Everyone will Lose unless Humanity Makes ‘Peace with the Planet’: UN Chief
New York (United Nations) – Humanity is “waging a war on nature”, threatening biodiversity loss, climate disruption and escalating pollution, the UN chief said on Friday.
“We will all be losers if we don’t achieve peace with the planet”, Secretary-General António Guterres told a webinar ahead of the International Day for Biological Diversity, commemorated annually on 22 May.
“We should all be advocates for nature”, he said.
Nature sustains life and provides opportunities, services and solutions, he explained, noting that “a healthy planet is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.
Yet, biodiversity is declining at an “unprecedented and alarming rate”, and the pressures are intensifying, he warned.
“We have failed to meet any of our internationally agreed biodiversity targets”, the UN chief said.
He said one million species are at risk of extinction; ecosystems are disappearing “before our eyes”; deserts are spreading, and wetlands are being lost.
Every year, 10 million hectares of forests are lost, oceans are overfished and “choking with plastic waste” as the carbon dioxide they absorb is acidifying the seas, bleaching and killing coral reefs, he added.
And the total annual international public finance for nature is significantly less than the subsidies causing its degradation.
“We are depleting resources faster than nature can replenish them”, the UN chief continued.
The pandemic has highlighted the intimate relationship between people and nature, he said, while changes in land use and encroachment on wild habitats are the primary paths for emerging infectious diseases, such as the deadly Ebola and COVID-19 viruses.
“Three-quarters of new and emerging human infectious diseases are zoonotic”, jumping from animals to humans, and against this backdrop, the UN chief said that tackling the current COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity to recover better.
He said that solutions to the current crisis must expand opportunity, reduce stark inequalities and respect planetary boundaries, with “nature-positive investments and actions” to allow everyone to benefit from the “dividends of biological diversity”.
Later this year, governments will meet for 15th Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity (COP-15) in Kunming, China, to finalize a new global framework for biodiversity to protect nature, restore ecosystems and reset humanity’s relationship with the planet.
“It is essential that they succeed”, stressed the Secretary-General. “The rewards will be tremendous”.