Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to a thematic webinar titled “COP15: Road to Kunming, building a shared future for all life on Earth”, today:
I am very pleased to address this webinar for the International Day for Biological Diversity. Let me be frank. Humanity is waging a war on nature. We face a triple emergency — biodiversity loss, climate disruption and escalating pollution. We will all be losers if we don’t achieve peace with the planet.
Nature sustains life. It provides us with opportunities, services and solutions. A healthy planet is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented and alarming rate, and the pressures are intensifying.
We have failed to meet any of our internationally agreed biodiversity targets. One million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are disappearing before our eyes. Deserts are spreading. Wetlands are being lost. Every year, we lose 10 million hectares of forests. Oceans are overfished and choking with plastic waste. The carbon dioxide they absorb is acidifying the seas. Coral reefs are bleaching and dying.
We are depleting resources faster than nature can replenish them. The total annual international public finance for nature is significantly less than the subsidies causing its degradation.
COVID-19 has reminded us of the intimate relationship between people and nature. Land-use change and encroachment on wild habitats is the primary path for emerging infectious diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19. Three quarters of new and emerging human infectious diseases are zoonotic. Tackling the current COVID‑19 crisis provides an opportunity to recover better.
This is a landmark year for restoring balance with nature, tackling the climate emergency and getting ahead of the pollution crisis. Our efforts to protect biodiversity will be key. Our solutions to the current crisis must expand opportunity, reduce stark inequalities and respect planetary boundaries. Nature-positive investments and actions can ensure we all benefit from the dividends of biological diversity.
This year, Governments will meet in Kunming, China, to finalize an ambitious new global framework for biodiversity that can protect nature, restore ecosystems and reset our relationship with the planet. It is essential that they succeed. The rewards will be tremendous.
Many solutions already exist to protect our planet’s genetic diversity on land and at sea. But, we must employ them. Everybody has a part to play. Sustainable lifestyle choices are the key. Sustainable production and consumption is the answer.
This is the overarching theme of this year’s Biodiversity Day. The choice to live sustainably must be made available to everyone, everywhere. That means better policies that promote government, business and individual accountability.
We all need to be part of a movement for change. We should all be advocates for nature. On this International Day for Biodiversity, let us all be part of the solution. Together, we can halt biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and build a future where we live in harmony with nature. Thank you very much and I wish this webinar is a big success for us all.
For information media. Not an official record.