A ‘global deal for nature’ comparable to the Paris climate agreement will be crucial to halt and reverse dangerous levels of habitat and wildlife loss around the globe. That was just one of the calls from a conference organised by the European Environmental Bureau this week to discuss the future of Europe ahead of next May’s European elections.

The European Environmental Bureau is the largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations in Europe.

Speaking at the conference, several high-level speakers, including Luc Bas, the Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s European Regional Office and Humberto Delgado Rosa from the European Commission, told the conference that when scientists issue red alerts for nature there should be the same level of concern that meets reports from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

On 8 October the IPCC published its latest report which stated that climate change’s impact is more severe than was previously thought and that “far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are essential to keep the world under 1.5 degrees of global warming. This alarming climate report was followed by WWF’s Living Planet report on 30 October which revealed that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have declined, on average, by 60% between 1970 and 2014, with freshwater species hit hardest.

Sergiy Moroz, Senior Policy Officer for Water and Biodiversity, said:

“Our way of life is harming the planet’s natural systems that support all life on earth. The EU must be a global leader on nature conservation by championing a global biodiversity accord – just as it did on climate change. But agreements are not enough to halt and reverse nature loss. EU policies must be coherent with nature protection and governments must be ambitious when the implement environmental laws.”

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is responsible for maintaining the natural life support systems on which humanity depends, and on 13 November the convention’s members – 195 states and representatives from the EU – will meet in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, to start talks on a global deal to manage the world’s ecosystems and wildlife.

Speaking to the Guardian ahead of the Egypt talks, the executive secretary of the UN CBD Cristiana Pașca Palmer said that the loss of biodiversity was a “silent killer” and that we risk facing our “own extinction”.

Environmentalists hope that a global biodiversity deal for people and nature can be signed off at the next UN CBD meeting in Beijing in 2020.