World leaders have been urged to take ambitious action to halt declines in nature as a major global report is set to issue a stark warning on wildlife losses.
In the UK, campaigners have urged the Government to step up with a “huge boost” to nature and conserve threatened species from skylarks and small blue butterflies to bees, hedgehogs and wildcats.
The calls come as a UN-backed global assessment of the state of nature, the most comprehensive of its kind, is expected to warn that a million species face extinction and damage to the natural world threatens humanity.
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is publishing the report on Monday.
The 1,800-page scientific study, which has taken three years and drew on thousands of pieces of evidence, will warn of species extinctions, wildlife declines, habitat loss and damage to natural services.
Almost 600 conservation experts have signed a “Call4Nature” open letter initiated by wildlife charity WWF which is being published in national newspapers around the world ahead of the publication of the report.
Among those signing up to the call include wildlife campaigner Jane Goodall, television presenter Chris Packham, TV chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and French actress Juliette Binoche.
It has also been backed by scientists and leading conservationists.
The Call4Nature letter, published as the G7 group of leading nations’ environment ministers meet in France, says: “Nature provides us with the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink.
“We depend on it to grow our crops, to source our medicines, to house us and to clothe us. When we destroy nature, we destroy the essentials on which we all depend.
“There is still time to protect what is left and to start restoring nature. But to do that, we must radically change the way we live, including how we use energy to power our societies, grow our food and manage our waste.”
It calls for “decisive and ambitious action from world leaders” to make the change.
Mike Barrett from WWF said: “We can still reverse this catastrophic trend of nature loss and tackle the climate crisis.
“But world leaders must take decisive steps to restore nature, stop climate change and ensure food security.”
He called for an ambitious global new deal for people and nature to be agreed in 2020.
In the UK, where protests on the streets in recent weeks by environmental campaigners and school walkouts have prompted Parliament to declare a climate and environment emergency, the Government is being urged to take swift action to tackle the “crisis” in nature.
Environmental charity Friends of the Earth warned the decline of biodiversity – the wealth and variety of plant and animal life on Earth – including in the UK, was setting people on a “path to catastrophe”.
Sandra Bell, nature campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Biodiversity is intrinsically linked to human well-being – if we don’t reverse its decline we are risking a future where we can’t even grow the food we need for basic survival.”
She said continuing declines in nature would also damage human health and happiness and leave the world more at risk from natural disasters such as floods and landslides.
“We need commitment from ministers for a huge nature boost – it’s not enough to simply maintain what little we have left,” she urged.
“Having more space for nature across our countryside and in our towns and cities, including significantly increased tree cover, will not only boost biodiversity but will also be a big part of the fight against climate chaos.”
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Climate change and biodiversity decline globally are interlinked threats for wildlife and people.
“Today’s IPBES report shows we must redouble our efforts at home and internationally.
He said: “2020 is the year that the nations of the world must come together to agree stronger action for climate, nature and ocean protection.”