UNGA president calls for integrating nature restoration into efforts to build back better

Volkan Bozkir (front), President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), addresses the UN Biodiversity Summit at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 30, 2020.
  • Xinhua
  • May 22, 2021 7:26 AM

UNITED NATIONS -- President of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Volkan Bozkir on Friday called on countries to integrate nature restoration into their efforts to build back better.

"If we are to meet the sustainable development goals by 2030, we need to integrate nature restoration to our efforts to build back better, prioritizing a green recovery from COVID-19, and preventing any further losses of our natural capital," the UNGA president, or the PGA, told the COP15: Road to Kunming, Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth, a virtual webinar on biodiversity organized by the permanent mission of China, the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

COP15 refers to the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Bozkir also called for steps to protect against land degradation, recognizing that healthy soil is essential for a healthy planet.

The PGA commended Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, and the like-minded group for maintaining political momentum on the "road to Kunming."

"Building on last year's Biodiversity Summit and the launch of the Leader's Pledge for Nature, and with efforts underway on a post-2020 global biodiversity framework, we have a very real opportunity to 'bend the curve' on nature," said the PGA.

   Speaking about the prospect of the biodiversity, the PGA noted that "we have before us an unprecedented opportunity to make meaningful progress on biodiversity. Through recovery from COVID-19 and the incredible resources that are being untapped, as well as upcoming COP-level summits on climate, biodiversity, and land degradation, we have both the resource and policy spaces to push this agenda forward."

Referring to COVID-19, the PGA said, for all its tragedies, the pandemic "has also unlocked the largest socio-economic recovery in our history."

"This coupled with incredible public support for transformational change and resilience allow us a rare opportunity to invest in nature-based solutions and ensure that our recovery is nature friendly," he said.

May 22 is the International Day for Biological Diversity. In 2021, the theme is: "We are part of the solution."

"This principle must also be applied to our recovery from COVID-19. If we funnel capacities and resources to projects that boost economic growth, and jobs and livelihoods, while simultaneously protecting biodiversity and nature as a whole, then we will not only be recovering, but investing in our future," said the PGA.

 "Doing this, however, requires that we make deliberate efforts to unlock innovative financing and governance mechanisms; that we prioritize local-national-international partnerships to allow for capacity and resource sharing; and, above all else, that we account for the value of nature in our decision-making processes," he continued.

 Bozkir, a veteran diplomat from Turkey, called on countries to "move beyond a scenario where the value of a tree is only counted once it has been felled and turned into lumber."

Talking about the multiple multilateral processes currently underway, the PGA said that with discussions ongoing on three of the Rio Conventions, there is an opportunity to demonstrate the interlinkages across the environmental sphere, as well as its role within the larger development agenda, and to ensure that all these efforts are mutually reinforcing.

"We all know that we need trees to maintain the quality of our water, land and air; that we need land and water for food; that we need biodiversity for both water and land preservation; and that all of this ties back directly to jobs, livelihoods and our own well-being," the PGA said.

"Surely, knowing all of this, we can ensure that progress across each of the Rio Conventions, as well as on the Sustainable Development Goals, support one another. Because if we are able to do this, and if we can capitalize on the resources allocated for recovery, we have a recipe for true, transformational change," he continued.

The PGA asked countries to be ambitious during post-2020 global biodiversity framework discussions, raise the bar on renewed Nationally Determined Contributions and climate targets, and take steps to protect against land degradation, recognizing that healthy soil is essential for a healthy planet. 

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