Here's our special LIVE coverage of the UN Summit on Biodiversity, where activists and senior UN officials are calling for urgent action on biodiversity, to help ensure sustainable development for all.
‘Rescue the planet’s fragile tapestry of life’
Volkan Bozkir, the President of the General Assembly and the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, have just spoken, giving their recaps of the Summit and delivered a rousing call to action.
Ms. Mohammed reminded delegates that, in a global consultation organized for the UN´s 75th Anniversary, involving more than one million people, climate change and the destruction of the natural environment were raised as the most overwhelming concerns.
Today’s discussions, she said, have highlighted actions and commitments being made around the world, to “bend the curve of biodiversity loss” and move towards a nature-positive world. However, she warned, to "rescue the planet’s fragile tapestry of life", we need vastly more ambition and action
High ambitions have been set, she continued, and now they need to be taken forward at an international level and delivered on the ground, to ensure that people benefit from the sustainable use of biodiversity.
“The bottom line”, she said, “is that investing in nature is investing in a sustainable future”, and there is an opportunity to look forward to a post-COVID-19 world that is people-centred and planet-sensitive.
Laying the foundation for Kunming
For Mr. Bozkir, the initiatives and commitments announced at the event had laid the foundations for the biodiversity COP15, due to take place in Kunming, China, next year.
The event, he said, had reminded him that humankind is capable of incredible feats of science and engineering, of deep compassion and consideration, and given him hope.
The necessary transformation, however, will require efforts to mobilize public and private financing to support nature-based solutions and disaster risk reduction, and political will and leadership, to create pro-nature laws and regulations.
Nevertheless, said the General Assembly President, it was encouraging to see that multilateralism continues to deliver the needs of the people served by the UN, and called on delegates to ensure that their efforts will be remembered 75 years from now.
And, as the Summit ends with a musical performance from Indian composer Ricky Kej, we’ll say goodbye from UN News, and thanks for following us!
We’ve seen two Leaders’ Dialogues, one on addressing biodiversity loss, and the second on how to harness innovation, and financing for biodiversity, take place this afternoon.
The dialogues involved plenty of heavy-weight speakers, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Pakistan’s President Imran Khan, and the heads of several UN agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and World Bank.
You can watch the speeches again on UN WebTV.
The initiative outlines 12 priorities of young people to be addressed to achieve the 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature.”
The young people, who come from different social backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and geographies, requested world leaders to declare a “planetary emergency,” in relation to the worsening climate and biodiversity crises.
They ask for heads of state to develop strategies for effective conservation and restoration, adopt binding environmental targets, create transformative education in schools, uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples, protect environmental defenders, ensure intergenerational equity and to be accountable.
Find out more here.
#Youth leaders shared a Manifesto & Open Letter today at #UNGA demanding global action #ForNature.@SophiaKianni & @ClimateCardinal are translating these materials into a multitude of languages so that they are accessible to people all around the world.https://t.co/LKb3qSaA3J— UN Environment Programme North America (@UNEP_NAmerica) September 29, 2020
The Summit has moved on to the plenary, featuring many Heads of State. You can follow the speeches on UN Web TV.
We’ll be back later to bring you the concluding remarks from the President of the General Assembly, and the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed.
Until then, Here’s the perspective of Mohammed Alkhalid, from Saudi Arabia, a UNEP Young Champion of the Earth:
“Young people are the protectors and custodians of planet Earth.
The sustainability of the planet is our responsibility and that’s why I took part in the Young Champions of the Earth to work with experts, exchange ideas, gain experience, and engage with decision-makers to set up laws and incentives to plant trees, and to make Saudi Arabia greener.”
Read more about Mohammed Alkhalid here.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, took part in today’s event, and announced, via a pre-recorded video, that he is working with a “coalition of the willing” to put nature, people and planet at the heart of the economy.
The Prince called for a new “Marshall Plan” for a “blue-green recovery’ rooted in a new circular economy, that has nature at its centre, and went on to list some ways to bring this about. These include implementing carbon pricing; accelerating carbon capture technology, including nature-based solutions; and ending “perverse” subsidies for fossil fuels.
“We know what we need to do, but we have to take bold steps now”, he concluded. “So let’s get on with it!”
Fernanda Samuel from Angola is another UN Environment Programme Young Champion of the Earth.
Speaking to UN News she said: “You cannot talk about fighting poverty and economic growth without a serious commitment to protect natural resources, flora and fauna, soil, rivers and oceans."
Read more about Fernanda Samuel here.
Time now below, to hear the views of a young environmentalist from Kenya...
Richard Wambua was chosen by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as a Young Champion of the Earth one of 35 people from around the world identified by UNEP as providing “an impressive array of scalable, innovative and potentially impactful solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges”.
[you can read more about Richard here]
"Biodiversity loss is greatly threatening the tourism industry in Kenya which has also been hard hit by COVID-19, as fewer tourists are coming because there is less to see. Thousands of jobs are being affected.
Additionally, due to deforestation and higher than usual temperature levels on the Indian Ocean, there has been increased rainfall and flooding. Kenyans living around Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria have witnessed a rapid rise in water levels. The two lakes used to be 20 kilometres apart but are now a few kilometres from each other.
When the two mix, they will contaminate each other since one is highly saline while the other is a fresh water lake, resulting in the death of biodiversity and a decrease in the food supply.
Developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change, which aggravates the effects of population growth, poverty and rapid urbanization, resulting in habitat fragmentation and the loss of biodiversity.
Thus, it is highly imperative that young people take charge, are on the forefront and exert the right amount of pressure which includes having a seat at the table. We can contribute towards the implementation of environmentally-conscious policies, hence further protecting our countries and our planet.
Take Africa for instance; 75 per cent of its population are youthful and highly reliant on biodiversity for food, clean water, medicines, and protection from extreme climatic events. Inculcating a mindset change that favors biodiversity protection would be a sure way to ensure forests don’t become deserts, reefs don’t become rocks.
The more young people are aware and involved, the better the planet’s biodiversity will be!"
The Secretary-General has clearly pointed out that, “Investing in nature would protect biodiversity & improve climate action, human health & food security”. What such investments would also lead to, is jobs, for many youth and citizens from developing countries.
The Summit has now moved on to the “Fireside Chat” segment, featuring Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Inger Andersen, the head of the UN environment agency, UNEP, Elizabeth Mrema, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) chief, and Ana Maria Hernandéz Salgar, who runs the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
On Monday, Ms. Andersen and Ms. Mrema were interviewed by our very own Paulina Greer, as part of the SDG Media Zone UNGA High-Level Week series, where they gave more detail about the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature.
Here’s how it went:
‘Nature is fighting back’, UN economic chief
Munir Akram, the head of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) followed the Secretary-General, echoing many of the topics covered by Mr. Guterres and Mr. Bozkir.
Biodiversity, said Mr. Akram, allowed mankind to build great civilizations, providing nutrition, food, clean air and water, natural medicines and raw materials, and to survive, grow and prosper.Hwever, demand for energy and raw materials has grown with the population, harming the environment, hewarned: “nature is fighting back”, and the impacts of biodiversity loss will be as devastating as climate change: masks could be a permanent aspect our existence.
Political will is critical to achieve change, he concluded. It can be mobilized through events such as the Summit, which is of “existential importance”.
Mr. Akram added that it is time to discard economic models that are driving States to fight nature and each other, and transition to a new economic and social paradigm which values the preservation of nature, and enshrines sustainability as an integral part of development.
Delegates then watched pre-recorded speeches by the President of Egypt, Mohammed El-Sisi, and Xi Jinping of China. They were invited to speak because Egypt was the host of the 2018 COP (Conference of Parties) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and China is scheduled to host the next one in 2021.
‘Humanity is waging war on nature’, says Guterres
The UN chief, António Guterres, has just wrapped up his comments to the Summit, in which he accused humanity of “waging war on nature”.
Deforestation, climate change and the conversion of wilderness for human food production are, said the UN chief, destroying Earth’s web of life: “we are part of that fragile web -- and we need it to be healthy so we and future generations may thrive.”
One of the aims of this Summit is to secure increased ambition for biodiversity: the Secretary-General noted that, despite repeated commitments, efforts have not been sufficient to meet any of the global biodiversity targets set for this year.
By living in harmony with nature, he continued, the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided, for the benefit of people and the planet.
Mr. Guterres raised the encouraging prospects of nature-based solutions: forests, oceans and intact ecosystems are effective carbon sinks, for example, and healthy wetlands mitigate flooding.
Count natural resources as wealth
Economic systems, he continued, must account for and invest in nature which, currently, does not figure in countries’ calculations of wealth. The current system, he said, is weighted towards destruction, not preservation, but investing in nature would protect biodiversity and improve climate action, human health, and food security.
Protecting biodiversity and the environment can be a business opportunity: the Convention on Biological Diversity estimates that services from ecosystems make up between 50 and 90 per cent of the livelihoods of poor rural and forest-dwelling households, and poor communities can benefit from sustainable farming, eco-tourism and subsistence fishing.
The Secretary-General welcomed the commitments made in the Leader’s Pledge for Nature and coalitions such as the Campaign for Nature launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 which, he said, send a strong signal to raise political ambition in the run-up to COP15 of the Convention of Biological Diversity.
“Where effort has been made”, he declared “the benefits to our economies, human and planetary health are irrefutable.”
'Our existence on this planet, depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world'
The UN Summit on Biodiversity began a few minutes ago, and was opened by the President of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, who began by outlining the high stakes involved in the issue of biodiversity, stating that “our existence on this planet depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world around us”.
Despite the importance of biodiversity, we are not doing a great job at protecting it: 13 million hectares of forest are lost every year, and one million species are at risk of extinction. We also risk, he said, jeopardizing food security, water supplies, livelihoods, and our ability to fight diseases and face extreme events.
Health and biodiversity
At a time when our collective health is top of mind, Mr. Bozkir noted the link between healthcare and biodiversity: four billion people depend upon natural medicines for their health, and 70 per cent of drugs used for cancer treatments are drawn from nature.
Poor stewardship of the environment is putting our health at risk, as the majority of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, originated from animal populations, a threat that scientists have been warning about for decades.
The GA President re-emphasized calls for a “green recovery’ that addresses these concerns, and leads to a more sustainable, resilient world which, he said, would help unlock an estimated $10 trillion in business opportunities, create 395 million jobs by 2030, and encourage a greener economy.
Wrapping up his opening remarks, Mr. Bozkir argued that biodiversity should be protected from a moral, economic and existential standpoint, an act that is “an investment in the health of our planet, is an investment in our future; one that we leave for future generations.”
Here are two more preview videos released on Twitter, ahead of the Summit. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have both focused on the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, which has so far been endorsed by 72 countries.
The Pledge commits countries to ensuring that they are working in harmony with nature, and putting biodiversity, climate and the environment as a whole at the heart of their COVID-19 recovery strategies.
🌿 Nature must be at the heart of sustainable development. Ahead of the @UN #BiodiversitySummit, 60+ heads of state stood up for nature & pledged to halt and reverse nature loss.— UNDP Climate (@UNDPClimate) September 29, 2020
Share the #LeadersPledge4Nature to demand action #ForNature: https://t.co/SSA6XRdpoj #NatureForLife pic.twitter.com/8PxQhhrPmU
These countries are uniting for #biodiversity & committing to 10 key actions #ForNature:— ipbes (@IPBES) September 28, 2020
Read more about the Leaders' Pledge:https://t.co/VeDngFrRrs pic.twitter.com/NTPEP2b4DN
It’s simple: when we help nature, we help ourselves. That’s the message from the UN’s environment agency, UNEP, in a video produced ahead of the Summit.
The video, like the Summit itself, calls attention for the need to work towards a “new normal”, where all people can live in harmony with nature.
Good morning from UN News in New York! Today we’re continuing our live UNGA (that’s United Nations General Assembly) coverage, by following the UN Summit on Biodiversity. The Summit begins at 10:00 New York time, and promises to be very eventful. It will begin with statements from top UN officials, António Guterres, the Secretary-General; Munir Akram, the president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and Volkan Bozkir, the President of the 75th session of the General Assembly.
Look out for statements from two Heads of State: Mohammed El-Sisi of Egypt, and Xi Jinping of China: Egypt hosted the last COP (Conference of Parties) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2018, and China was due to host this year’s COP, which has now been postponed until 2021.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, who is billed as an “eminent speaker”, in recognition of the many pronouncements he has made on the environment over the years, will also deliver a message during the opening section of the Summit.
Many more Heads of State, UN officials and representatives of NGOs are due to speak throughout the event, which is due to end at six PM, New York time. We’ll do our best to share the highlights with you.
Alternatively you can watch the whole thing, thanks to our colleagues at UN Web TV, who have it covered.