UN Headquarters

18 February 2021

Opening remarks at joint press conference with UNEP's Inger Andersen at launch of "Making Peace with Nature" report

António Guterres

Good day to everybody, everywhere.

I am pleased to join the launch of this important report from the United Nations Environment Programme on Making Peace with Nature.

I want to be clear.  Without nature’s help, we will not thrive or even survive.

For too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature.

The result is three interlinked environmental crises.

Climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution that threaten our viability as a species.

They are caused by unsustainable production and consumption.

Human well-being lies in protecting the health of the planet.

It’s time to re-evaluate and reset our relationship with nature.
This report can help us do so.

Today, around the world, we are overexploiting and degrading the environment on land and sea.

The atmosphere and the oceans have become dumping grounds for our waste.

And governments are still paying more to exploit nature than to protect it.

Globally, countries spend some 4 to 6 trillion dollars a year on subsidies that damage the environment.

The interlinked climate, biodiversity and pollution crises require urgent action from the whole of society – from governments, but also from international organizations, from businesses, from cities and individuals.

People’s choices matter. 

For example, some two-thirds of global CO2 emissions are directly or indirectly linked to households.

This new report brings together the key insights of all the most important environmental assessments of recent years.

And it uses those insights to chart a path towards a sustainable future.

The report shows that the global economy has grown nearly fivefold in the past five decades, but at massive cost to the global environment.

Earth is heading for more than 3 degrees Celsius of global warming this century.

The burden falls disproportionately on women, who represent 80 per cent of those displaced by climate disruption.

More than 1 million of the planet’s estimated 8 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.

And diseases caused by air pollution cause some 6.5 million premature deaths every year.

And polluted water kills a further 1.8 million, predominantly children.

Meanwhile, 1.3 billion people remain poor and some 700 million are hungry.

The only answer is sustainable development that elevates the well-being of both people and the planet.

The report points to many ways we can accomplish this.

For example, governments can include natural capital in measures of economic performance and promote a cicular economy.

They can agree to not support the kind of agriculture that destroys or pollutes nature.

They can put a price on carbon.

They can shift subsidies from fossil fuels towards low-carbon and nature-friendly solutions.

The bottom line is that we need to transform how we view and value nature. 

We must reflect nature’s true value in all our policies, plans and economic systems.

With a new consciousness, we can direct investment into policies and activities that protect and restore nature and the rewards will be immense.

It’s time we learned to see nature as an ally that will help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year, beginning with next week’s United Nations Environment Assembly, a number of key international environmental conferences are very important – they include climate change, chemicals, biodiversity, desertification and oceans – and they can help to propel us on the path to sustainability.

One key moment occurs tomorrow, when I will welcome the United States of America back into the Paris Agreement on climate change.

This strengthens global action.

President Biden’s commitment to net zero emissions means that countries producing now two-thirds of global carbon pollution are pursuing the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

But we need to make this coalition truly global and transformative.

If adopted by every country, city, financial institution and company around the world, a global coalition for carbon neutrality by 2050 can still prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

But we cannot delay.

We are running out of time to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and build resilience to the impacts to come.

We also need equal urgency and ambition to address how we produce our food and manage our water, land and oceans.

Developing countries need more assistance.

Only then can we protect and restore nature and get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

This report shows that we have the knowledge and the ability to meet these challenges.

The path to a sustainable economy exists -- driven by renewable energy, sustainable food systems and nature-based solutions.

It leads to an inclusive world at peace with nature.

This is the vision we must adopt.

And obviously, I am at your disposal, together with Inger Andersen for any question after she presents the report.