Speech prepared for delivery at the Ministerial Roundtable on the margins of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on “Biodiversity Beyond 2020: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth.”
Let me begin by thanking Minister Huang Runqui and China for preparing to take up the baton next year as the Presidency of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). I wish him well as he leads national efforts to create a more harmonious relationship with nature, as expressed in China’s concept of “ecological civilization”. My appreciation also to Dr. Hamdallah Zedan, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Environment of Egypt and Representative of CBD COP14 Presidency, for your country’s leadership on biodiversity.
My congratulations also to China for the ambitious announcement made by President Xi at the General Assembly this week, committing the country to carbon neutrality by 2060. A big step forward for China and the world.
Returning to the discussions today, it is a terrible irony that COVID-19 has delayed the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework, while simultaneously reinforcing the need for urgent multilateral action on biodiversity.
The pandemic is part of what we at UNEP call the “triple planetary crisis” of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Even before COVID-19, the science on this crisis was crystal clear. Through its inexhaustible hunger for resources, humanity is undermining the natural systems that allow our economies to thrive.
Science has also told us that the world is not doing enough. The recent Global Biodiversity Outlook, which showed that we failed to meet the Aichi Targets, only underlined this. My colleague Elizabeth Mrema, who speaks next, may have more to say on this topic.
Our task now is to deliver systemic shifts that address the drivers of biodiversity loss. This means redesigning food systems, making our economies circular to minimize resource extraction, moving towards sustainable energy solutions, making existing and new infrastructure nature positive and restoring degraded land.
I would like to make three brief points on how we can make this happen.
Involve everybody through inclusive multilateralism
In finalizing and implementing the Post-2020 Framework, we must learn another lesson from the pandemic: our globalized world is interconnected. We all face the same threats from environmental degradation. So, everybody needs to work together. Whole of government, environment, agriculture, industry, infrastructure, economy. The private sector, because business practices can provide the solutions to biodiversity loss. Finance, because we need investments in nature. Other multilateral agreements, because climate change, land degradation and pollution are all interlinked and solving these problems can create better outcomes for biodiversity.
As we mark seventy-five years of signing the UN Charter, we must commit to re-invigorated and inclusive multilateralism that ensures we get the job done.
The scale of the task means we need to aim higher in the new framework. We have a lot of catching up to do. This means more ambitious, clear and measurable targets for a nature-positive world.
We must act now by taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by pandemic recovery. According to the Financing Nature report, as of 2019 the gap between what we spend and what we need to spend to sustainably manage biodiversity was up to USD 824 billion. Right now, unprecedented sums of public money are flowing to recovery packages. We can close the financing gap and begin taking clear nature-positive actions by directing some of the trillions of dollars towards the systemic shifts we need.
We face a huge task. But know what must be done and how to do it. Get it right, and we will secure healthy biodiversity for generations to come. We must all step up. And we must do it today.