Top UN officials warn of dangers of biodiversity loss

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

28 May 2008 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim today warned of the consequences resulting from the loss of biodiversity, including the impacts on the economy, development and efforts to mitigate climate change.

“Nature’s assets underpin the very lives and livelihoods of more than six billion people. They make our very existence possible in the vacuum of space,” Mr. Ban said in a statement, delivered by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner, to a major conference on biological diversity which kicked off today in Bonn, Germany.

He stressed that inaction on the issue will jeopardize progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline, as well as impact the entire world.

“Now the economics are coming to the fore, underlining the costs of degradation but also the abundant returns if we invest in this bottom green line,” the Secretary-General observed.

In spite of progress, with more than 12 per cent of land now in protected areas, the speed of response has not kept pace with the scale of degradation, he said.

Mr. Ban pointed to the increased need to preserve natural assets to provide protection against climatic events, such as Cyclone Nargis, which devastated Myanmar earlier this month. “Half the country’s mangroves – its natural sea defenses – have been cleared over the past 30 years,” he said, adding that this made communities more vulnerably to the deadly storm.

In his address to the three-day meeting – attended by the leaders of Germany, Canada and Palau, together with 87 ministers – the Assembly President noted that “the world is now facing an unprecedented loss of biodiversity.”

He said that four species or sub-species are lost every hour, while 20 hectares of forests disappear every minute and forests covering an area four times the size of Belgium are lost annually.

Mr. Kerim underscored that if “we conserve biodiversity, we preserve our chances of developing sustainably and of living healthy lives even as the climate changes.”

As part of the International Year for Biodiversity in 2010, he voiced his support for the convening of a one-day high-level segment of the General Assembly to allow the international community to focus global attention on the biodiversity crisis.

“We have seen in various instances that leadership at the highest level is required to move issues forward,” the Assembly President pointed out.

Participants at the high-level conference are discussing measures on how to meet the globally-agreed target of substantially reducing the rate of global biodiversity loss by 2010. They are examining such issues as the expansion of expanding protected areas, developing a system for fairly accessing and sharing the world’s biodiversity wealth, the sustainable use of biofuels and the protection of the world’s forests and marine areas.

On the sidelines of this meeting, Mr. Kerim met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the two conferred on current UN steps to combat climate change and reform the world body, including modifying the Security Council.

Biodiversity and global warming were also discussed during his meeting this morning with German Environmental Minister Sigmar Gabriel.

From Germany, the Assembly President will travel tonight to Albania’s capital Tirana, where he will meet tomorrow with the South-East European nation’s President, Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and Foreign Ministry officials. He is also scheduled to meet with the UN country team in Albania, which is one of the eight pilot countries of the “One UN” programme, which seeks to better coordinate UN operations and accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by establishing a joint office for UN development agencies.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Loss of animal species and crops is ‘devastating’ – Secretary-General Ban

Related Stories




In-depth Interviews