Trump ditches pledge for greener post-Covid planet as 64 world leaders unite ahead of UN's Biodiversity Summit
Sir Robert Watson, former chair of the IPBES, said, 'Without countries such as the USA, Brazil, China, Russia, India and Australia we cannot succeed'
Leaders from 64 nations have united for a mission: putting biodiversity loss and climate change at the "heart of Covid recovery". The countries have pledged to enact ten actions aimed at preventing the destruction of nature, with the hopes of seeing positive changes by 2030. US President Donald Trump, however, did not participate in the event.
The virtual event saw the participation of prominent leaders like Mr. Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of the Republic of Costa Rica, Ms. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, Mr. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, to name a few. The pledge comes ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit, to be held on 30 September 2020. "We are in a state of planetary emergency: the interdependent crises of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and climate change - driven in large part by unsustainable production and consumption - require urgent and immediate global action," the pledge read.
The leaders have come together after a previous UN report found that the world has failed to meet a single target meant to address the destruction of wildlife and ecosystems. What is more, WWF and Zoological Society of London (ZSL)’s Living Planet Report 2020 found that global wildlife populations have declined by two-thirds due to human activities. For instance, overfishing and other practices have put 60% of the world’s coral reefs under threat. Another document found that koalas could be driven to extinction if no efforts are taken to restore their natural habitats.
Biodiversity loss due to human encroachment and illegal wildlife trade can increase the risk of new infectious diseases emerging from the wild. The pandemic is a case in point. "Covid-19 shows that these diseases have dramatic impacts not only on the loss of life and health but across all spheres of society," the pledge read.
Further, biodiversity and climate change affect and worsen each other. With more deforestation, nature will lose its ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, heat-trapping greenhouse gas, and to be adapt to climate change impacts. “Despite ambitious global agreements and targets for the protection, sustainable use and restoration of biodiversity, and notwithstanding many local success stories, the global trends continue rapidly in the wrong direction. A transformative change is needed: we cannot simply carry on as before.”
The pace of biodiversity loss, land and ocean degradation, pollution, resource depletion, and climate change is accelerating. And it is eroding our life support systems and aggravating poverty and inequalities. It could significantly damage the global economic, social, and political resilience and stability -- in the absence of recovery plans, according to the pledge.
"Citizens across the world [are] perhaps beginning to believe that leadership in politics and business and civil society [are] finally taking that challenge of looking after the nature of our planet more seriously," UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, said in a statement. He added that Indigenous peoples, who are the forgotten stewards of biodiversity, should be a part of this global effort, and to seek solutions.
Leaders of countries like the United States, China, Brazil and India have made no such commitments. "Many of the most important countries in the world that are causing climate change due to their emissions of greenhouse gases, and/or are destroying their biodiversity, are not signatures to this pledge," Sir Robert Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), told the Guardian. "Without countries such as the USA, Brazil, China, Russia, India and Australia we cannot succeed in achieving the Paris Climate goal or halting and ultimately reversing the loss of biodiversity."