UN Climate Speech / 18 Jul, 2018
“Life Depends on Climate, Biodiversity Inextricable Link; Let’s Defend It”

UN Climate Change News, 18 July 2018 –  Biodiversity and climate change are not separate issues, and if we are to protect the first one we must address the second, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said this week during the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York. 

The event – organised by the Secretariat of the UN Biodiversity Convention (CBD) – underscored opportunities that nature provides for human development and the global economy.

Recalling that it was in Rio at the 1992 Earth Summit that the CBD was open for signature along with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention to Combat Desertification, Ms Espinosa said:

“1992 was an important year for our planet’s long-term health. Since then, our organizations have been intricately tied with respect to our overall direction and vision. […] Ours is a long-term vision of the future; one that considers the health of the planet, all forms of life, and the sustainable use of its resources.”

Conserving natural terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems and restoring degraded ecosystems is essential for the overall goals of both the UNFCCC and the Convention on Biological Diversity because ecosystems play a key role in the global carbon cycle and in adapting to climate change, while also providing a wide range of ecosystem services that are essential for human well-being.

“If we are to protect our biodiversity, we must address climate change. But to address climate change, we must protect our biodiversity. It’s the same with respect to desertification. They’re not separate issues—they’re one and the same. They’re threat multipliers, and tied to some of humanity’s biggest challenges,” said Ms Espinosa.

She further discussed how the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are dependent on the health and vitality of the Earth’s natural environment in all its diversity and complexity, and talked about how the need for long-term, sustainable solutions link the climate change and biodiversity agendas.

“There is an urgent need for a 'Global Deal for Biodiversity' and for a game-changer in the way humans engage with nature, in order to achieve the objective of living in harmony with nature by 2050," said the CBD Executive Secretary, Cristiana Paşca Palmer, who hosted the event.

During the roundtable discussions, participants shed light on how political leadership, drive and inclusiveness can bend the curve on biodiversity loss, and drive new orientations towards the opportunities that nature provide to local, national and global well-being. Participants also presented solutions and innovations to tackle the identified problems related to biodiversity and talked about how concrete actions should be taken to address the problems.

 

Read below Patricia Espinosa’s full remarks (check against delivery).

1992 was an important year for our planet’s long-term health.

It was the year of the Rio Earth Summit, where the UNFCCC, the UN Biodiversity Convention and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification were opened for signature.

Since then, our organizations have been intricately tied with respect to our overall direction and vision. 

We work to achieve results that have an impact today and to ensure our societies are sustainable and resilient over the long term.

That last part is a significant challenge.

Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has capitalized on its unique capacity for communication and ingenuity, resulting in explosive bursts of output.

We’ve gone from hunter-gatherers to large-scale farmers and industrialists in the blink of an eye.

And, in the transition from the Industrial Revolution to the Information Age, we’ve pressed the accelerator even harder.

We’ve never gone further or faster, but we’ve rarely looked in the rearview mirror to see what we’ve left behind.

While the results have always been closer than they appeared, they’re blindingly obvious now.

We see it in the degradation of our natural environment. We see it in the extinction of plants, in our fished-out oceans, and the reduction of our biodiversity.

This last point is vital! Because we know that biodiversity is about more than just one species—it’s about life itself. We are all connected, and we all depend on this one planet.

But to depend on it means we must also defend it.

We also see the residual effects of our accelerated ambition in the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and its effects upon our climate.

We continue to pass warning signs, and they’re getting larger and larger.

Superstorm Sandy hit here in 2012, inflicting more than $70 billion in damages. It also resulted in 147 deaths in the Northeast United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.

48 of those deaths were here in New York.

2017 was also a year of warning signs.

It was nothing less than a climate disaster with hurricanes and flooding devastating many cities, villages and the entire country of Barbuda.

Other regions experience extreme drought or wildfires. Still others deal with rapidly-changing weather patterns that affect everything; from the flora and fauna that has always grown there, to the lives of those who call those places home. 

It’s unacceptable. How much more evidence do we need before we realize that short-term thinking is hazardous to the long-term health of humanity?

I believe our organizations reflect a better and more comprehensive approach. Ours is a long-term vision of the future; one that considers the health of the planet, all forms of life, and the sustainable use of its resources.

We have several instruments leading us forward, including the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. By combining our efforts and working together even more in the future, we can strengthen our ability to achieve their objectives. 

Our goals, after all, are one and the same. If we are to protect our biodiversity, we must address climate change. But to address climate change, we must protect our biodiversity. It’s the same with respect to desertification.

They’re not separate issues—they’re one and the same.

They’re threat multipliers, and tied to some of humanity’s biggest challenges.

I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Environment and waters Leaders Forum in Singapore, and I explained how this relationship works with respect to clean water.

Global warming is the origin of more frequent droughts and floods, hurricanes, and extreme weather events related to water.

And this puts pressure on everything: food, energy and, yes, clean water. This struggle for resources, in turn, worsens social, economic and environmental pressures. This can lead to displacement, social upheaval and violent conflict.

That’s why, when we consider any finite resource such as water, we must consider the impact of climate change.

But to ensure there is an adequate supply of these resources in the future, and to ensure we protect the biodiversity of our planet, we must take climate action now.

I’m optimistic we can do it. But we can’t do it alone. We need your help, especially with respect to the work we need to achieve with respect to the Paris Agreement at COP24.

While the Agreement is one of the most successful multilateral agreements of modern times, it requires guidelines for its implementation.

By the end of this year, and certainly by COP24 in Poland this December, we must achieve three goals.

First, we must complete the implementation manual of the Agreement itself—also known as the Paris Agreement Work Program.

Second, nations must significantly accelerate global climate ambition before 2020.

And third, that ambition must be reflected in the next round of Nationally-Determined Contributions.

Why is this important? Because current contributions will not reach our goal of limiting global temperature rise to, ideally, 1.5-degrees Celsius.

We need more climate action, more climate ambition, and we need countries to understand that time is running out.

We are not only ignoring the warning signs on the road ahead, we’re running out of road.

You have the power to influence to help us achieve these goals.

We encourage you to work with your national leaders and let them know they need to increase their climate ambition and fulfil the Paris Agreement.

We also need you to continue talking about why biodiversity is important. Use your examples, your stories, your evidence. We will also share this information. We encourage you to also make the link to climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen, we value the relationship we currently have. Let us continue to work together to achieve even more.

As I’ve outlined today, our organizations are intricately linked and have been since their inception.

We have accomplished much, but our future work is critical.

Let’s work to stop the cycle of generations leaving a legacy of neglect. Let ours be the one to stop it. Let us instead build an inheritance that is worthy of passing down.

And that means building something better: a planet that is cleaner, greener and more prosperous for all.

Thank you.