18 Sep 2020

Hundreds of organisations unite, calling world leaders to 'act on nature'

On the eve of the High Level Week of the UN General Assembly, a call for world leaders to act to halt and reverse nature loss this decade comes from far and wide: Businesses; Environment, Development and Humanitarian Organisations; Faith groups; Local and Regional Governments; Indigenous People; and Youth are all calling for action to secure a sustainable future for people and planet.

© James Wheeler/ Pexels
© James Wheeler/ Pexels
By BirdLife International

JOINT PRESS RELEASE

 

Organisations representing hundreds of millions of individuals globally, alongside more than 560 global businesses with combined revenue of $4 trillion, have today issued unprecedented coordinated calls for urgent action on nature to protect human and planetary health.

Nature is currently declining at rates unseen in human history, with up to one million species threatened by extinction. WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020, released last week, revealed that wildlife populations have declined on average by a shocking 68 per cent since 1970, putting humanity’s future in grave danger. In a distinct indication of growing concern and momentum for change, global organisations representing interests far beyond conservation are voicing simultaneous calls for decisive action to secure a sustainable future for people and the planet.

These calls for action, coming ahead of the High Level Week of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA-75), highlight how the destruction and degradation of nature is placing human health and livelihoods at risk. Nature loss directly increases our vulnerability to pandemics (such as COVID-19), natural disasters and conflicts, with the most vulnerable and marginalized people being hit first and hardest. Protecting nature is intrinsically linked to protecting values, human rights, indigenous peoples, women, children and youth; while at the same time essential to tackling the climate crisis. Sustainable use of natural resources means building resilient economies - more than half of the global GDP is moderately or highly exposed to nature loss.

Heads of State and Government are urged by the diverse groupings to take bold, transformative decisions on nature and announce them at the UN’s Summit on Biodiversity, due to take place virtually on 30 September.

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“Never has it been more clear that we need to reset our relationship with nature. The way we currently produce and consume is destroying the very natural systems that support our health and our economies," says Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF-International. "Urgent action is needed to tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss, most notably our food system, and secure a sustainable future for people and the planet. September's UN Summit on Biodiversity provides the world with an unmissable opportunity to change course. World leaders cannot ignore the groundswell of voices from across society calling for them to take decisive action at the Summit to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and secure a nature-positive world by 2030.”

Seven distinct groups, representing global concerns and cultures, are calling for governments to take action on nature loss: Environment, Development and other partner organizations; Development and Humanitarian organizations; Faith-based organizations; Indigenous People; Business; Local and Regional Governments; and Youth. In total, more than 1,000 organizations and individuals, present in almost every country worldwide, are represented in issuing an extraordinary coordinated call for immediate action to tackle our nature crisis, and committing to take action themselves to help halt and reverse the loss of nature.


Calls for greater ambition on nature

Environment, Development and other partner organisations

15 partner organisations including environment, development and other organisations today issued a call to action to Heads of State and Government to set nature on the path to recovery by 2030 and secure an equitable, carbon-neutral and nature-positive world (Available here).

Signatories supporting the call to action include, among others, African Wildlife Foundation; BirdLife International; WWF International; International Institute for Environment and Development; Capitals Coalition;  International Land Coalition; and Conservation International.

BirdLife International Chief Executive, Patricia Zurita, said: “The current, devastating pandemic provides a stark warning that healthy economies and healthy people rely on a healthy planet. We urge world leaders gathering at the UN General Assembly’s Summit on Biodiversity to commit to take action now to ensure an equitable, carbon-neutral, nature-positive planet for all people.

Key to this is the delivery of an ambitious and effective post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which prevents extinctions, recovers the abundance and diversity of life, and retains and restores ecosystem integrity, putting nature on a path to recovery by the end of the decade. We’re also calling on Heads of State and Government to recognise the universal right to a healthy environment, and to put in place legislation and actions to achieve this, to help ensure that this coming decade is the one in which we transform our relationship with nature, for the sake of all people and the planet.”

Andrew Norton, Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), said: “It is crucial governments seize this opportunity to halt the loss of biodiversity and start the process of restoring what we have lost. How this is done must respect the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and local communities who live in and around vital nature-rich areas, and not lead to their displacement, marginalisation or impoverishment. Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the most effective at protecting nature and depend on it for their lives and livelihoods. Their priorities need to be at the heart of any biodiversity agreement if it is to be successful.” 

Development and Humanitarian organisations:

20 development and humanitarian organisations today issued a call to action to Heads of State and Government to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and put nature and ecosystems on a path to recovery by 2030 (Available here).

Signatories supporting the call to action include, among others, Oxfam; CARE; Save the Children; ActionAid; Welthungerhilfe; and EAT.

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said: "The dire combination of conflict, insecurity and climate change represents the modern face of humanitarian crisis. The climate crisis and rapid ecosystem change are already impacting communities the IRC serves in countries across the Sahel, the Northern Triangle, South Asia and the Middle East.  Our teams around the world have seen how the crisis is a threat multiplier when it comes to conflict, hunger and the forced movement of people. Last year, more than half of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change were also humanitarian crisis contexts. With millions of lives and livelihoods on the line, the cost of failure in protecting and regenerating nature is already too high. The call for bold and urgent action on behalf of the international community to safeguard the health and safety of this generation and those to come could not be clearer."

Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), said: “COVID-19 has hammered home the fundamental interconnectedness of human, planetary and animal health. If you neglect one you diminish all.  This is why GAIN, an organisation that focuses primarily on nutrition outcomes, is such a strong supporter of this call to action.   Just as with human rights, all of these health goals are indivisible and we proudly stand with our partners in calling on everyone, including GAIN, to rise to the challenge of reversing biodiversity loss and putting nature and ecosystems on a path to recovery by 2030.”

Faith-based organisations:

52 faith-based organisations today issued a call to action to Heads of State and Governments at the UN Summit on Biodiversity (Available here).

Signatories supporting the call to action include, among others, The Parliament of the World’s Religions; Baha’i International Community; World Evangelical Alliance; Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation; Anglican Communion; and Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University.

David Hales, Chair of Climate Action Task Force at the Parliament of the World's Religions, said: “The Parliament of the World’s Religions joins in solidarity with the calls for nature protection echoing across the globe. As an organization with roots dating to the late 1800s, we have seen the change that faith communities can effect in social movements. We face our greatest challenge with the interconnected crises of biodiversity loss, a global pandemic, and a changing climate. There can be no equivocation. We need nature now more than ever - to protect species, buffer from disease and extreme weather, and sequester carbon dioxide.

Faith communities have been developing nature-based solutions for millenia. We are peoples historically rooted in place, stewards of the natural world. We know that people of faith will rise to this challenge and find solutions, just as we have always done. Guided by a moral compass, and with compassion for all living creatures, we call on world leaders to take bold action to reverse nature loss.”

Bishop Efraim M. Tendero, Secretary General and CEO, World Evangelical Alliance, said:  “Faithful Christian discipleship calls for evangelicals to be joyful and committed stewards of God’s gift of creation. In today’s context, where God's creation is suffering from the interconnected crises of severe biodiversity loss, ecosystem destruction, and climate change, this call to stewardship comes with utmost urgency. In response, and in solidarity with the global initiative to reverse the loss of biodiversity, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) calls for decisive action on these crises. This action includes inviting the global evangelical community to support the WEA’s commitment to work ardently for a just, sustainable, carbon-neutral, and nature-positive world.”  

Business:

Through Business for Nature’s Call to Action, more than 560 companies are today issuing a call to action to Governments to adopt policies now to reverse nature loss in this decade (Available here).

Signatories supporting the call to action include, among others, Walmart, Citigroup, Microsoft, JD.com, Hitachi, IKEA, Unilever, Axa, Mahindra Group and H&M Group. The full list of signatories will be shared on 21 September.  

Eva Zabey, Executive Director, Business for Nature: “Before COVID-19, the need to create more resilient economies and societies was clear, now it is inescapable. Businesses have a significant role to play in driving the global change that's needed. They can change the way they manage and use natural resources, create clean jobs and demonstrate how we are all dependent on nature. But businesses cannot address this global crisis on their own. To accelerate action, more than 500 businesses with combined revenue of around $4 trillion including Walmart, Citigroup, Microsoft, JD.com, Hitachi, Unilever, Axa, Mahindra Group and H&M are urging governments to adopt policies now to reverse nature loss in this decade.  Nature is everyone’s business.”

Shinta W. Kamdani, CEO, Sintesa Group: “We see sustainability not merely as action on corporate responsibility but as a strategic imperative and are shifting focus from business efficiency alone towards innovation that creates sustainable value. Only by working together will we be able to protect, restore and sustainably use our natural resources for a safer, fairer and sustainable future.“

Alan Jope, CEO, Unilever said,  “The science on nature loss is terrifying. Nature underpins everything on this planet. An ambitious post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that brings transformative change to our relationship with our planet is absolutely critical. Business should be at the fore of calling for this change.”

Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities perspective:

Voices are being raised by individuals from indigenous and local communities calling for action on nature from world leaders:

Yolanda Teran Maigua, Education and Culture Coordinator at Indigenous Women Network on Biodiversity from Latin America and the Caribbean (RMIB-LAC), said: “From ancestral times Indigenous Peoples have considered Mother Earth as sacred and alive with interconnected and interrelated elements. She is home for all of us: the animals, plants, rivers, mountains, the house for the sacred, secret, seen and unseen beings. She offers us protection, and nurtures us through food, water, medicine, lands and territories for our livelihoods and sacred places to practice our spirituality. Our ancestral guardianship for Mother Earth will continue through our advocacy and full and effective participation at local, national, and international meetings. In this post-pandemic critical and complex time, we, including women, youth, and elders, are ready to work as partners within a framework of mutual respect and trust with governments, decision makers and multilateral organizations. Our goal is to make sure the implementation of our human rights and to achieve the holistic conservation of Mother Earth and all her beings.

Aliou Mustafa, Cameroon National Indigenous peoples fellow, Global Environment facility, said: “Throughout the year, we the indigenous people have always depended on Nature for survival through traditional knowledge practices, human and animals treatment.Today, Man,s inhuman act towards Nature has resulted to loss of Biodiversity leading to the destruction of habits, live styles, culture and Indigenous knowledge.We there seek for an improvement in indigenous youth representation at decision making levels in order to restores our lost glories bearing in mind the best way forward is to get back to Nature.  I AM 4 NATURE.  WE ARE FOR NATURE.”

Youth:

Young people from around the globe, representing different causes, constituencies, social backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, geographies and languages are calling for unprecedented action from world leaders to tackle our biodiversity and climate emergencies. A Youth Manifesto (Available here), launched on 12 August and supported by more than 550 organizations and individuals, will be presented to the UN Secretary General at the UN Biodiversity Summit on 30 September.

Signatories include World Scouting; YMCA; Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN); UNCCD Global Youth Caucus; YOUNGO (Youth for Climate); and Youth for Our Planet.

Christian Schwarzer & Swetha Stotra Bhashyam, Global Focal Points for the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN), said: "We need to stand together to overcome systemic inequalities and take concrete and ambitious action now. Short term thinking and quick fixes are not a solution – we need to ensure intergenerational equity and create transformative changes to our system - we cannot wait another decade for this to happen!"

Francis Boafo Asamoah, Global Communications Manager at Youth for Our Planet, said: It is time to take critical steps to resolve the destruction we have caused the natural environment. We need healthy ecosystems now more than ever. Nature produces resilient communities, prioritizing its protection is a necessity for people and livelihoods. We all have pushed nature to the tipping point; it will take the same collective effort to bring back what we have destroyed. World leaders owe it to youth to prioritize the protection of the natural world. You would not have been happy if your predecessors left you degraded and unproductive landscapes. It is said that 2020 & 2021 are super years for nature. We need super individuals to achieve this!

Teresa Oberhauser, Global Focal Point, Major Group for Children and Youth to UN Environment Programme (UNEP MGCY), said: "We expect the world’s political leaders and top business elite to realize that when we talk about the need to prioritize nature, it is not just about protecting some cute little animals. We are talking about the need to guarantee the basis of our existence, food security and the bare living conditions that will have to be met in order to make sure the emergency operations that governments and businesses have to perform during COVID-19 do not become the new normal."

Local and Regional Governments:

The Edinburgh Declaration on post-2020 global biodiversity framework brings together subnational governments, cities, local authorities and their networks representing over a thousand jurisdictions, calling on signatory countries to the UN Convention on BIological Diversity to take strong and bold actions to bring about transformative change, as outlined in the IPBES global assessment report, in order to halt biodiversity loss. (Available here)

Signatories supporting the call to action include, among others, the governments of Scotland, Wales, Quebec, Aichi Prefecture, and the Mayor of Bonn Germany on behalf of ICLEI, local governments for sustainability.

Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, said: “The nature, climate and health crises facing us today are all interlinked. As we turn our focus towards recovery, we must ensure this is a green recovery that takes our planetary boundaries into account. Urgent action is needed to rebalance our relationship with nature and secure a sustainable and healthy future for all. ICLEI is committed to supporting the global community of cities and regions in tackling the unprecedented challenges we face by taking action on the ground, and to mobilising the voice of cities and regions in the global biodiversity and climate agendas. As a Partner of the Edinburgh Process, ICLEI is a signatory to the Edinburgh Declaration. We encourage cities and regions to sign this statement of intent and demonstrate that they stand ready to play a strong role in the implementation of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.”

Mayor of Bogotá, Claudia López Hernández,  said: “We are changing our habits, lifestyles and culture, from recycling to protecting our natural spaces. We are taking the climate crisis seriously, planting trees and making our city a lot greener. Our purpose is the greening of Bogota, as part of our social and environmental contract we are building for the 21st century.”


Sign ons:

  • Environment, Development and other partner organizations: Organizations that would like to sign on can contact Post-2020 Pavilion manager Johannah Bernstein.
  • Development and Humanitarian organizations: Organizations that would like to sign on can contact Masha Lekic.
  • Faith-based organizations: Organizations that would like to sign on can do so here.
  • Business: Companies that would like to sign on can do so via the Business for Nature website.
  • Local and Regional Governments: The Edinburgh Declaration is open for sign ons in the lead up to CBD COP15 via this page
  • Youth: Organizations and individuals that would like to sign on can do so here.

Notes to Editors

  • The High Level Week of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly will start on Tuesday 22 September 2020; with the UN Summit on Biodiversity due to take place on Wednesday 30 September 2020.
  • For more information contact policy@birdlife.org