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SG/SM/20959
11 October 2021

‘We Are Losing Our Suicidal War against Nature’, Secretary-General Tells Biodiversity Summit, Urging Bold Actions towards Sustainable Future

Following is the text of UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ video message to the Leaders Summit of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, in Kunming, China, and online, virtually, today:

We are losing our suicidal war against nature.  Our two-century-long experiment with burning fossil fuels, destroying forests, wilderness and oceans and degrading the land has caused a biosphere catastrophe.

Humanity’s reckless interference with nature will leave a permanent record — just as today’s scientists study the traces of previous extinctions.  We are well into the Anthropocene extinction.  The rate of species loss is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average of the past 10 million years — and accelerating.  Over a million species of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates are at risk — many within decades.

Indigenous people and other vulnerable groups are among the worst affected.  Damage to the complex web of life that sustains us has already impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions, contributing to hunger, sickness and unemployment.  Ecosystem collapse could cost almost $3 trillion annually by 2030.  Its greatest impact will be on some of the poorest and most highly indebted countries.

I thank China for convening and hosting this meeting and for promoting the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.  COP15 [fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity] is our chance to call a ceasefire.  Together with COP26 on climate [twenty-sixth United Nations Climate Change Conference], it should lay the foundations for a permanent peace agreement.  By 2030, we must reverse our trajectory and start to build the world we want.

An ambitious and effective post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, with clear targets and benchmarks, can put nature and people back on track.  This framework should work in synergy with the Paris Agreement on climate change and other multilateral agreements on forests, desertification and oceans.

We need bold actions in five areas.  First, the post-2020 framework must support the legal right of all people, everywhere, to a healthy environment, including the rights of indigenous peoples who are stewards of biodiversity.

Second, it must support national policies and programmes that tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss, especially unsustainable consumption and production.  Third, it must work to transform national and global accounting systems so they reflect the true cost of economic activities, including their impact on nature and our climate.

Fourth, delivering the post-2020 framework will require a package of support to developing countries, including significant financial resources and technology transfer.  And fifth, it must end perverse subsidies, including to agriculture, that make it profitable to attack nature and pollute our environment.  These funds should be redirected into repairing the damage that has been done.

Action in these five areas will go far beyond biodiversity.  It will contribute across the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development:  to climate action, health, clean water and clean air, and ending poverty and hunger.

Young people stand to lose most from the devastation of natural environments and the loss of species.  They are crying out for change.  And they are mobilizing for a sustainable future for all.  They, and we, are counting on you.  I urge you to be bold and ambitious.  For our future, and the future of all generations to come.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.