UN chief: Nature must be top priority in wake of pandemic

Bogota, Jun 5 (efe-epa).- The United Nations’ secretary-general on Friday said international leaders should put nature at the forefront of their decision-making once the coronavirus crisis subsides.

Antonio Guterres made his remarks at a virtual event to commemorate World Environment Day, whose host nation this year is Colombia.

“Let’s commit to a green and resilient future; as we work to build back better, let’s put nature where it belongs – at the heart of our decision-making,” the Portuguese diplomat said.

The UN chief added that all people have “a role to play in putting an end to biodiversity loss and preserving nature.”

“We can all learn what to do, share what we do. Let’s rethink what we buy and use and adopt sustainable habits, farming and business models,” he said.

Guterres inaugurated a session featuring the participation of experts such as the undersecretary-general of the UN and executive director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Andersen; the director-general of the World Wide Fund for Nature, Marco Lambertini; and the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab.

The UN secretary-general said the world currently is experiencing accelerated “habitat degradation and loss of biodiversity.”

“Fires, floods, droughts and super-storms are more frequent and damaging. Oceans are heating and acidifying, destroying coral ecosystems and reducing productivity,” he said.

According to the UN secretary-general, “healthy, biodiversity-rich ecosystems are essential to human existence” because they clean the air, purify the water and provide humanity with its food and medicine.

Andersen, a Danish economist and environmentalist, echoed Guterres’ remarks, saying that the world currently is home to some 7.8 million species but that “if we continue as we are, we are set to lose about 1 million species.”

The UN Environment Programme’s executive director therefore urged leaders to invest in “nature’s infrastructure,” which she said has “enormous value” and “fuels our economic growth.”

That investment not only would help preserve biodiversity but also benefit the Earth’s climate, she said.

“And they are surely good for the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), they’re good for poverty reduction, and that’s clearly what we’re all aiming for.”

Colombian President Ivan Duque, for his part, said people should take time during these days of quarantine to reflect, to hear the sounds of nature and start working on the environmental challenges the world is facing.

Humanity, he said, should take note of the importance of “clean air, how valuable all of our species are” and recognize the tasks that lie ahead both in areas such as recycling and reforestation and in “terms of changing our habits and consolidating a genuine environmental ethic worldwide.”

“We’re facing a pandemic, it’s true. But our aspiration cannot be to go back to how we were before, but rather to come out of this as a better society. It’s time for nature,” Duque said.

The event featured six panel discussions with participants including the president of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno; and the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema.

Among many other experts participating in the discussions were Daniela Raik, Conservation International’s senior vice president for the Americas Field Division; and Thomas Lovejoy, a professor in George Mason University’s Environmental Science and Policy department who is known as the “godfather of biodiversity.”



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