Nature underpins the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, our systematic disregard for the environment and deeply rooted social inequalities endanger progress on the path to sustainable development. The ongoing loss of nature threatens more than half of global GDP, as well as the lives and wellbeing of people, with the poorest and most vulnerable being hit first and hardest. This has been brought into focus this year, with the roots of the current, devastating COVID-19 pandemic tied to our nature mismanagement.
While COVID-19 is an economic and social tragedy, it offers an unprecedented opportunity to reset humanity’s relationship with nature and bring about the change that is needed in our political, economic and financial system. The UN Summit on Biodiversity, held on September 30 as part of the high-level segment of the 75th UN General Assembly entitled “Urgent Biodiversity Action for Sustainable Development”, provided a similarly unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate collective ambition.
Our appeal to the heads of state and government of the world
In an unprecedented, coordinated series of calls to action representing tens of millions of people and hundreds of companies around the world, BirdLife International joined 15 other environmental and development organizations, coalitions and foundations at the summit to challenge world leaders to the value Recognize nature not only as the foundation of a healthy and resilient economy, but also as the foundation for human wellbeing, peace and security, and place nature at the center of their agenda. We have called on governments to adopt a global goal for nature as part of a just, climate-neutral and nature-positive world by the end of this decade. Achieving this nature-positive goal requires immediate and effective action to both protect nature and address the causes of its decline by 2030.
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The UN Summit on Biodiversity
There was a lot of energy leading up to the summit. The Nature for Life Hub hosted a series of hardhitting panel discussions supported by a consortium of BirdLife. We have attended meetings on a new nature, conservation, human rights and spatial mapping agreement, as well as the civil society segment Voices for Nature of the summit itself. We also supported the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, signed by over 70 leaders, including the EU, and launched at a hub meeting shortly before the summit. This commits the signatories to collective ambitions for nature, climate and people.
The summit was originally intended as an occasion for world leaders to commit to ambitious action a month before the new 10-year global framework for biodiversity in China was signed. With COVID-19 delaying negotiations and signing the contract for up to a year, forcing the summit to switch to a semi-distant format, we saw an understandable change in dynamics with some positive and less positive results.
At the summit, record-breaking heads of state and government called for a speech. It has been widely recognized that biodiversity loss and our mismanagement of nature are leading to ecological collapse, exacerbating climate change and driving the incidence of zoonotic diseases, and that change, including through a green recovery, is required to reverse things .
Many countries such as Kenya and Croatia have repeated our call for a climate-neutral, nature-positive world (see below). The need for collective action and the importance of multilateralism have been heightened by countries such as China, Canada and France. The UK and the European Commission called for clear, measurable targets that would enable countries to hold each other accountable. France, Jordan, Slovenia and Ecuador have all highlighted the links between nature conservation or natural rights and human rights, and Pavan Sukhdev stated on behalf of civil society organizations that the right to a healthy environment must be recognized as a fundamental right. The High Ambition Coalition, led by Costa Rica and France, called for the protection of 30% of the planet by 2030 with a similar goal for the oceans advocated by the Global Oceans Alliance.
The less positive
Few countries have made specific proposals (the US being particularly absent). China, which had just pledged to go carbon neutral by 2060, did not reveal any equivalent new commitments for nature. Brazil defended national sovereignty and affirmed “international greed” towards the Amazon. Guyana, on behalf of the G77, called on the industrialized countries to allocate more resources to developing countries for the implementation of the post-2020 framework. The indigenous youth representative from India warned of human rights violations in connection with an increase in protected areas.
At the summit and the related meetings, the need for further discussion, bridge building and engagement in relation to concrete goals and measures was highlighted. The promise of the Heads of State or Government lays a strong foundation for this, and we will work with parties and other stakeholders in the coming months to ensure that the post-2020 global framework for biodiversity successfully protects people and planets for future generations.
Our call to action for a just, climate-neutral and nature-positive world
Leader of 16 global environments Development organizations, coalitions and foundations, including BirdLife International, called on leaders at the UN Summit on Biodiversity to put nature on the path of recovery by 2030 in order to create a just, climate-neutral and nature-positive world, including through the following actions:
1. Preserve and restore ecosystems
By 2030, we must effectively protect, conserve and restore at least 30 percent of the land, inland waters, coasts and oceans that are of paramount importance to biodiversity and ecosystem services. These protected and protected areas must be fairly governed and given adequate recognition, protection and land ownership security for all countries and waters that have traditionally been ruled by indigenous peoples and local communities in order to preserve and use sustainable biodiversity. Such areas must be adequately and sustainably equipped and must not be undermined by legal changes. Areas that are important to biodiversity and that make it possible
Species movements in response to climate change should be prioritized, including key areas of biodiversity and areas that are ecologically intact and / or provide ecosystem services. This requires integrated, biodiversity-based spatial planning across the planet on ecologically relevant scales (including in areas outside traditional borders and national jurisdictions) through spatially explicit national strategies and action plans for biodiversity (NBSAP), strategic environmental impact assessments and national development plans .
2. Protect diversity and restore the abundance of life
We must take action against illegal and / or unsustainable exploitation, trade and trade in wild animals and, if necessary, take intensive species management measures in order to halt the decline in genetic diversity, prevent extinction and start the recovery of wild animal populations.
3. Transition to a just, nature-positive economy
Governments must recognize that nature is at the center of a sustainable, resilient, green transition that “moves forward” to mitigate future economic and social shocks. We need to mainstream biodiversity into public and private decisions (e.g. green recovery plans), halve the footprint of production and consumption in all sectors, and redirect financial flows from activities that harm biodiversity to those who do them restore, maintain and sustainably manage. Our food systems need to be changed as well as important productive sectors such as forestry, fisheries and infrastructure. Governments and the private sector need to value natural capital, invest in nature-based solutions, require sustainable supply chains, and critically incorporate the true value of nature into economies, while ensuring that social and environmental protection measures are fully enforced so that both public policies and the private sector have an overall positive impact on nature and society.
4. Create a healthy environment for healthy societies
Rights, justice and equity must be at the heart of the global framework for biodiversity after 2020. Governments must recognize the universal right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and put in place laws and measures to achieve this. Both intergenerational and intra-generational equity are needed to ensure that decision-making and implementation by state and non-state actors is inclusive and that decision-makers are held accountable. In particular, the role and rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, women and girls as stewards and defenders of nature must be recognized, protected and supported.
Read the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and watch the video in support of Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International, on Leaderspledgefornature.org