Press Conference by United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity

22 September 2010

Press Conference by United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity

22 September 2010
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity


The actor Edward Norton, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, joined two leading authorities in the field of biodiversity at a Headquarters press conference today to warn of the dangers faced by the planet if States failed to confront the loss of biodiversity, less than a month before an international conference on the issue in Nagoya, Japan.

“The vital signs are very disturbing.  Basic biological infrastructure is deteriorating very rapidly,” said Professor Thomas Lovejoy, Heinz Center Biodiversity Chair at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.  Without progress on several fronts, including protection of ecosystems, a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and better management of the planet as a biophysical system, “the poor would suffer the most”, he added.

The press conference took place on the same day as a high-level General Assembly event on biodiversity.  (See Press Release GA/10992)  Opening that meeting, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had warned that targets to substantially reduce the rate of biodiversity loss this year — the International Year of Biodiversity — would not be met.  To augment efforts, participants at the Tenth Conference of the 193 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in Nagoya from 18 to 29 October, were expected to adopt a new strategic plan on biodiversity and a 2050 biodiversity vision.

Mr. Norton said the era in which environmental issues were considered separate from issues of human need was over.  Biodiversity was an issue that affected all people in their daily lives, he said, calling for engagement on the issue “on an individual level”.  One of the best ways in which individuals could act was to “vote with their dollars” and make economic choices that would slow the pace of biodiversity loss.

He said he also regretted the failure of the United States to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity, saying it was “deflating” to note that “countries as chaotic as Iraq and Somalia” had nevertheless acceded to the treaty.

Also at the press conference was Eric Chivian, Founder and Director, Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School, who introduced a report of the Center, which he said explored the link between human health and biodiversity.  “Human health is not usually part of discussions about biodiversity, and it has to be,” Dr. Chivian said.  He cited polar bears as an example, saying that their ability to hibernate for long periods without losing bone mass or needing to urinate could provide valuable clues for the treatment of osteoporosis and kidney ailments, respectively.  “If we lose polar bears in the wild, we may lose with them the secrets that they hold,” he said.

Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, said that the next 1,000 years of biodiversity would be decided by the actions of today’s generation.  “Business as usual is not an option,” he said.  “Protecting biodiversity is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity, and it is not a cost, but an investment.”  He, too, regretted that the United States had yet to ratify the Convention, leaving it only with observer status in Nagoya on a par with non-governmental organizations.  Such a situation was “not right”, he said, adding that “the status of the United States is more than just observing the process”.

The press conference concluded with the participants taking turns ringing a “biodiversity bell” representing extinct species and cast from the same Portland stone from England used on the facade of United Nations Headquarters.  The bell would be rung every 22 September as a reminder of today’s high-level event, and on every 22 May, the International Day of Biodiversity.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.