Humanity Must Prosper in Harmony with Nature, Says Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Biodiversity Conference

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the high-level segment of the fifteenth Conference of the Parties on the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Montreal today:

The natural world — and by extension humanity’s future — is at a crossroads.  For far too long, our species has despoiled Mother Earth.

We have destroyed its forests, degraded its lands and overexploited its resources.  We have polluted its freshwater and ocean.  And we have upset its delicate climatic balance — among a host of other trespasses.

As a result, nature is declining at a rate unprecedented in human history.  We are pushing around 1 million species towards extinction.

This destruction comes at a catastrophic cost to all of us.  From the bees that pollinate our crops, to the mangroves that protect our coastlines — these plants and animals underpin our lives, our economies, our societies, and our resilience to natural hazards and climate change disasters.

Meanwhile, cascading events of massive loss — from wildfires to flooding and zoonotic infections like COVID-19 — have been a wake-up call.

We must stop our assault on the natural world, and start to value the multiple benefits that nature provides across all sectors of society.  It’s time to end the triple planetary crisis and reset our relationship with nature.

All of you are part of this process of renewal.  You have been working for four years to develop a global framework and course of action to sustain our world’s rich diversity.  And you’ve made significant progress here in Montreal.

In recent days, you’ve completed your negotiations on half of your agenda.  And you have made progress towards important agreements on capacity-building, technical and scientific cooperation, and approaches to strengthen the transparency of implementation of the Convention.

There is still so much more to do — and time is running out.  Soon — very soon — this conference will end.  Before it does, we must do three things.

First, we need to agree on an ambitious post-2020 global biodiversity framework and ensure its implementation.  This framework for action must halt and reverse biodiversity loss and identify the urgent, just and green transitions needed to put humanity on a path to living in harmony with nature.

Second, developed countries must support developing nations with financial resources, technical expertise and capacity-building, to ensure that the framework is implemented fairly and equitably across all countries.  This is especially important for developing countries, which are home to a great majority of the world’s biodiversity.  And they are bearing a disproportionate cost for the gradual loss of this global good.

Third, we need much greater clarity around how the wealth resulting from rapid advances in genetic sequencing technology and commercial applications will be shared equitably.  Indigenous Peoples and local communities must benefit from the advances based on plants and animals harvested from their territories.  It is crucial that we leave Montreal with these three elements in place.

Of course, no agreement is going to be perfect.  But, a strong global accord — one that ends our senseless and self-defeating war on nature and shifts our course of action for the future — must be secured.

The next crucial step will be implementation.  That means developing national plans that mobilize and catalyse broad action for biodiversity across the world.  These plans must involve all sectors of society — especially youth, indigenous peoples, local communities and academia.

These plans must also mobilize historic levels of investment.  A 2021 United Nations report found that the world will need to invest $8.1 trillion by 2050 to meet its climate, biodiversity and land degradation goals.

Governments alone cannot foot this bill alone.  The corporate world must do its part to protect nature that is at the foundation of its business.

Throughout, we must recognize and protect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, who are the most effective guardians of biodiversity.  And we must never lose sight of the deep interconnections between the biodiversity and climate crises.  We need a cross-sectoral focus that builds on the progress made through the Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan from the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties, to advance a coherent and synergistic approach.

Before I close, I would like to offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to China for their leadership of the fifteenth Conference of the Parties, to Canada for hosting us, and to all Ministers and negotiators who in the days ahead will be working tirelessly to make this Conference of the Parties a turning point of success.  This is a historic chance to conserve and restore our natural world.  And you are all part of this great effort.

Together we can protect the web of life that makes our planet unique — and ensure that humanity prospers in harmony with nature.  Let’s seize this opportunity.  For people.  For planet.  For future generations.

For information media. Not an official record.