Nature is humanity’s best friend. Without nature, we have nothing. Without nature, we are nothing. Nature is our life-support system. It is the source and sustainer of the air we breathe, the food we eat, the energy we use, the jobs and economic activity we count on, the species that enrich human life, and the landscapes and waterscapes we call home, remarks from UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the opening of the fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, in Montreal this week.
And yet, humanity seems hell-bent on destruction. We are waging war on nature. This Conference is about the urgent task of making peace. Because today, we are out of harmony with nature. In fact, we are playing an entirely different song.
UN Secretary General said that for hundreds of years, we have conducted a cacophony of chaos, played with instruments of destruction. Deforestation and desertification are creating wastelands of once-thriving ecosystems, our land, water and air are poisoned by chemicals and pesticides, and choked with plastics.
The addiction to fossil fuels has thrown climate into chaos — from heat-waves and forest fires to communities parched by heat and drought or inundated and destroyed by terrifying floods.
Today, one third of all land is degraded, making it harder to feed growing populations. Plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates are all at risk. A million species teeter on the brink. Ocean degradation is accelerating the destruction of life-sustaining coral reefs and other marine ecosystems — and directly affecting those communities that depend on the oceans for their livelihoods.
Multinational corporations are filling their bank accounts while emptying our world of its natural gifts. Ecosystems have become playthings of profit, with our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction.
Because the loss of nature and biodiversity comes with a steep human cost. ”A cost we measure in lost jobs, hunger, diseases and deaths. A cost we measure in the estimated US$ 3 trillion in annual losses by 2030 from ecosystem degradation. A cost we measure in higher prices for water, food and energy. And a cost we measure in the deeply unjust and incalculable losses to the poorest countries, Indigenous populations, women and young people.
Promises made must be promises kept. It’s time to forge a peace pact with nature. And Guterres points out to three concrete actions.
First — Governments must develop bold national action plans across all ministries, from finance and food to energy and infrastructure. Plans that repurpose subsidies and tax breaks away from nature-destroying activities towards green solutions like renewable energy, plastic reduction, nature-friendly food production and sustainable resource extraction.
Second — the private sector must recognize that profit and protection must go hand-in-hand. In our globalized economies, businesses and investors count on nature’s gifts from all corners of the world. That means the food and agricultural industry moving towards sustainable production and natural means of pollination, pest control and fertilization. It means the timber, chemicals, building and construction industries taking their impacts on nature into account in their business plans.
It means the biotech, pharmaceutical and other industries that use biodiversity sharing the benefits fairly and equitably. It means tough regulatory frameworks and disclosure measures that end green-washing and hold the private sector accountable for their actions across every link of their supply chains. Businesses and investors must be allies of nature, not enemies.
And third — developed countries must provide bold financial support for the countries of the Global South as custodians of our world’s natural wealth. We cannot expect developing countries to shoulder the burden alone. We need a mechanism that can ensure developing countries have more direct, simpler and faster access to much-needed financing. We know all too well the bureaucratic hurdles that exist today.