over-fishing, pollution and coastal development have all caused major coral loss over the last 30 years. Reducing those threats can help recover the most resilient reefs after impacts – such as bleaching events, caused by above-average sea water temperatures due to global warming.

Prince Albert II of Monaco says “I am delighted to see that the issue of coral reefs is receiving the attention it deserves. We are now approaching the 2020 horizon and need to sharpen the focus on strategies for effective coral reef conservation and to support people who depend on them.

“The International Coral Reef Initiative General Meeting, which I will be hosting in Monaco this December, will be an important step and my wish is that it will lead to the adoption of a practical, effective, ambitious and realistic program of action.”

However, more than 15,000 people worldwide contributed to the survey, which was held online between May and September 2020, and made available in 25 languages.

Respondents were mainly young people, with 57 per cent under age 35, and 35 per cent under 25. Results also were analysed along regional, gender, age and other demographic lines.

“Greater efforts are needed to address people’s specific concerns, and multilateralism is the way to do this. Restoring confidence in multilateralism requires the implementation of concrete and impactful projects, and this is at the heart of our Organisation’s role”, said Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Director-General.

The World in 2030 survey invited people from across the globe to share their specific worries about 11 challenges, and solutions for overcoming them.

Most participants or 67 per cent, selected climate change and loss of biodiversity as their top concern, mainly due to issues such as increasing natural disasters and extreme weather.

Respondents felt investment in ‘green’ solutions, education on sustainability, promoting international cooperation and building trust in science, were the best ways to address the issue.

Violence and conflict, discrimination and equality, and lack of food, water and housing were other big challenges, the survey revealed.

Participants believed that overall, more education was the crucial solution to every single challenge.  They also felt that it was the area that most needed to be re-thought, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the overall relationship between humankind and nature.

The survey further showed that while 95 per cent of respondents extoll the importance of global cooperation in overcoming common challenges, only one in four felt confident that the world would be able to address these issues.

UNESCO said that “taken together, the results suggest not a lack of appreciation of the importance of multilateralism but rather a crisis of faith in its effectiveness.”


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