Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Biodiversity pre-Conference of the Parties virtual meeting, held today:
I am pleased to greet this essential meeting, and I thank Colombia for hosting it. You meet at a critical moment. Biodiversity is collapsing — and we are the losers. As the President said, 1 million species are at risk of extinction. Ecosystems are suffering. Oceans are overfished, choking with plastic waste and acidifying. And every year, we destroy 10 million hectares of forests.
As people and livestock encroach further into wild habitats, we run the risk of unleashing terrifying new pandemics. As we reduce the variety and abundance of life, we remove options for society — from medicines to foods to the crucial solutions we need to mitigate and adapt to climate disruption. And when we degrade and destroy ecosystems around the world, we undermine their ability to absorb emissions and limit global heating to 1.5°C.
The evidence is overwhelming. Humanity is waging a senseless and self‑destructive war against nature. We must declare peace. This must be a priority for everyone, everywhere. Friends, we can do this. We know the problems. And we have the solutions — international, national and local. But, so far, our collective efforts have not been adequate. Progress on the Aichi Biodiversity Targets was limited. But, we can learn lessons from our efforts so we can do better.
That is your task. You are here to discuss and define a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This road map needs to be agreed at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Kunming, China, next year. The world is counting on an ambitious agreement that engages all stakeholders and equips us with the tools to transform our relationship with nature. The plan must fully reflect all the value of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, including — and especially — their value to our economies.
Today, we overfish, we cut down forests and destroy nature and it counts as positive economic growth, when, in fact, it is a profligate waste of assets that is undermining our societies’ viability. This is just plain wrong.
Above all, the new plan must be acted on. We need to support agriculture and fisheries that do not overexploit and destroy the natural world. We need ecosystems that help us adapt and build resilience to climate change.
Governments must shift the perverse subsidies that destroy healthy soils, pollute our water and empty the oceans of fish to those that incentivize actions to sustain nature. Countries need to deliver more, larger and better managed conservation areas to safeguard species, functioning ecosystems and carbon stocks for this and future generations. And we need to safeguard and empower the leadership of indigenous peoples and local communities whose lands encompass much of the world’s remaining biodiversity.
Above all, we need commitment, ambition and credibility. Science has given us the tools. Can diplomacy give us the wisdom to use them? We need a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that will inspire action around the world by all — Governments, businesses and citizens. We need everyone to act on the understanding that protecting nature will create a fairer, healthier and more sustainable world.
I am optimistic this can happen, especially when I see the awareness and commitment of the world’s young people. And I applaud the commitments already made. But, to succeed, we must be ambitious across the entire global biodiversity framework — on its targets and on the means of implementation. Only bold action on the ground can end the biodiversity crisis.
The future of humanity depends on our collective efforts. So, today, I call on all countries to make strong, credible commitments and to take ambitious action. The world needs you to demonstrate leadership and political will. Let us work together to sustain all life on Earth so people and nature may benefit.