20 April 2021

Investing in Ecosystem Conservation Yields More than Subsidies to Agriculture, Deputy Secretary-General Tells ‘Raising Ambition for Nature’ Event

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the “Raising Ambition for Nature” event today:

I would like to first of all begin by thanking the Permanent Representatives from Colombia, Bhutan and the European Union, who are co-hosting this very important meeting at a timely opportunity.

Nature is the foundation of our societies and economies.  Raising ambition for our planet is raising ambition for people.  Exposure to air and water pollution claims at least 9 million lives every year.  And 40 per cent of the population is negatively affected by the loss and degradation of the soil that feeds us.

Raising ambition for nature is at the core of ensuring an inclusive and sustainable recovery, and a necessary condition to deliver the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and the Paris Agreement.  The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has found that every dollar invested in ecosystem conservation yields seven times more in the wider economy compared to subsidies to conventional agriculture.

Setting a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework is an opportunity for us to demonstrate greater ambition.  As the intergovernmental negotiations will soon resume, we have no time to lose.  But ambition is also required in deploying more broad-based approaches that engage stakeholders across the breadth and levels of government and society.

I see three concrete actions to raise ambition for nature.

First, with the 2030 Agenda as our guide, we need to transform our food, water, transport and energy systems, leveraging the opportunities provided by sustainable consumption and production to ensure that no one is left behind.

Second, we need ambitions for nature to be matched with nature-positive investments from domestic and international, public and private sources.  The total annual international public finance for nature is significantly less than the subsidies leading to its degradation.  This is not sustainable.  And it does not make economic sense.

Third, we need to place nature at the heart of socioeconomic decision-making.  To do this, we have to correct the shortcomings of governance and in markets.  I am encouraged by the breakthrough last month at the United Nations Statistical Commission, which adopted an international standard of accounting for nature.  The new System of Environmental-Economic Accounting—Ecosystem Accounting will ensure that natural capital — our forests, wetlands and other ecosystems — are recognized in economic reporting and that our natural assets are maintained similar to our economic assets.

Within the United Nations system we are committed to a common approach for integrating biodiversity and nature-based solutions for sustainable development across our policy and programmes.  This means integrating nature across our work in support of human rights and peaceful societies; a green and inclusive economic recovery; and strengthened systems of governance, rule of law and justice.

We are also supporting the establishment of the Task Force on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures.  Working with many financial institutions, businesses and Member States, this Task Force will catalyse shifting of financial flows so they become nature-positive.

We welcome the commitments and pledges from Member States, civil society organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities, youth, and the private sector.  Such commitments — including the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature that brings together over 80 Member States to raise ambition on reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 — are critical for driving momentum and raising ambition on the road ahead to COP15 of the Convention on Biodiversity in October.

We are at a make-or-break moment.  Twenty-twenty-one provides a unique opportunity to halt the rapid loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation, while addressing the climate emergency.  Success at the three upcoming Rio Convention COPs (Conferences of Parties), as well as the Food Systems Summit, would be a strong signal to the world of how multilateralism can deliver.

We need a comprehensive and coherent approach which builds on promoting linkages and synergies.  The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the multiple costs when we wage war on nature.  Making peace with nature is the defining task of the twenty-first century.  If we are to ensure a sustainable future for all, then raising ambition for nature — and delivering on this ambition — must be a top priority for all.

For information media. Not an official record.