Secretary-General, at High-Level Meeting, Stresses Urgent Need to Reverse Alarming Rate of Biodiversity Loss, Rescue ‘Natural Economy’

22 September 2010
GA/10992-ENV/DEV/1158

Secretary-General, at High-Level Meeting, Stresses Urgent Need to Reverse Alarming Rate of Biodiversity Loss, Rescue ‘Natural Economy’

22 September 2010
General Assembly
GA/10992 ENV/DEV/1158
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Plenary

7th & 10thMeetings (AM & PM)

Secretary-General, at High-Level Meeting, Stresses Urgent Need to Reverse

 

Alarming Rate of Biodiversity Loss, Rescue ‘Natural Economy’

 

Conservation Inseparable from Fight against Poverty,

Says General Assembly President, as Thematic Panels Discuss Way Forward

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon implored world leaders this morning to commit to reversing the alarming rate of biodiversity loss and rescuing the natural economy before it was too late.

Conserving the planet’s species and habitat was not only central to sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals, it also had the potential to generate annual economic gains worth trillions of dollars, he said during the opening of the General Assembly’s high-level meeting as a contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity.

Allowing biodiversity to decline was like throwing money out the window, he continued.  “We must stop thinking of environmental protection as a cost.  It is an investment that goes hand in hand with the other investments that you, as Heads of State and Government, must make to consolidate economic growth and human well-being in your countries.”

Warning that the 2010 deadline for substantially reducing the rate of biodiversity loss would not be met, Mr. Ban urged leaders to muster the political will to turn that goal into reality, as their legacy and “gift to generations to come”.  He also called on them to push forward the strategic plan on biodiversity and the 2050 biodiversity vision expected to be adopted at the Tenth Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held in Nagoya, Japan, next month.

He said that, together, those initiatives would address such pressing concerns as the need to set concrete national targets before Rio+20, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, as well as access to and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from genetic resources.  “It is a solid plan, on paper.  But it will need leadership to bring it to life,” he said, calling on ministers of the environment, finance and planning, economic production and transport, health and social welfare, to do their part.

Echoing the Secretary-General’s concerns, General Assembly President Joseph Deiss (Switzerland) expressed hope that today’s discussions would contribute to the negotiations in Japan by ensuring that the strategic plan and vision would be ambitious and feasible.  The Millennium target on environmental protection, set out in the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, to stop biodiversity loss had not been met, but it was heartening that the international community was mobilizing to address the threat and take steps to assess the economic value of ecosystems.

He recalled that, last June, the international community had agreed at an ad hoc intergovernmental and multistakeholder meeting in Busan, Republic of Korea, to create the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) with the aim of closing the information gap separating scientists from policymakers on the question of biodiversity and ecosystems.

He said preserving biodiversity was inseparable from the fight against poverty and the struggle to improve health and security for the present and future generations.  “Preserving biodiversity is not a luxury, it is a duty,” he said, lamenting that worldwide human activity and climate change were destroying it, particularly in developing countries, with dire consequences for the world’s poorest people.

Yemen’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, agreed with that assessment, saying: “It is the poor of the world who will suffer the most if we do not stop the loss of our biological resources, since the poor depend disproportionately on biodiversity for their day-to-day livelihoods.”

Biodiversity was critical for developing countries, home to some of the world’s rarest species, he said, pointing out that species were disappearing at up to 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction.  In order to maintain biodiversity, it was crucial for States to implement in a mutually supportive manner the three objectives of the Convention: biodiversity conservation; sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from genetic resources, including by appropriate access to them and the transfer of relevant technologies as well as funding.

He said global partnerships and international commitments must be strengthened so that developing countries — the principal owners of biodiversity resources and the traditional knowledge associated with them — reaped the benefits of their use.  Moreover, the misappropriation of genetic resources and “biopiracy” must end, he said, stressing the need to adopt the protocol on access and benefit sharing in Nagoya.

Similarly, Izabella Teixeira, Brazil’s Minister for the Environment, called on States parties that would be attending the Nagoya Conference to negotiate that protocol as well as the post-2010 plan and a strategy for resource mobilization with attention and urgency.  The international community should also support national agendas to meet targets on biodiversity and ensure country ownership through predictable and sufficient resources and technology.

She stressed the need to “rescue the spirit of the Rio-92 Conference” which had led to the adoption of the Biodiversity Convention in order to seal a deal in Nagoya.  Particularly worrying was the fact that, in the past century, certain economic sectors had benefited from exploiting biodiversity, leaving ecosystem degradation and increased poverty in their wake.  “We need strong and determined responses and political will to change this scenario, in particular in the run-up to the Rio+20 Conference,” she stressed.  Conservation and sustainable use of biological resources was crucial for sustainable development and poverty eradication for all.

José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that European nations were doing their part to avert biodiversity loss, having provided $1 billion annually from 2002 to 2008 for that purpose.  They had also contributed significantly recently to replenishing the Global Environment Facility, earmarking $1.2 billion for biodiversity, a 28 per cent increase over the last replenishment.

He called for reforming, eliminating and reorienting subsidies harmful to biodiversity as well as funding for ecosystem services and other market-based instruments.  The European Union was prepared to work to improve and ensure long-term sustainable support for implementation, but all parties must share responsibility and ensure biodiversity objectives were given sufficient priority in Government plans and programmes.

Also today, the Assembly held morning and afternoon thematic panel discussions on the way forward to achieving the Convention’s three objectives and the internationally agreed biodiversity goals and targets.  Co-chairing the morning panel were President Danilo Türk of Slovenia and President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan, while the afternoon panel was co-chaired by María Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador’s Minister for Heritage, and Erik Solheim, Norway’s Minister for the Environment and International Development.

In closing remarks, the General Assembly President summarized the proceedings from the day’s thematic panel discussions.

Background

As the General Assembly convened this morning to hold a high-level meeting on biodiversity, delegates had before them a note by the Secretary-General on the high-level meeting of the General Assembly as a contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity (document A/64/865).

Serving as a background paper for the meeting, the note covers topics including framing the post-2010 biodiversity strategy and ensuring the means for implementing it; deriving benefits from biodiversity for development and poverty alleviation; and ensuring that measures to meet the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are mutually supportive and reinforcing.

The Biodiversity Convention’s three objectives are conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources, by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding.

In April 2002, the States parties to the Convention committed to significantly reducing, by 2010, the rate of biodiversity loss globally, regionally and nationally, as a contribution to poverty alleviation and for the benefit of all life on Earth.  Subsequently endorsed by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and the General Assembly, that target was incorporated into the Millennium Development Goals.

For further background, see Press Release GA/10990 issued 21 September 2010.

Opening Remarks

JOSEPH DEISS, President of the General Assembly, said biological diversity was at the heart of life.  In declaring 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity, the Assembly had launched an invitation to take action to safeguard the biodiversity of life on Earth.  Holding a General Assembly meeting was a welcome contribution to the International Year, he said, noting that it was often difficult to be aware of biodiversity’s importance, in particular the risk of losing it.

He said biodiversity worldwide was declining through human action, adding that climate change was also contributing to the problem.  The combined effects hampered efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals, and the consequences would be more onerous for the poorest, since many areas of declining biodiversity were situated in developing countries.  It was heartening that the international community was mobilizing to deal with the threat.  While the relevant Millennium Goal had not been achieved, many States had taken measures to protect biodiversity, and initiatives were being taken to assess the economic value of ecosystems, he said.

In June 2009, the international community had decided to create an intergovernmental platform to fill the gap separating Governments from scientific knowledge of ecosystems, he recalled.  Next month, the Tenth Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity would be held in Nagoya, Japan, to adopt a new strategic plan.  It was to be hoped that today’s discussions would provide a useful contribution to the negotiations there, in order to ensure that the new plan was ambitious and feasible.  Preserving biodiversity was inseparable from the fight against poverty and the struggle to improve health and security for the present and future generations, he said in conclusion.  “Preserving biodiversity is not a luxury, it is a duty.”

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that conserving the planet’s species and habitats was central to sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.  With 2010 marking the International Year of Biodiversity and the international community’s deadline for substantially reducing the rate of biodiversity loss, that target would not be met.  The third Global Biodiversity Outlook report indicated that the global decline in biological diversity was accelerating, while science showed that humankind’s actions had pushed extinctions up to 1,000 times the natural background rate.  Human activity, including deforestation, changes in habitat and land degradation, was to blame, and the growing impact of climate change was compounding the problem.

Pointing out that the poor were the hardest hit, he said too many people still failed to grasp the implications of the destruction.  Many still believed that the Earth was humankind’s to use as it liked.  That argument betrayed a woeful ignorance of the importance of ecosystems to the well-being of species, climate regulation, water supplies and food security.  “In this International Year, we need to demonstrate the concrete beliefs of investing in biodiversity,” he said.  “We need to show that protecting ecosystems can help us achieve the Millennium Development Goals and build resilience to climate change.”

Worldwide, ecosystems were a massive undervalued subsidy provided by the environment, he continued.  When their services were lost through mismanagement, crops failed, profits dropped, people became poorer and economies suffered.  Pointing to the human cost of deforestation in Haiti and Ethiopia, or the United States dustbowl of the 1930s, he said last year’s financial crisis had been a wake-up call to Governments on the perils of failing to oversee and regulate complex relationships that affected everyone.  The biodiversity crisis was no different.  “We are bankrupting our natural economy.  We need to fashion a rescue package before it is too late,” he stressed.

Next month, the 193 States parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity would meet in Japan and adopt a new strategic plan on biodiversity and a 2050 biodiversity vision, he said.  That overarching international framework had resulted from a comprehensive and inclusive two-year process.  It called for concrete national targets before Rio+20, the engagement of all stakeholders and the inclusion of biodiversity considerations across all sectors of society.  It included means of implementation as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.  It would address the important issues of access to genetic resources and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from them.  “It is a solid plan, on paper.  But it will need leadership to bring it to life,” he said.

That meant leadership from ministers of the environment, finance and planning, economic production and transport, health and social welfare, he continued.  “Moreover, we must stop thinking of environmental protection as a cost.  It is an investment that goes hand in hand with the other investments that you, as Heads of State and Government, must make to consolidate economic growth and human well-being in your countries.”  Maintaining and restoring the planet’s natural infrastructure could provide economic gains worth trillions of dollars annually, he said, emphasizing that allowing it to decline was “like throwing money out the window”.  He said in conclusion: “I urge all leaders present today to commit to reducing biodiversity loss.  This will be your legacy — your gift to generations to come.”

Statements

ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the natural wealth of biodiversity was critical for developing countries.  At the same time, those countries were a treasure trove of biodiversity and home to some of the rarest species, which in turn held valuable genetic resources.  Today, species were disappearing at up to 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction.  “It is the poor of the world who will suffer the most if we do not stop the loss of our biological resources, since the poor depend disproportionately on biodiversity for their day-to-day livelihoods,” he said.

Calling for the urgent and mutually supportive implementation of the Convention’s three objectives, he said the conservation of biodiversity could not be achieved without the sustainable use of genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of their benefits.  The three pillars of the Convention were not only important to the development of developing countries, but provided important tools in the fight against poverty.  Global partnerships and international commitments must be strengthened to ensure that the owners of biodiversity resources and the traditional knowledge associated with them — which were mainly developing countries — benefited from the use of those resources.

He went on to point out that developing countries would not realize the Millennium Development Goals without addressing the international threats to biodiversity, in particular the misappropriation of genetic resources and “biopiracy”.  To that end, the adoption of the protocol on access and benefit sharing at the Nagoya meeting was of strategic importance.  The challenges of continuing biodiversity loss, compounded by climate change, required the full engagement of all stakeholders, as well as the active engagement of all Governments, without exception, he stressed.

Reiterating the call by the Group of 77 on the sole remaining country yet to accede to the Convention to do so as soon as possible, he said the Group was committed to finalizing the draft Multi-Year Plan of Action for South-South Cooperation on Biodiversity for Development.  In that regard, it welcomed the First South-South Cooperation Forum on Biodiversity for Development, to be held in Nagoya on 17 October.  “More than ever, the establishment of a global alliance for protecting life on Earth is required,” he said.  “This unique event offers us a unique opportunity as leaders of the world to provide leadership and lead by example for the benefit of life on Earth.”

IZABELLA TEIXEIRA, Minister for the Environment of Brazil, recalled that her country had hosted the Eighth Conference of the Parties in 2006.  As a highly diverse country, Brazil was aware of the strategic value of biodiversity and the attention and urgency that must be dedicated to conserving it.  Regarding the resolution proclaiming the International Year, she said now was the time to transform words and political discussions into action.  “We should pave the way for a more sustainable society, since what we have at present is quite a disturbing picture.”  Not only had the world been unable to reduce the rate or speed of biodiversity loss, as set out in the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, but indicators pointed to a growing deterioration of biodiversity worldwide.

One of the key messages of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was that during the past century, certain economic sectors had benefited from the conversion of natural ecosystems and biodiversity exploitation, she said.  However, those gains had been achieved at the cost of growing losses of biodiversity, ecosystem degradation and increased poverty.  “We need strong and determined responses and political will to change this scenario, in particular in the run-up to the Rio+20 Conference,” she said.  Brazil was doing its part, she said, pointing out that the most recent Global Biodiversity Outlook listed the country as one of the few to have contributed to improving the situation.  Brazil had created the greatest number of new protected areas in recent years, in addition to having reduced deforestation rates to historical lows.  However, much remained to be done, she cautioned.

Highlighting the important outcome of establishing the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in the Republic of Korea, she said that by creating adequate links between science, policymaking and capacity-building to provide credible and relevant information on biodiversity and ecosystems, IPBES would improve the international community’s understanding of the need for immediate action against biodiversity loss, as well as the consequences of inaction.  The lasting success of conservation efforts would rest on the decisions to be made during the upcoming Tenth Conference of the Parties, she said.

She said the States parties had been negotiating a protocol on access and benefit sharing, which was fundamental to overcoming the Convention’s implementation deficit and combating biopiracy, as well as a new post-2010 plan and a new strategy for resource mobilization.  Those three elements must be considered and negotiated with attention and urgency.  In addition, a central part of future efforts must include support for national efforts to meet targets on biodiversity and ensure country ownership.  They must be supported by predictable, increased and sufficient resources and technology.  She stressed the need to “rescue the spirit of the Rio-92 Conference”, which had led to the adoption of the Convention.  “I call on all to renew that same sentiment of commitment, of political will, and of ethical-moral responsibility for the well-being of current and future generations.  We need a deal in Nagoya.”

NORBERT RÖTTGEN, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany, said that in the time it would take to deliver his statement, more than half a football field of German land would be converted into transport and settlement areas, while the equivalent of 170 football fields would be deforested globally.  More than 900 tons of fish would be taken from the oceans and one more species might vanish from the planet forever.  “And we let it happen.  We let it happen, even though we value these plants and animals as part of our world, and even though we know that biological diversity is vital to feeding us humans.”

Conserving biological diversity was not a luxury but necessary insurance, an investment in future and lives, he emphasized.  Conserving biodiversity worldwide required committed and long-term action and cooperation among the international community.  Today, a signal should be sent on the need for a global pact on biodiversity, among other means by recognizing the value of biodiversity for human well-being and for the global economy, and by reducing the ecological footprint and restructuring production, trade and consumption.  The financial foundations for tackling those and other challenges at the national and international levels must be significantly strengthened, he said.

SEIJI MAEHARA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that swathes of forest equivalent to one third of his country’s total area were vanishing every year.  “If the destruction of the ecosystem continues at this pace, mankind could eternally lose most of nature’s bounty in the near future.  We should understand that the loss of biodiversity has been caused by none other than human activities,” he said, adding that new action must be taken to halt the loss.

In October, Japan would host the Tenth Conference of the Parties in Nagoya, with the aim of achieving a global agreement on commencing new actions and setting global targets up to 2020 and 2050.  Negotiators would try to reach agreement on a new international regime covering access to and sharing of benefits relating to genetic resources as well as international rules on modified organisms.  That could lead to an “epoch-making agreement to facilitate” the flow of funds for habitat conservation.

He said his country had proposed adopting a resolution on the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity during the current session.  It would call for the promotion of concerted action over the next 10 years, not only within the framework of the Convention, but also throughout the United Nations system.  Japan would also strive for the adoption of a resolution on IPBES during the session.  It would provide a scientific basis for policies on biodiversity conservation.

Japan would also propose the “Satoyama Initiative” in Nagoya, with a view to enabling the international sharing of experiences and practices developed in different regions of the world.  Japan also intended to propose assistance measures to support developing countries in the formulation and implementation of national strategies, if a global common target was agreed at the Conference of the Parties.  “ Japan has long valued living in harmony with nature through the ingenious utilization of nature’s abundant gifts in our daily lives and activities,” he said.  “As the Earth and humankind are in a crisis caused by the loss of biodiversity, we are urged to address the root cause by making our lifestyles and behaviour more harmonious with nature.”

JOSÉ MANUEL DURÃO BARROSO, President of the European Commission, spoke on behalf of the European Union, warning that the world was standing at a crossroads.  Either the international community took concerted action to reverse biodiversity loss as soon as possible, or it compromised its own future and that of future generations.  “ Nagoya is our chance to turn the situation around.  It is our chance to make decisions that will strengthen implementation of the Convention’s three key objectives,” he said.  It was important to adopt a new and effective strategic plan that encouraged collective action and enjoyed the support of everyone who benefited from biodiversity or whose activities had an impact on it.

“That plan must be sufficiently ambitious to force all States parties to the Convention to raise their game, to tackle the key drivers of biodiversity loss and to prevent ecological tipping points from being reached,” he said.  It was important finally to conclude negotiations on the protocol on access and benefit sharing, which should ensure transparency, legal certainty and predictability for those seeking access to genetic resources, as well as the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from them.  It was also important to agree on how best to build capacity and mobilize scientific, technological, human and financial resources to enable all parties to implement their commitments under the Convention.

As part of its 2020 biodiversity target, the European Union had committed to bolstering its contribution to averting global biodiversity loss, providing $1 billion annually from 2002 to 2008, he said.  Its members had also made significant contributions recently to replenish the Global Environment Facility, earmarking $1.2 billion for biodiversity, a 28 per cent increase over the last replenishment.  There was a need to reform, eliminate and reorient subsidies harmful to biodiversity, and for funding payments for ecosystem services and other market-based instruments.  The European Union was prepared to work with all parties to improve and ensure long-term sustainable support for implementation.  However, all parties must share responsibility and ensure that biodiversity objectives were given sufficient priority in Government plans and programmes.  He welcomed last June’s decision in the Republic of Korea to create the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, saying he looked forward to a positive Assembly decision by year’s end to create that Platform in 2011.

Thematic Panel I

Co-chairing the first of two thematic panels on the theme “The way forward in achieving the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the internationally agreed biodiversity goals and targets”, were Danilo Türk, President of Slovenia, and Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan.

During the discussion, Heads of States and Government, other high-ranking officials and representatives of civil society warned that continuing degradation of biological diversity, caused mainly by human action, would adversely affect the planet’s ability to regenerate sufficiently to sustain life.  “We cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without us,” one speaker said, pointing out that another planet was not available.

With 22 per cent of mammal species at risk of extinction, coral reefs endangered by global warming and other distressing vital signs, the situation was bleak, speakers stressed, with one noting that human activities had now exceeded the Earth’s regeneration capacity by 40 per cent.  Humankind must accept that the planet’s resources were finite, and its biological infrastructure was on the verge of collapse.  If that happened, the poor would suffer most, since they depended most heavily on biodiversity.  Speakers stressed in that regard that Government measures and policies, in and of themselves, were not enough and that everybody must adjust current unsustainable production and consumption patterns.

There had been a collective failure to meet the Convention’s target of reducing the rate of biodiversity loss, speakers stressed.  During next month’s Tenth Conference of Parties in Nagoya, agreement must be reached on a new, achievable and workable post-2010 strategic plan for the further implementation of the Convention, with clear, measurable and communicable targets for 2020, which should be monitored.

The Nagoya Conference should also adopt a legally binding protocol to the Convention, on access to and sharing of the benefits of the use of biological resources and associated traditional knowledge, numerous speakers said.  They called for a resource mobilization strategy that could provide developing countries with adequate resources and technology.  It was emphasized that the protocol could also address the issue of “biopiracy”, with countries making use of genetic resources taking measures to protect the rights of the countries of origin.

Also of high importance was the creation of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, intended to fill the communication gap separating science from policymakers.  Speakers called on the current session of the General Assembly to adopt a resolution establishing that Platform.

Many speakers stressed the link between declining biodiversity and climate change, noting that the financing of activities to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change should contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.  Support was expressed in that regard for initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) and forest conservation, sustainable forest management and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+) based on active participation by developing countries.  Biodiversity, food security and climate change must be tackled together, one speaker said, while others called for greater cohesion between the activities of the Biodiversity Convention, the Convention on Deforestation and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

According to speakers, countering biodiversity loss would also help realize the Millennium Development Goals, strengthen food security and alleviate poverty, since the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources created opportunities for sustainable development.  Without biodiversity, there would be no food.  Protecting it was not just a matter of protecting birds and plants, but one of combating poverty.  In that regard, speakers urged special attention to the African continent, which had huge biological resources and reserves, but lacked the resources to combat the loss of its natural heritage.  Some speakers also underlined the importance of protecting the biodiversity of marine environments by establishing protected marine areas and no-take zones.

Some speakers suggested that a price tag should be placed on ecosystem services so they could be integrated into economic policies.  Biodiversity issues must be part of mainstream policymaking.  Many stressed the need to include civil society and the private sector in the debate on biodiversity, and underscored the importance of education in that regard.  Local communities, the poor, indigenous peoples, women and youth should be involved, because “we do not inherit the planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”, according to one speaker.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh participated in the discussion.

Other high-level Government officials making interventions included the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia; the Minister for Environment of Canada; the Minister for Environment and Forests of India; the Minister for Environment of Japan; the Secretary for Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina; the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom; the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico; the Minister for Environment of the Republic of Korea; the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Botswana; the Minister for Environment of Sweden; the Minister for Environment and Forestry of Turkey; the Secretary of State for Environment of Portugal; the Minister for Environment, Nature and Culture of Belgium; and the Minister for National Planning and Development of Indonesia.

Other speakers were the Minister for the Environment of Denmark; the Secretary of State for Climate Change of Spain; the Minister for Ecology of France; the Minister for Environment of Peru; the Minister for Environment and Forests of Romania; the Minister for Environment of Brazil (on behalf of the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries); the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela; the Minister for Environment of Chile (on behalf of the Rio Group); the Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs of the United States; the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand; and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Madagascar.

The Permanent Representative of Morocco spoke on behalf of his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Also addressing the meeting were representatives of the Smallholders Foundation of Nigeria; the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment; and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Thematic Panel II

María Fernanda Espinosa, Minister for Heritage of Ecuador, and Erik Solheim, Minister for the Environment and International Development of Norway, co-chaired the second thematic panel this afternoon, as speakers reiterated the many concerns and views expressed during the morning discussion.

Shedding light on the impact of biodiversity loss on small island developing States, speakers pointed out that the livelihoods of rural communities in those countries were under threat, dependent as they were on wild flora and fauna for hunting, fishing, tour guiding and other nature-based activities.  Climate change had caused coral bleaching, dried up wetland environments, engendered harsher dry seasons and increased the intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms.  It threatened the ability to provide clean water, protect fisheries and sustain tourism.

Moreover, the extinction rates in island States, especially for bird species, were among the highest in the world due to invasive species, the loss of habitat and excessive resource exploitation, the meeting heard.  Rising extinction rates were particularly worrying because the Pacific Ocean covered 35 per cent of the earth’s surface and was home to more than half the known species of cetaceans and six of the seven known marine turtle species.  Many small islands also grappled with the need to balance competing demands to use land for infrastructure, agriculture and housing expansion with the need for biodiversity conservation.  That challenge, coupled with the islands’ vulnerability to sea level rise as well as capacity and financial resource constraints, thwarted efforts to meet long-term biodiversity targets.

To address those alarming trends, according to speakers, it was necessary to enact programmes promoting national ownership of sustainable development and conservation, and to apply the best modern and traditional science, taking into account local systems of land and marine resource ownership.  One speaker called for standardizing definitions to improve the quality and usefulness of biodiversity data so as to inform decision-making, and urged international agencies to help developing countries improve their collection of statistical data and analysis of the impact of biodiversity loss.  Another speaker pointed to the importance of cross-border collaboration in managing shared biological resources.

Other speakers said biodiversity loss caused by climate change should be addressed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and that a second period of commitment should be formed to reduce harmful greenhouse gases and prevent uncontrollable and unpredictable biodiversity loss from threatening humanity’s survival.  They called for strongly building on the synergies between the Climate Change Convention and the Biodiversity and Desertification Conventions.

Speakers also expressed worries about the key findings of the third Global Biodiversity Outlook report, according to which the 2010 biodiversity target of significantly reducing biodiversity loss had not been met, due in part to limited financial, human and technical capacity in the developing world.  That situation must change, they stressed.  One speaker said that the revised post-2010 strategy was comprehensive and ambitious enough to close existing gaps, but its successful implementation, particularly by developing countries and economies in transition, depended on predictable, timely and increased funding.  Moreover, the Global Environmental Facility should explore mechanisms to channel additional funds for implementing the strategic plan, in accordance with targets to be adopted in Nagoya.

The Prime Minister of Samoa participated in the discussion.

Other high-level Government officials making interventions includedthe Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines; the Minister for Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa; the Minister for Housing and the Environment of Trinidad and Tobago; the Minister for Habitat and Environment of Gabon; the Minister for Forestry and the Environment of Gambia; the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Solomon Islands; the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guyana; the Minister for the Environment of Mozambique; the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala; the Minister for Forest Economy and the Environment of Congo; the Minister for Environment, Water Resources and Drainage of Barbados; and the Minister of State for the Environmentof Uganda.

Other speakers were the Vice-Minister for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of Iran; the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan; the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment of Poland; the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece; the Vice-Minister in the Federal Office for the Environment of Switzerland; the Vice-Minister for the Environment of Colombia; the Assistant Secretary for the Environment Branch in the International Legal Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia; the Vice-Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic; the Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands; and the Vice-Chair of the National Planning Commission of Nepal.

The Permanent Representatives of New Zealand, Finland, Kenya and Libya also spoke, as did the Commissioner for the Environment of the European Union.

Closing Remarks

General Assembly President DEISS ( Switzerland) summarized the day’s discussions and said the summary would be transmitted to the Tenth Conference of the Parties in Nagoya next month.  Representatives of Member States and other participants had stressed the importance of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, particularly poverty eradication.  They had noted the importance of fully realizing the Convention’s three objectives to protect biodiversity and its many services, including clean water and medicine, and its role as a buffer against natural disasters.  In that regard, they had stressed the importance of securing successful outcomes during the Nagoya meeting.

He said that, while noting the progress made thus far on negotiating the draft protocol on access to and sharing of the benefits derived from genetic resources, participants had expressed concern over some issues that were still outstanding.  They had called for stronger political impetus and flexibility by all parties in the negotiations, in order to ensure the protocol’s effective adoption in Nagoya.

The Nagoya meeting presented an important opportunity to develop a post-2010 strategic plan containing ambitious measures and time-bound diversity targets for 2020, he continued.  A Decade for Biodiversity and the proposed South-South multi-year plan of action would support implementation of the new strategic plan.  Participants had also stressed the importance of creating IPBES and welcomed the progress achieved at the June intergovernmental and multistakeholder meeting in Busan, Republic of Korea, facilitated by the United Nations Environment Programme.

He said that the true economic values of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it underpinned were now being identified to their full extent.  Participants had called for strengthening the biodiversity and economic nexus by incorporating the true values of biodiversity into economic theory, financial planning and investments in all sectors, as well as in policy and planning processes at all levels.

Participants had also recognized that biodiversity and healthy ecosystems were an essential part of the solution to climate change challenges, he said.  There were substantial benefits to be gained from coherently implementing the three Rio Conventions and other biodiversity-related instruments.  They had called for bold action to ensure that countries lacking the resources and capabilities to effectively implement their biodiversity strategies and commitments had access to financial resources and technology transfer.  They had also called for increased capacity-building and scientific and technical cooperation.

Participants had also stressed the need to mobilize civil society and the private sector, and to fully involve indigenous and local communities, women and children in implementing the new biodiversity strategic plan, he said.  They had noted that, unless current rates of biodiversity loss were reversed, there would be drastic consequences for society.  They had stressed the need to reform the patterns of production, consumption and economic growth, so as to ensure that everyone lived within ecological limits.

The representative of Venezuela then took the floor to ask the President about modifying his summary since the paragraph on IPBES did not reflect exactly today’s discussion.  In its current form, it would prejudge the discussions in Nagoya, and it did not reflect the positions of Venezuela and some other countries.  Not all Member States recognized the importance of creating IPBES, she said, adding that it would be better for the summary to say that some States had considered the importance of creating IPBES.  That way, the Assembly would not be prejudging the Nagoya outcome.

The President duly took note of those views and said that discussions on the text and its merits would take place in Nagoya.

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