UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned mankind not to wage war on nature at the first UN summit on the biodiversity crisis on Wednesday.
He said a consequence of the imbalance with nature – caused by deforestation, climate change and food production – is the emergence of deadly diseases such as HIV-AIDS, Ebola and COVID-19.
“Humanity is waging war against nature. And we need to rebuild our relationship with it, ”said Guterres.
“Wildlife populations are falling due to overconsumption, population growth and intensive agriculture. And the rate of species extinction is accelerating, with around a million species currently threatened or endangered. “
Earlier this month, the United Nations published a comprehensive assessment that found that none of the 20 global biodiversity goals set 10 years ago with a 2020 deadline had been fully met.
Guterres said governments need to incorporate nature-based solutions into coronavirus recovery plans and invest in forests, wetlands and oceans.
“Ten years ago we made commitments that should have protected our planet. We largely failed. However, where efforts have been made, the benefits to our economy, human and planet health are irrefutable. Nature is resilient and can recover if we ease our relentless attack, ”said the UN chief.
The online event on Wednesday gave more than 100 heads of state and government the opportunity to arouse ambition to develop the 10-year strategy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the summit in a video message calling for global environmental cooperation. He said the countries are “passengers in the same boat”.
“The loss of biodiversity and the deterioration of the ecosystem pose a great risk to human survival,” said Xi, calling on humankind to make the planet a “beautiful home”. Last week, Xi China promised to be carbon neutral before 2060.
French President Emmanuel Macron said “2021 must be the year of action” while European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen reaffirmed her commitment to the new global framework for biodiversity.
The British Prince Charles said of the event: “I’m afraid we have been scared for the last hour. We know what to do … let’s move on. “
The United States did not attend the UN summit.
The world spends an estimated $ 80 billion to $ 90 billion each year on conservation. However, studies show that hundreds of billions of dollars can be required to keep ecosystems from collapsing.
Environmentalist and British broadcaster David Attenborough led a campaign by conservation groups for the world on Wednesday to invest $ 500 billion a year to stop the destruction of nature. The future of the planet is in “grave danger”.
Attenborough’s new film A Life on Our Planet documents the dangers of climate change and the extinction of species.
“Our natural world is under more pressure today than ever before in human history, and the future of the entire planet – on which each and every one of us depends – is seriously threatened,” Attenborough, 94, said in a press release.
“We still have the opportunity to reverse the catastrophic loss of biodiversity, but time is running out.”
Before the UN summit, heads of state and government from more than 70 countries and the European Union signed a pledge to reverse the loss of natural habitats by 2030.
However, the leaders of some of the world’s worst polluters – Brazil, China, India and the US – have not signed the pledge.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg commented, “It’s so easy to commit.”
“Everyone wants to save nature and the climate. However, when it comes to real actions, they fail every time, ”she tweeted.