Climate, Biodiversity Loss, and Pollution Must Be Solved As One, Says UN

Image: Belle Co/Pexels

by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

A new United Nations blueprint frames taking on the interlocking climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and pollution as a peacemaking endeavor. The “Making Peace with Nature” report emphasizes that the three must be solved together and require reframing what’s economically valued. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted at a press conference for the report, this requires a mind shift. 

Globally, production and GDP have increased over the last 30 years, but “natural capital” — the health of our forests, water, air — have declined. 

By transforming how we view nature, we can recognize its true value,” Guterres said. “By reflecting this value in policies, plans and economic systems, we can channel investments into activities that restore nature and are rewarded for it.”

Why This Matters: The triple emergencies of climate, biodiversity, and pollution are one linked challenge, and they should be addressed together. Currently, the fragmented global response has the world on track to warm by at least 3 degrees Celsius, double the Paris mandate. These crises are amplifiers of each other, but so are their solutions. For example, setting aside land and water for conservation can limit biodiversity loss, capture more carbon, and make animal and plant populations more resilient to climate change. 

2021 is make it or break it year,” Guterres said. “This is the year we need to have a new framework to preserve biodiversity.”

Changing value systems: How economic policies and data are organized matters: Right now, when there’s overfishing, it’s economically seen as GDP growth and an increase in wealth. But overfishing is harming ocean ecosystems and depleting the very fish needed to sustain coastal economies.

You can fish the proverbial waters empty and then have a great quarterly return, and then what?” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN  Environment Programme, told DW.  

The report shows how putting the value of nature into political policies and economic planning can bend systems toward environmental sustainability — and our own health.

What the UN wants from the US: With the U.S. officially rejoining the Paris Agreement tomorrow, now is the time to take these reports and pledges and turn them into action. The United States is the world’s second-biggest polluter and the largest global economy. Despite the anti-climate agenda of the Trump administration, American cities and the private sector mobilized over the past four years and made it possible for the country to still hit 2050 climate targets.

Now that the federal government is back in global climate negotiations, the United Nations wants two key things from America: 

  1. Our nationally determined contribution, or NDC, with 2030 goals. This is the plan that each country writes detailing how it will limit emissions to meet the Paris target of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 C. Guterres said he hopes the U.S. plans will “translate to meaningful reduction.”
  2. A “strong engagement” in international negotiations at the upcoming Conference of the Parties, the annual international government meeting on climate. Guterres emphasized the need to guarantee global funding, which the U.S. has promised.

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