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Half of plant and animal species at risk from climate change

14 March 2018
by WWF -- last modified 16 March 2018

Up to half of plant and animal species in the world’s most naturally rich areas, such as the Amazon, the Arctic and the Galapagos - and in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea Basin - could face local extinction by the turn of the century due to climate change if carbon emissions continue to rise unchecked.


Even if the Paris Climate Agreement 2°C target is met, these places could lose 25 per cent of their species. That is according to a landmark new study by the University of East Anglia (UK), the James Cook University (Australia), and WWF.

Published today in the journal Climatic Change and just ahead of Earth Hour, the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment, researchers examined the impact of climate change on nearly 80,000 plant and animal species in 35 of the world's most diverse and naturally wildlife-rich areas.

For example, the report found that 30% of Mediterranean species like marine turtles and tuna are at risk of extinction even if we keep global warming to 2°C; this rises to 50% with no action.

Imke Lübbeke, head of climate and energy at WWF European Policy Office, said:

"Climate change is pushing our planet to a cliff-edge. Not only do rising temperatures impact people and their wellbeing directly, they threaten the ecosystems and biodiversity which are essential to human life. The EU must act to keep global temperature rise well under 2°C and to work for 1.5°C, as per the Paris Agreement, by ending fossil fuels rapidly, starting with coal by 2030. It must show it means business by publishing this year a 2050 Roadmap to take us to a net zero carbon economy".

Andreas Baumueller, head of natural resources at WWF European Policy Office, commented:

"The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are interlinked. For centuries, Europe's nature has been damaged, and climate change is adding to the pressure. Healthy ecosystems would actually help absorb and store carbon, and make our societies more resilient to the effects of climate change. This is why WWF is calling for 50% spending on climate and nature in the next EU budget -  it is an investment in our future, and essential to meeting the EU's international biodiversity and climate commitments!"

Samantha Burgess, head of marine policy, WWF European Policy Office, said:

"Oceans are amongst the first ecosystems impacted by climate change. Not only are they impacted by warmer seas, more severe storms and melting sea ice but ocean acidification is also posing a threat to life phases of key marine species and habitats such as corals."

The clear danger of climate change for people, the planet and its biodiversity is why on 24 March millions of people across the world will come together for Earth Hour. They will show their commitment to protecting biodiversity and being a part of the conversations and solutions needed to build a healthy, sustainable future – and planet – for all. The global mobilisation sparked by Earth Hour also sends a clear message to business and government that there is a global will to change this trajectory.

The European Policy Office helps shape EU policies that impact on the European and global environment.