Over half of all wetlands in the world have been destroyed in the last 100 years due to residential and industrial development, water waste, over-consumption, and pollution says a new report released by the United Nations Environment Program.
According to the report, the "startling figure"—a 50 percent loss of wetlands on earth—signals years of neglect of our world's ecosystems, as industrialization and development have trumped concerns of biodiversity and water scarcity. As a result, coastal wetland losses in many regions have occurred at a rate of 1.6 percent per year.
"Water security is widely regarded as one of the key natural resource challenges currently facing the world," the authors of the report state. "Human drivers of ecosystem change, including destructive extractive industries, unsustainable agriculture and poorly managed urban expansion, are posing a threat to global freshwater biodiversity and water security for 80 per cent of the world’s population."
The report was compiled through The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity project and presented at this year's UN Convention on Biodiversity.
Reporting on this year's convention, being held through the end of this week in India, Friends of the Earth International pleaded with the international community to put forth biodiversity protection policies such as vast conservation proposals and increased governmental regulation of resource extraction, as apposed to the business-based free market model known as the 'Financialization of Nature,' which has largely dominated the convention. Such policies promote market-based schemes like pollution trading, water markets, and privatization and commodification of common resources, frowned upon by environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and Food and Water Watch.
"Much lauded by the banking industry, this 'financialization of nature' reduces the value of water and other life-giving resources to exchangeable financial instruments," Food and Water Watch stated earlier this year. Such policies "are largely voluntary and entirely unregulated, representing a drastic departure from the regulation of pollution that helped clean our air and water in the latter half of the 20th century." Economic solutions to environmental problems place faith in the free market to protect complex needs of biodiversity, the groups warn.
"Biodiversity and forests are critical for the survival of people and the planet, and are thus priceless. Our biodiversity needs to be protected, not speculated on by reckless and unaccountable financial markets,” says Isaac Rojas, Friends of the Earth International Coordinator of the Forests and Biodiversity Program.
"Friends of the Earth International believes that governments should establish public funds and other non-market based and non-corporate mechanisms to fund the conservation of biodiversity, and not rely on financial markets and financial speculation," which have been largely proposed at this year's UN Convention on Biodiversity, the group writes.