Ban urges global alliance to save biodiversity as UN launches International Year

11 January 2010 – As the United Nations officially launched the International Year of Biodiversity today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called the failure to protect the world’s natural resources a “wake-up call” and urged each country and each person to engage in a global alliance to protect life on Earth.

“We must counter the perception that people are disconnected from our natural environment,” the Secretary General said in a message. “Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life.”

He noted that the General Assembly will hold a special high-level meeting on the subject in September. The event would give the international community an opportunity to demonstrate “much needed leadership” in advance of the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit, which will adopt a new strategic place for implementing the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Convention, which entered into force at the end of 1993 and now has 193 parties, is based on the premise that the world's diverse ecosystems purify the air and the water, stabilize and moderate the Earth's climate, renew soil fertility, cycle nutrients and pollinate plants.

Meanwhile, at the launch of the International Year in Berlin, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner said that 2010 will be a litmus test of the international community’s resolve to converse and enhance the planet’s natural assets.

He made a reference to the 2002 sustainable development summit in Johannesburg, where governments agreed to achieve by 2010 “a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional, and national level” – a target that is unlikely to be met.

“I would urge heads of State here in Berlin and beyond to renew their commitment and set their sights broad and high. The urgency of the situation demands that as a global community we not only reverse the rate of loss, but that we stop the loss altogether and begin restoring the ecological infrastructure that has been damaged and degraded over the previous century or so,” stressed Mr. Steiner.

These losses include biodiversity such as animal and plant species and the planet’s ecosystems and their multi-trillion dollar services arising from forests and freshwater to soils and coral reefs.

“The words biodiversity and ecosystems might seem abstract and remote to many people. But there is nothing abstract about their role in economies and in the lives of billions of people,” said Mr. Steiner.

The latest estimates by “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity” study, which UNEP hosts, indicates that coral reefs generate annually up to $189,000 per hectare in terms of coastal defenses and other areas of ‘natural hazard management.’

The first major event of the International Year of Biodiversity is scheduled to be a high-profile meeting on 21 and 22 January at the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which is expected to bring together heads of State, royalty and their representatives.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN opens Biodiversity Year with plea to save world's ecosystems

Related Stories