The world is living far beyond its resources according to a new report by the conservation group WWF. So much so that at current levels of consumption the earth would need to be 50 percent larger, and by projected levels of consumption in 2030, two times the size it is now.
Biodiversity has declined by 28 percent worldwide since 1970.
The world urgently needs to address the problems of rising consumption and biodiversity loss, according to the WWF’s biennial ‘Living Planet Report’.
Currently, governments are not on track to reach an agreement at the sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro next month, according to Jim Leape, the WWF’s International Director General.
“I don’t think anyone would dispute that we’re nowhere near where we should be a month before the conference in terms of the progress of the negotiations and other preparations,” Leape told reporters in Geneva.
“I think all of us are concerned that countries negotiating in the U.N. system for an outcome for Rio have not yet shown a willingness to really step up to meet these challenges. Those negotiations are clearly still tangled.”
The Rio+20 meeting is being held June 20-22 and is expected to draw more than 50,000 participants. The purpose of the summit is for governments around the world to agree to goals for sustainable development. The Kyoto Protocol was agreed to 20 years ago at the similar Rip Earth Summit.
Even with the Kyoto Protocol, which was made to help cut carbon emissions, global temperatures are still headed towards civilization-challenging levels by the end of the century.
According to Leape, one of the most beneficial actions governments could take is to do away with fossil fuel subsidies, $500 billion yearly, which make them cheaper to consumers than their true market price. Leape also says global access to clean energy by 2030 is necessary.
In response to why there is still a political debate on the topic, Leape said: “Let’s not underestimate the inertia in the system.”
“We’ve built an economy over the last century that is built on fossil fuels and on a premise that the Earth’s resources could not be exhausted. You see that conspicuously in the case of the oceans, where we’ve been taking fish as if there were no tomorrow, as if fish would just always be there.”
“Secondly, we’re doing it in the context of a marketplace that continues to send the wrong signals. So many of the costs that we’re talking about are not built into the prices you see … Markets can work well if prices are telling the truth but at the moment they don’t, in hugely important ways.”
There’s been a change in the actions of consumers, Leape said, because of certification regimes which hold companies to certain standards.
“You see a growing number of commodities in which this approach is rolling out. It’s in timber, it’s in fish, but it’s also now in palm oil and in sugar and in cotton and so forth. I think that’s part of creating market signals, to allow consumers to send signals, to show their preferences and to actually begin to build a market that’s heading towards sustainability.”