The world has been warned it cannot sustain the current rate in which it plunders the world’s natural resources.
In a hard-hitting speech at the One Planet Summit, UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ (pic) said the opportunity to create a sustainable recovery from the COVID pandemic was a last chance rather than simply a preferable outcome.
“Two thousand twenty-one must be the year to reconcile humanity with nature,” he said. “Until now, we have been destroying our planet. We have been abusing it as if we had a spare one. Our current resource use requires almost two planets but we only have one. If we compare Earth’s history to a calendar year, we have used one third of its natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds. We have been poisoning air, land and water — and filling oceans with plastics.”
Mr Guterres added nature was striking back. “Temperatures are reaching record highs. Biodiversity is collapsing. Deserts are spreading. Fires, floods and hurricanes are more frequent and extreme. And we are extremely fragile.”
His rallying call came against a background of COVID-19 which has taken more than 1.8 million lives and devastated economies.
“As we rebuild, we cannot revert to the old normal,” said Mr Guterres. “Pandemic recovery is our chance to change course. With smart policies and the right investments, we can chart a path that brings health to all, revives economies and builds resilience and rescues biodiversity. Innovations in energy and transport can steer a sustainable recovery and an economic and social transformation. Nature-based solutions — such as Africa’s Great Green Wall — are especially promising.
“Preserving the world’s biodiversity also yields jobs: according to the World Economic Forum, emerging business opportunities across nature could create 191 million jobs by 2030. But the world has not met any of the global biodiversity targets set for 2020, and biodiversity is facing a financing gap of $711 billion per year until 2030. Sustainable financing is essential if we are to transition away from polluting sectors.”
He said the point had come for tangible action to halt global warming.
“The time has come to: Put a price on carbon,” explained Mr Guterres. “Stop building new coal plants. End fossil fuel subsidies. Shift the fiscal burden from taxpayers to polluters. Align public and private financial flows with the Paris Agreement commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals. And integrate the goal of carbon neutrality into all economic and fiscal decisions.”