World leaders on Tuesday called for global awareness, broad consensus and concrete actions to preserve biodiversity at a United Nations conference held in China.
The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, known as COP15, kicked off a day earlier in Kunming, the capital of southwest China’s Yunnan Province. It attracts over 5,000 representatives from governments, international organizations, research institutes and enterprises.
The leaders, in their speeches via video, pledged to make bold efforts at a time when the world is facing a worsening crisis of biodiversity loss.
“Our two-century-long experiment with burning fossil fuels, destroying forests, wilderness and oceans, and degrading the land, has caused a biosphere catastrophe,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his speech.
The UN chief described humanity’s interference with nature as a “suicidal war” and stressed that “we are losing” it.
To reverse biodiversity loss, the leaders participating in COP15 urge a nature-based approach to develop the global economy.
The development of ecological civilization should be taken as a guide to coordinate the relationship between humans and nature, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, adding that human activities need to be kept within the limits of the ecology and environment.
Themed “Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth,” the meeting is the first global conference convened by the UN to highlight ecological civilization, a philosophy proposed by China.
Stressing that more than half of global gross domestic product depends on high-functioning biodiversity and ecosystem services, President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada said the economic benefits of protecting biodiversity outweigh the costs.
If the international community wants a successful economy and future and to create jobs, “restoring and conserving our land and ocean is critical,” he added.
Britain’s Prince Charles urged taking bold decisions in this regard. He said the decisions “can regenerate hundreds of millions — if not billions — of hectares of degraded land throughout the world, thus protecting and restoring our planet’s biodiversity and making nature the engine of our economies.”
COP15 will take place in two parts. The first part will last until Friday, with parallel activities featuring forums on topics including climate change and ecological conservation. The second part of the meeting, which is expected to be held next year, will review and make a decision on the “post-2020 global biodiversity framework,” a blueprint for biodiversity conservation for the decade to come.
The Chinese president announced an initiative to establish the Kunming Biodiversity Fund and that China will take the lead by investing 1.5 billion yuan (about 233 million U.S. dollars) to the fund.
Meanwhile, China is moving faster to establish a protected areas system with national parks as the mainstay, Xi said.
In his speech, French President Emmanuel Macron called for the adoption of an ambitious global framework that meets the challenges and expectations of various societies.
“It is up to our generation to reverse the trend and recreate virtuous synergies with nature,” he said.
Calling for deeper awareness of the importance of protecting biodiversity, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said Egypt has made unremitting efforts to formulate the “post-2020 global biodiversity framework” and set achievable goals supported by a clear implementation mechanism.
Sadyr Zhaparov, president of Kyrgyzstan, a country with 95 percent of the land covered by mountains, announced a five-year program to ensure the sustainable development of mountain regions.
“Kyrgyzstan is open and ready for active international cooperation, and only by joint efforts we could preserve the biodiversity of our planet and achieve desirable sustainable development in harmony with the environment,” Zhaparov said.
The leaders also called on developed countries to support developing nations in biodiversity conservation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged countries bearing “the historical responsibility” to be “the first to take action in the face of this threat.”
Biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution and other global ills have triggered overlapping crises.
Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that “objectives of nature conservation cannot be successfully addressed by any country individually. This is a common task for all states, for all humankind, without exaggeration.”
Stressing that the greatest impact of ecosystem collapse would be on developing countries, Guterres called for support to them, including significant financial resources and technology transfer.
Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape called for financial support to help the island country preserve its rainforests, or the “lungs of the world.”
“My country needs development financing in exchange for concentrated effort on conservation, and I would like to use the platform of this forum to invite partnerships for this most worthwhile cause,” Marape said.
“It is certainly important that national priorities and specificities of each state be taken into account, and special attention be given to the needs of developing and least developed countries,” Putin said.