The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that humanity has become "a weapon of mass extinction" which is "treating nature like a toilet" during his opening remarks at the organisation's 15th UN summit on biodiversity (COP15).
During the conference, which opened in Montreal, Canada, on Tuesday, negotiators will set new targets and goals aimed at stopping the destruction of nature. It is being billed as a major COP, as it could lead to the adoption of a new Global Biodiversity Framework, which essentially aims to be a global blueprint to save the planet’s dwindling biodiversity.
Guterres underscored that this urgent action was needed, explaining that, "without nature, we are nothing," but that despite this knowledge, humanity has, for hundreds of years “conducted a cacophony of chaos and played with instruments of destruction," from deforestation and desertification to the poisoning of the environment by chemicals and pesticides, making it harder to feed the global population.
In his criticism, Guterres took aim at multinational corporations which, he said, are "filling their bank accounts while emptying our world of its natural gifts."
Concrete action in form of biodiversity agreement
Guterres stressed that it is time to stop the "war on nature" and said that the answer to this could lie in the tabled global biodiversity agreement, which should be on par with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
The draft framework includes over 20 targets, to halt the drivers of biodiversity, from land and sea-use change to over-exploitation of species, climate change, pollution and invasive non-native species, by addressing root causes such as harmful subsidies, misdirected investment, unsustainable food systems, and wider patterns of consumption and production.
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It is hoped this framework will have a more lasting impact than the previous version drawn up at COP10, in 2010, when governments agreed to strive for ambitious targets by 2020, including halving natural habitat loss and implementing plans for sustainable consumption and production, of which not a single target was fully met.
Guterres also stressed the need for the implementation of national plans to divert subsidies and tax breaks away from activities that contribute to the destruction of nature towards green solutions, and that recognise the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities as "stewards of nature."