Rich variety of life on earth essential says UN chief Guterres, marking biological diversity day
Since December 1993, when the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force, its parties have acted to conserve the earth’s flora and fauna, in a sustainable and fair way, said the UN chief.
“Achieving these objectives is integral to meet our goals for sustainable development,” Mr. Guterres stressed, underscoring the importance of protecting, restoring and ensuring access to ecosystems to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger: Goals 1 and 2 of what are known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To mitigate climate change, he notes that deforestation and land degradation must be reduced while at the same time, enhancing carbon stocks in forests, drylands, rangelands and croplands.
He said it was also critical to protect the biodiversity of forests and watersheds to support clean and plentiful water supplies.
Yet, despite these and other benefits, biodiversity continues to decline globally.
“The answer is to intensify efforts and build on successes,” stated Mr. Gutteres. He explained that in 2018, Parties to the Convention will begin work on a new action plan to ensure that, by 2050, biodiversity is preserved to the best of our abilities.
“The entire world needs to join this effort,” he emphasized: “I urge governments, businesses and people everywhere to act to protect the nature that sustains us. Our collective future depends on it,” concluded the Secretary-General.
In her message, Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), noted that biodiversity is at the heart of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Its decline compounds other challenges, including climate change, water and food security, and public health, which “can potentially lead to catastrophic outcomes for human existence on this planet,” she warned.
“It is therefore, imperative to do everything in our power to halt the destruction of nature,” she emphasized.
“We have two more years to go to redouble our efforts, […] to design a new deal for nature that will take us from 2020 to the middle of this century,” she said, adding: “We don’t have much time. But we have a lot of power if we work together, in a collaborative manner to change the way we use nature and biodiversity.
Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, drew attention to wetlands as being among the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth – from which almost all freshwater supplies are drawn.
“Given the increasing human population and its dependence on water and wetlands, we must work together in a collective, concerted and sustained effort to conserve wetlands for the planet’s biodiversity and human wellbeing,” she said.
For his part, David Morgan, from the UN-administered Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), reiterated that “biodiversity loss has an enormous impact on our planet, for both the natural environment and human beings.”
“Safeguarding biodiversity is among the key elements of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.
“While we are still facing tremendous challenges, with the political will of the world’s governments, we can protect the world’s biological diversity,” he asserted, affirming CITES’ continued collaboration with CBD “to save our common heritage for this and future generations.”
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Climate change: An ‘existential threat’ to humanity, UN chief warns global summit
Both leadership and innovation are essential for climate action, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his keynote address to the global gathering, known as the R20 Austrian World Summit – a long-term initiative to help regions, States and cities implement the Sustainable Development Goals and meet the Paris Agreement targets.
Mr. Guterres spelled out: “We must use all our resources to build a sense of urgency”, to raise ambition, while keeping temperature rises in the years ahead, as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.
He said there was reason to hope, declaring that “the world is seeing a groundswell of climate action”, citing examples, including Morocco’s building of a solar farm “the size of Paris, that will power over a million homes by 2020” and China’s achievement in already passing it’s 2020 goal of producing 105 gigawatts of solar power capacity.
“We must build on this,” the UN chief emphasized, calling renewable energy – which already produces a fifth of the world’s electricity – power that also delivers significant health benefits.
The World Health Organization reports that more than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas are exposed to poor-quality air that is damaging human health.
Financing to accelerate climate action is necessary if we are to bend the emissions curve Secretary-General António Guterres
“Investments in clean, green infrastructure need to be scaled up globally,” he explained. “For that, we need leadership from the finance and investment community and by local, regional and national governments who will decide on major infrastructure plans over the coming years.”
Mr. Guterres encouraged private sector leaders attending the UN General Assembly-backed summit in the Austrian capital, to announce new financing for clean energy projects.
While the 30-member independent International Energy Agency estimates that 2017 investments in renewable electricity amounted to $242 billion, said the UN chief, that was still far less than the funds invested in new fossil fuel development. Billions of dollars more needs to be invested in renewables if we are to see a “full-scale transition to clean energy” by 2020, said Mr. Guterres.
Moreover, some 75 per cent of the infrastructure needed by 2050 has still not been built.
“Mobilizing and equipping local governments with the capacity and financing to accelerate climate action is necessary if we are to bend the emissions curve,” he maintained.
Noting that climate change continues to move faster than climate action, Mr. Guterres quoted the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change saying: “The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”
“But,” he added, “it does not have to be that way,” pointing to solar, wind and cutting-edge technologies, such as electric vehicles or energy from algae in the ocean, which promises a new era of clean air.
“Let’s join a race to the top, a race where there are only winners,” concluded the Secretary-General.
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Save our planet by protecting migratory birds and their ‘epic journeys,’ urges UN chief
That’s one of the key messages from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, for World Migratory Bird Day, celebrated on Saturday, with the soaring message: “Unifying Our Voices for Bird Conservation.”
“Their epic journeys inspire people of all ages, across the globe,” he continued, adding: “World Migratory Bird Day is an opportunity to celebrate the great natural wonder of bird migration – but also a reminder that those patterns, and ecosystems worldwide, are threatened by climate change.”
The Day highlights the need to conserve migratory birds and their habitats by raising awareness of the threats they face, their ecological importance and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.
Migratory birds fly hundreds and thousands of kilometres, along historic routes, to find the best habitats available for feeding, breeding and raising their young. The perilous journeys involve a wide and diverse array of threats.
Of the 11,000-bird species on the planet, one-in-five is considered migratory. Forty per cent of them are in decline, with one-in-eight under threat of global extinction. Major threats include habitat-loss and degradation, caused by agricultural and coastal development; collision with badly placed wind turbines and powerlines; unsustainable harvesting, and illegal killing and taking.
Migratory birds are also greatly affected by poisoning, such as through ingesting lead released into the environment, through spent ammunition, or toxic weights used for fishing.
“Migratory birds are under threat from every corner: they are losing their habitats, subjected to illegal killing and suffering from the impacts of climate change,” said Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, adding that we all have a responsibility to “save such a precious component of the natural world.”
By protecting them, we protect our planet.
Key supporters and partners globally, are adamant that successful migratory bird conservation can only be achieved through a united effort.
Beginning this year, World Migratory Bird Day will be observed annually each May and October, to coincide with the cycle of migration, making it possible to organize events in countries around the world at peak migration times.
“I urge Governments and people everywhere to take concerted conservation action that will help to ensure the birds’ survival – and our own,” the Secretary-General concluded.
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