Minister for Foreign Affairs at the Biodiversity Summit: mainstreaming climate action and biodiversity into all human activities

”Climate change and biodiversity need to be mainstreamed in all policy planning and budgeting,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto, in the concluding remarks of his statement at the UN Biodiversity Summit on Wednesday 30 September. Finland keeps a high profile in biodiversity matters at the UN General Assembly: President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature to protect biodiversity and Foreign Minister Haavisto stressed the importance of biodiversity at the Leaders Event for Nature and People Meeting organized by WWF on Monday 28 September.

A bee sitting on a flower.
Picture: Ola Jennersten / WWF-Sweden

According to the ongoing UN General Assembly (UNGA), we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction of species. Even if as individuals we are not aware of its impacts, the destruction of natural environments and its catastrophic consequences are real. The loss of natural environments is also among the root causes of the spread of zoonotic viruses to humans. New outbreaks, such as COVID-19, can only be prevented by addressing these root causes.

While the world’s focus has been on the climate talks in the past few years, the implementation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has received less attention. The convention is as important for biodiversity and the conditions of life on earth as the Paris Agreement is for mitigating climate change, said Foreign Minister Haavisto.

According to science, climate change accelerates the loss of biodiversity, because species are not able adapt to the massive habitat changes in forests, oceans and the Arctic areas close to Finland. Climate change and biodiversity must be examined as a whole; diverse natural environments and well-functioning ecosystems bind and store carbon and are therefore important elements in the mitigation of climate change. At the same time, healthy and efficient ecosystems contribute to the adaptation to climate change.

It is of utmost importance for biodiversity that agreement is reached on the next ten-year goals of the Biodiversity Convention. Diverse nature gives us water, food and medicinal substances, among others.  The destruction of natural environments also leads to loss of species, as is stated in the Living Planet 2020 report, recently published by WWF. Fish stocks are diminishing and insects that pollinate crops are at risk.

Stopping the extinction of species requires prompt action. Finland supports the proposal set forth by the Biodiversity Convention for the biodiversity talks this year to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and seas by 2030. Finland considers that biodiversity should be taken into account across the board in all sectors, including fishing and forestry as well as trade and delivery chains.

Biodiversity is linked to poverty. Those who are already disadvantaged, especially women and children, suffer most from the loss of biodiversity. They have often least resources and the required infrastructure to protect nature. In situations where such basic services as water supply, waste management and electricity are missing, the environment suffers and people get ill because of contamination or pollution.  Indigenous people and local communities play a special role in the protection of biodiversity.

The ongoing UN General Assembly is a milestone which will be followed by a final sprint towards the next Conference of the Parties to the Biodiversity Convention. The negotiations will not be easy. In China in autumn 2021, states are expected to agree on the next ten-year goals for 2030 to protect biodiversity. The challenges ahead are illustrated by the fact that of the world’s largest countries by geography, Canada was the only signatory to the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, endorsed in connection with an UNGA side event. Foreign Minister Haavisto said that all countries’ input is needed to stop the loss of biodiversity.

 

Speech by Minister Pekka Haavisto at the UN Biodiversity Summit 30.9.2020 (video)
Speech by Minister Pekka Haavisto at the UN Biodiversity Summit 30.9.2020 (written)

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