A summit aimed at forging an international plan to reverse catastrophic nature loss will be delayed for a second time because of the pandemic, organizers said on Wednesday in a further blow to conservation efforts.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said its 2020 congress, which had already been rescheduled for January 2021, would be further postponed to an unspecified date owing to "the sanitary situation associated with the COVID-19 pandemic".
It said new dates would be announced "in due course".
The announcement follows a series of dire warnings from scientists over the state of nature, with the United Nations saying on Tuesday that nations were set to miss every single biodiversity target they set themselves a decade ago.
Last week the WWF's biennial Living Planet Index found that populations of wild animals, birds and fish had plummeted nearly 70 percent in the last five decades.
The IUCN congress is one of the biggest biodiversity summits on the global calendar, with conservationists urging nations to use the opportunity to commit to preserving vast wild spaces in order to halt species decline.
It was originally slated for June in the French Mediterranean port city Marseille, part of what was meant to be a pivotal year for biodiversity alongside the UN's COP15 summit in Kunming, China, also postponed until next year.
Campaigners are seeking a binding international agreement governing the preservation of nature, similar to what the Paris accord mandates for climate action.
The stakes could hardly be higher: nature provides the world's food and water, medicines and shelter.
But the natural world is in a parlous state. Last year the UN's biodiversity panel IPBES warned that as many as one million species of animals and plants risked extinction, hundreds of them within decades.
It said that up to three quarters of land and 40 percent of oceans have already been "severely degraded" by human activity.
"We are currently, in a systematic manner, exterminating all non-human living beings," IPBES executive secretary Anne Larigauderie told AFP this week.
A major source of nature degradation is land use change -- normally, converting forests to agricultural land to keep up with insatiable consumption growth.
The UN's Global Biodiversity Assessment called for international cooperation in order to reduce food waste and loss and to reverse forest loss.
The assessment found that not one of the world's biodiversity targets set in 2010 would be fully met, "undermining efforts to address climate change".
Reacting to the postponement, France's secretary of state for biodiversity Berangere Abba said on Twitter that the IUCN congress "remains a major step on the way to COP15".