Statement by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, in response to today’s scientific paper in Nature: “Climate Change Threatens A Million Species with Extinction”

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said:“ Unfortunately, this alarming report underlines again to the world the importance of bringing into force the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to cut back greenhouse gas emissions”.

“If one million species become extinct as a result of global warming, it is not just the plant and animal kingdoms and the beauty of the planet that will suffer. Billions of people, especially in the developing world, will suffer too as they rely on nature for such essential goods and services as food, shelter and medicines”.

“Many developing countries also rely on nature-based tourism to generate much-needed foreign exchange earnings”.

“The figure of one million may be an underestimate. The Nature paper only looks at the impact on individual species, but many are interdependent. If, for example, bees and other insects that pollinate trees and flowers disappear from an area it can lead to a ripple effect in which more and more species dependent on these insects die out”.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development’s Plan of Implementation, agreed in Johannesburg in 2002, calls on governments to significantly reduce the rate of loss of species by 2010. It also has numerous other targets and timetables that are at risk from global warming.

” Unbridled climate change is the spectre haunting many of the objectives enshrined in both the Plan of Implementation and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in areas such biodiversity, but also in ones such as water and sanitation”.

Note to Editors

Full study: C.D. Thomas et al., 2004, “Extinction risk from climate change”, Nature, vol 427, proof pages 145-148. Publication date: Thursday 8 January 2004.

UNEP scientist on the study team: Lera Miles, Senior Programme Officer, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK.Telephone: ++44 (0) 1223 277314, Fax: ++ 44 (0) 1223 277136, Email:

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