4 June 2020

The United Nations has observed World Environment Day on 5 June every year since 1974. In recognition of its high level of biodiversity, Colombia will host the 2020 celebration with the purpose of highlighting the role of nature for every citizen of the planet and to underline the importance of making the right decisions at this crucial moment, when the world's nations are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of its commitment to the planet, we will also host the Third meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. It will be a unique opportunity for the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to negotiate a global framework and to reiterate their commitments under the Convention. 

This is the time to recognize once again that nature offers incalculable benefits for people and society. Therefore, we must provide greater benefits through livelihoods. Recovery from the coronavirus pandemic must go hand in hand with fostering sustainable growth and honouring international environmental commitments, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.

Colombia has an unwavering obligation to protect its rich natural environment, which is part of the country’s DNA. This explains why we are working very closely with local authorities and communities in the Amazon countries in the implementation of the Leticia Pact on the Amazon Region to promote initiatives and strengthen coordinated actions. These measures will allow us to preserve and conserve forests and the environment, as well as to fight deforestation and forest degradation.

The serious challenges currently facing our planet

The global trend of biodiversity loss is threatening our survival as a species and the future of our planet. According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 1 million species are threatened with extinction due to human activities.1 Seventy-five per cent of our land has been severely altered in the last five decades; 66 per cent of our ocean area is experiencing cumulative impacts; and more than 85 per cent of our wetlands have been lost.2

Living in harmony with nature is a crucial challenge that requires a deep transformation in consumption and production patterns. Our actions and decisions today at the local, national and international levels will determine whether or not it is possible to shift towards a sustainable development pathway before it is too late. Scientific evidence has been clear in exposing the impacts and pressures of our productive activities related to agriculture, extensive livestock farming, infrastructure, fisheries, forestry and mining. Industrial growth and the use of fossil fuels have not only been responsible for climate change but also for harming our best cost-effective tools to fight it. Increasing temperatures have damaged the balance and connectivity of ecosystems that are essential assets in mitigation, adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

We have enormous, matchless momentum to change this path. Multilateral fora give us a unique opportunity to negotiate and implement a new, effective, ambitious and feasible global framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity. In this sense, we have the possibility of agreeing on global targets and measures that can put nature on a path to recovery. This agenda becomes even more relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the strong linkages between biodiversity loss and human health. For instance, deforestation and loss of habitats have broken the natural connectivity between ecosystems, leading to major interactions between the human species and wildlife species, including through wildlife trafficking.

Funding for the environment plays a key role in protecting ecosystems and preventing pathogens from spreading from wildlife to humans. Also, socioeconomic recovery should take into account the environmental dimension of sustainability. Otherwise negative impacts will add to the current costs of the pandemic and environmental challenges. Transformation is needed if we are to live in harmony with nature. The ambition and political will to initiate such change shall remain strong through the economic recovery process that most countries will initiate once the pandemic confinement has ended.

Guillermo Fernández de Soto, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Colombia to the United Nations and Chairman of the Peacebuilding Commission for 2019, delivers to the General Assembly a report by the Commission. 20 May 2019. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

To achieve this goal, the successful mobilization and engagement of the productive and private sectors, including the financial system, civil society, indigenous peoples, and local communities and individuals, are critical. The global biodiversity framework must become an action agenda of State and non-State actors, with clear guidelines that lead us to significant impacts during implementation.

Nature must be relevant at the highest levels of national planning, ensuring coherence among different ministries to address measures of conservation and sustainable use. Mainstreaming also needs to be present at the local levels of government, and in the enterprises and corporations linked to productive sectors.

Biodiversity is recognized as a national interest and strategic asset of the nation. It is in Colombia’s best interest to galvanize the adoption of an effective, ambitious and feasible framework, with strong means of implementation to catalyse the transformative changes required to live in harmony with nature.

Notes

1 Sandra Díaz and others, eds., Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Bonn, Germany, IPBES secretariat, 2019), p. 12.  https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-02/ipbes_global_assessment_report_summary_for_policymakers_en.pdf

2 Ibid., p. 11

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