Scientist to politicians – End oil, farm subsidies to save planet

By Matthew Green

LONDON (Reuters) – Robert Watson chose his favourite accessories to deliver the scientific community’s starkest warning yet over the accelerating demise of Earth’s life support systems: a tie with a dodo pattern, and cufflinks engraved with designs of tiny watches.

A leading figure in the network of international experts who assess the twin threats posed by climate change and species loss, Watson uses the symbols to remind audiences that there is no special reason why human beings should not share the fate of the flightless bird, declared extinct at the end of the 17th century.

But the British environmental scientist is not always so subtle.

Hours before the launch in Paris on Monday of the largest scientific effort to document the spiralling worldwide loss of plants and animals, Watson urged governments to cut hundreds of billions of dollars of annual subsidies to companies in the farming, mining, fishing and fossil fuel sectors, whose operations are driving the extinction crisis.

“We need to reduce and eliminate harmful subsidies,” said Watson, who served as chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a 130-nation scientific body, as it produced the report.

“We really have to think about what is the economic system that will be much more sustainable in the future.”

The report found that global subsidies of $345 billion for fossil fuels resulted in $5 trillion in overall costs, when damage to the natural world is taken into account.

Most of the world’s tens of billions of fishing subsidies contributed to increasing or maintaining fishing fleets driving the steady destruction of fish stocks, the report found.

The reports’ 145 expert authors urged governments to use money saved by cutting subsidies for habitat-razing industrial farming to incentivise agricultural techniques that could regenerate local ecosystems.

This would help to both restore dwindling wildlife and sequester carbon emissions, the report…

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