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Of the 20 biodiversity goals, set out by the UN and agreed in 2011 by almost 200 countries, none have been fully achieved and just six were partially achieved, the fifth Global Biodiversity Outlook said. The targets included reducing the destruction of rainforests and mangroves, cutting pollution and sustainable fisheries management. Even the target of raising awareness of species loss has not been fully met.

The report does offer some optimism, noting species extinctions would have been two to four times higher without conservation in the past decade. It highlights several species that have been saved from extinction since 2011, including the Javan rhinoceros and the black-footed ferret. Earlier this week, the RSPB said the UK had seen a “lost decade” on conservation, meeting as few as three of the 20 UN targets despite the Government reporting success in six areas.

The heads of 27 nature organisations have now written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for the UK to commit to legally binding targets.

Commenting on the UN report, Prof Andy Purvis of the department of life sciences at the Natural History Museum, said: “The warning lights are flashing. We have to recognize we’re in a planetary emergency. If we carry on with business as usual, we’ll all be out of business: it’s not just that species will die out. Ecosystems will be too damaged to meet society’s needs.”

We have to recognize we’re in a planetary emergency

Human encroachment into natural habitats is a risk factor for the spread of infectious diseases, as wildlife, livestock and people come into greater contact with one another. Such outbreaks are threats to biodiversity, as well as to humans.

United Nations says we must go mostly vegetarian before crucial ecosystems are lost

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