Biodiversity Emergency – Planet Earth is Broken

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declares a biodiversity emergency at his address at Columbia University on the “The State of the Planet” on the 2nd December 2020.

Image of herd of elephants in South Africa

Biodiversity is more than an elephant, a herd of elephants, or the entire world population of elephants. It is the diversity of life and the ecological interactions between diverse lifeforms that matters most.

BIODIVERSITY EMERGENCY – “2020 was supposed to have been a “super year” for nature but the pandemic has had other plans for us. Now we must use 2021 to address our planetary emergency. Next year, countries will meet in Kunming to forge a post-2020 biodiversity framework to halt the extinction crisis and put the world on a pathway to living in harmony with nature. The world has not met any of the global biodiversity targets set for 2020 and so we need much more ambition and greater commitment to deliver on measurable targets and means of implementation, particularly finance and monitoring mechanisms. This means:

  • More and bigger effectively managed conservation areas, so that our assault on species and ecosystems can be halted;
  • Biodiversity-positive agriculture and fisheries, reducing our overexploitation and destruction of the natural world;
  • Phasing out negative subsidies — the subsidies that destroy healthy soils, pollute our waterways and lead us to fish our oceans empty;
  • Shift from unsustainable and nature-negative extractive resource mining, and to broader sustainable consumption patterns.

Biodiversity is not just cute and charismatic wildlife; it is the living, breathing web of life.”

THE OCEANS – “Also in 2021, countries will hold the Ocean Conference to protect and advance the health of the world’s marine environments. Overfishing must stop; chemical and solid waste pollution – plastics in particular — must be reduced drastically; marine reserves must increase significantly; and coastal areas need greater protection. The blue economy offers remarkable potential. Already, goods and services from the ocean generate $2.5 trillion each year and contribute over 31 million direct full-time jobs – at least until the pandemic struck. We need urgent action on a global scale to reap these benefits but protect the world’s seas and oceans from the many pressures they face.”

Image of industrial fishing - biodiversity emergency

Industrial fishing is the extermination of entire fish populations creating a biodiversity emergency in the oceans.

SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT – “Next year’s global conference on sustainable transport in Beijing must also strengthen this vital sector while addressing its negative environmental footprint.”

FOOD – “The Food Systems Summit must aim to transform global food production and consumption. Food systems are one of the main reasons we are failing to stay within our planet’s ecological boundaries.”

ECOSYSTEM RESOTORATION – “At the beginning of 2021, we will launch the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration focused on preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of forests, land and other ecosystems worldwide. The Decade is a rallying cry for all who want to tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change with practical and hands-on action.”

CHEMICALS – “The International Conference on Chemicals Management will establish a post-2020 framework on chemicals and waste. According to the World Health Organization, sound chemicals management could prevent at least 1.6 million deaths per year.”

CITIES – “2021 will also be critical in advancing the New Urban Agenda. The world’s cities are fundamental frontlines on sustainable development – vulnerable to disaster yet vectors of innovation and dynamism. Let us not forget that more than 50 per cent of humankind already lives in cities – and this number will reach almost 70 per cent in 2050.”

Image of deforestation - biodiversity emergency

Deforestation is bring animal species to the point of extinction causing a biodiversity emergency on land.

DEFORESTATION – “Next year, in short, gives us a wealth of opportunities to stop the plunder and start the healing. One of our best allies is nature itself. Drastically reducing deforestation and systemically restoring forests and other ecosystems is the single largest nature-based opportunity for climate mitigation. Indeed, nature-based solutions could provide one third of the net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

JOBS – “The World Economic Forum has estimated that business opportunities across nature could create 191 million jobs by 2030. Africa’s Great Green Wall alone has created 335,000 jobs.”

INDEGENOUS PEOPLE – “Indigenous knowledge, distilled over millennia of close and direct contact with nature, can help to point the way. Indigenous peoples make up less than 6 per cent of the world’s population yet are stewards of 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity on land. Already, we know that nature managed by indigenous peoples is declining less rapidly than elsewhere. With indigenous peoples living on land that is among the most vulnerable to climate change and environmental degradation, it is time to heed their voices, reward their knowledge and respect their rights.”

Image of indigenous people - biodiversity emergency

Indigenous peoples make up less than 6 per cent of the world’s population yet are stewards of 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity on land – we have a lot to learn from these peoples – biodiversity emergency

CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON WOMEN IS WORSE – “Let’s also recognize the central role of women. The impacts of climate change and environmental degradation fall most heavily on women. They are 80 per cent of those displaced by climate change. But women are also the backbone of agriculture and key stewards of natural resources. They are among the world’s leading environmental human rights defenders. And women’s representation in national parliaments has been linked directly to the signing of climate action agreements. As humankind devises strategies for natural resource governance, environmental preservation and building a green economy, we need more women decision-makers at the table.”

HOPE – “I have detailed an emergency, but I also see hope. I see a history of advances that show what can be done – from rescuing the ozone layer to reducing extinction rates to expanding protected areas. Many cities are becoming greener. The circular economy is reducing waste. Environmental laws have growing reach. At least 155 United Nations Member States now legally recognize that a healthy environment is a basic human right.”

EDUCATION – “And the knowledge base is greater than ever. I was very pleased to learn by President Bollinger that Columbia University has launched a Climate School, the first new school here in a quarter of a century – congratulations. This is a wonderful demonstration of scholarship and leadership. I am delighted to know that so many members of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network are with us today as special guests – university presidents, chancellors, deans, faculty and other scholars. The United Nations Academic Impact initiative is working with institutions of higher education across the globe. The contributions of universities are essential to our success.”

A NEW WORLD – THE MOMENT OF TRUTH – “A new world is taking shape. More and more people are recognizing the limits of conventional yardsticks such as Gross Domestic Product, in which environmentally damaging activities count as economic positives. Mindsets are shifting. More and more people are understanding the need for their own daily choices to reduce their carbon footprint and respect planetary boundaries. And we see inspiring waves of social mobilization by young people.

  • From protests in the streets to advocacy on-line…
  • From classroom education to community engagement…
  • From voting booths to places of work…
  • Young people are pushing their elders to do what is right. And we are in an university.”

Image of burning forests in Australia = biodiversity emergency

Forests are home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. These ecosystems are complex webs of organisms that include plants, animals, fungi and bacteria – biodiversity emergency.

“This is a moment of truth for people and planet alike. COVID and climate have brought us to a threshold. We cannot go back to the old normal of inequality, injustice and heedless dominion over the Earth. Instead we must step towards a safer, more sustainable and equitable path. We have a blueprint: the 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The door is open; the solutions are there. Now is the time to transform humankind’s relationship with the natural world – and with each other. And we must do so together. Solidarity is humanity. Solidarity is survival.

That is the lesson of 2020. With the world in disunity and disarray trying to contain the pandemic, let’s learn the lesson and change course for the pivotal period ahead.”

“Thank you.”

Source: Secretary-General’s Antonio Guterres address at Columbia University: “The State of the Planet” on the 02 December 2020

Related Articles:

Planet Earth is Broken, Natural World Collapsing

Climate Action Now on Pollution – Planet Earth is Broken