We are going to close the live blog now. Statements from world leaders have ended, according to our schedule. Thank you for following along. Here is the summary of today’s proceedings in New York at the first-of-its-kind UN summit on biodiversity.
“We are the parasites,” Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, said when describing humanity’s relationship with the planet. “We can go back to a relationship of symbiosis,” he added, saying the delay of the Kunming meeting is an opportunity to scale up ambitions.
Sanchez is focusing on three areas:
The Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin tells the summit that the biodiversity crisis is “one of the defining issues of our generation”. A biodiverse planet is essential for humanity, he continues. The global response to restoring nature has to go hand and hand with climate crisis policies, according to the Taoiseach. He says his government will explore an expansion of Ireland’s marine protected areas, adding that his country will use its seat on the UN security council to link human conflict with the environment.
Nepalese prime minister KP Sharma Oli says biodiversity is a “lifeline for us”, helping to sustain human health and prosperity. Living in harmony with nature is part of Nepali culture, he continues. The Himalayan nation has doubled its number of tigers, he tells the summit, adding that his country’s mountain ecosystems help sustain life beyond its borders.
Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, president of the Maldives, pledged to designate one island, one reef and one mango grove in each atoll as a protected area. The country is also phasing out single-use plastic by 2023. In reference to the coronavirus pandemic he said humanity is “living with the consequences of our constant disrespect to nature”. He added: “If we continue to disrespect the boundaries of the natural world we will continue to face similar or worse catastrophes.”
The Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel said his country was focusing on three areas of action:
He said: “I remain convinced that the strength of men and women has always been their ingenuity … let’s draw on this inexhaustible resource.”
Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno is calling for more financial resources and technological transfers to protect biodiversity as part of the next UN targets. He says his country is one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet and the protector of the Galápagos islands, “a treasure of Ecuador and the whole world”. In a thinly veiled message to China, Moreno called on countries to self-regulate their fishing activities in the waters around the islands. “We cannot turn our back on nature,” he concludes.
The waters around the Galápagos islands have been targeted by Chinese fishing vessels in recent weeks.
Indigenous people say their right to land is being violated:
Levi Sucre, leader of the AMPB (Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques – Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests) said the economic impacts of the coronavirus means reactive policies have promoted further extraction of natural resources and destruction of forests, leading to the violation of indigenous rights. He said:
Militza Flaco, youth leader of the AMPB said governments are excluding community leaders from public policy and decision-making. She said:
“Let me put it plain and simple: without biodiversity there would be no food,” says Qu Dongyu, director general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The loss of biodiversity undermines efforts to tackle poverty, and to halt biodiversity loss “we need to radically change our economies”, he says.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said his country was striving to be a leader in protecting the environment, surpassing its target of protecting 10% of marine areas by 2020. He is pledging to protect 25% of land and oceans by 2025 (an announcement he made in 2019) with 30% protected by 2030.
The Tuvaluan prime minister Kausea Natano wins the prize for the best video background of the evening.
Although, if the world does not act on the climate and biodiversity crises, it won’t be there much longer.
Costa Rican president Carlos Quesada is the antidote to Jair Bolsonaro. He tells the summit that humanity must focus on three areas to improve our relationship with nature.
First, we must take responsibility and be self-critical by thinking about how our behaviour affects ecosystems. He advocates for economic development models that are based on human wellbeing, not just growth. Second, humility. Quesada says humans must recognise that we are not the most important beings on Earth and be humble enough to learn from nature. Finally, the Costa Rican president says we must focus on equality by protecting ecosystems and decarbonising economies for the good of everyone.
Here is the UN secretary general’s speech from the summit opening.
Presidents and prime ministers from Kyrgyzstan, Mozambique, Zambia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Estonia and Botswana are up next.
We’ll bring you the highlights of what they say. Costa Rica is a small but mighty country when it comes to UN environment negotiations. President Carlos Quesada has been active behind the scenes generating more financial resources for protecting ecosystems and biodiversity.
The leaders dialogue on addressing biodiversity loss and mainstreaming biodiversity for sustainable development is underway. Statements from Angela Merkel and Imran Khan got us started.
The German chancellor said extinctions are accelerating at a pace never before seen in the history of humanity. She said the world must turn the tide on biodiversity loss by expanding the protection of areas, restoring ecosystems and directing financial resources to protecting plants and animals.
Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, detailed his country’s 12 climatic zones from the peak of K2, the world’s second highest mountain, to the tropics on the Pakistani coast. He said his government is dedicated to their protection.
We are going to take a short break now before the next leaders’ dialogue. It will be chaired by Angela Merkel and Imran Khan on addressing biodiversity loss and mainstreaming biodiversity for sustainable development.
That will begin at 3pm in New York and 8pm UK time.
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to protect 30% of land in the UK by 2030 has been cautiously welcomed by conservationists. But they warn that targets need to be legally binding to avoid the creation of “paper parks” that fail to safeguard nature in practice.
Johnson announced at a virtual UN event on Monday that an additional 400,000 hectares of land in England would be protected for nature, with the promise of “ambitious goals and binding targets”.
Johnson joined 64 leaders from around the world to make pledges to tackle catastrophic nature lost ahead of today’s summit. The announcement was very welcome but the government overestimates how much land is effectively protected, said Craig Bennett, chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts. Many of the country’s designated wildlife areas are in poor condition and do not support the wildlife they are meant to provide refuge for.
In England, 26% of land is protected, but an estimated 5% is being well managed for nature. This existing land needs to be much better protected for the prime minster to deliver on this pledge. “Instead of creating more pointless ‘paper parks,’ the prime minister needs to lay out concrete plans and binding legal targets to halt and begin to reverse the decline of nature on land and at sea by 2030,” said John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace.
The announcement comes after analysis by RSPB found the UK failed to reach 17 out of 20 UN biodiversity targets, because pledges were not matched by action on the ground, resulting in a “lost decade for nature”.
We risk another decade of failure unless biodiversity pledges are put into domestic law like Paris climate agreements, said Martin Harper, director of global conservation at the RSPB. “If then properly backed by a reformed systems of farm payments and new dedicated resources for habitat restoration, which would allow places like our national parks to become an engine for nature’s recovery, we’ll then have a fighting chance to revive our world,” he said.
A 2019 State of Nature report found one in ten UK species is threatened with extinction, with 41% of species in decline. Caroline Lucas, MP for the Green Party, said it was not enough to “talk about protecting nature on the one hand then undermine that action on the other”.