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Secretary–General's Message to the 9th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Madam Chancellor of Germany,

Mr. Prime Minister of Canada,

Mr. President of the European Commission,

Mr. President of the United Nations General Assembly,

Honourable Ministers,

Distinguished Guests,

I regret that I am not able to join you. The emergency in Myanmar has required all my attention. Despite formidable challenges, we have reached a turning point in the humanitarian response.

Now, we equally need a turning point at your meeting. The loss of biodiversity is an environmental crisis with profound economic and human dimensions. Nature's assets underpin the very lives and livelihoods of more than six billion people. They make our very existence possible in the vacuum of space. A failure to act will imperil the Millennium Development Goals and will ultimately impact all countries across the world.

Our ability to clear cut whole forests or drain freshwater systems at a pace and scale unimaginable to our forefathers is now triggering impacts at the global level. From the overexploitation of fisheries to spreading land degradation, we are already at the limits - if not pushing past them.

The science of biodiversity loss is ever more sobering. Just read the Global Environment Outlook-4 of the United Nations Environment Programme. Now the economics are coming to the fore, underlining the costs of degradation but also the abundant returns if we invest in this bottom green line.

The need to address biodiversity loss should not come as a surprise. It was recognized 15 years ago with the establishment of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Progress has been made - the area of land in protected areas is now over 12 per cent. But the magnitude of the response has failed to keep pace with scale of the degradation.

In the 21st century, we are going to need our nature-based assets as never before - not only for new pharmaceuticals to genes for new and improved crops, but also to reduce vulnerability from climatic shocks. We need only look to the tragedy in Myanmar. Half the country's mangroves - its natural sea defenses - have been cleared over the past 30 years. This made communities more vulnerable to Cyclone Nargis.

If bulldozers were razing the Taj Mahal to make way for a highway, or dynamite was used on the Smithsonian to clear for plantations, the action would be swift and decisive. It has to be swift and decisive now - not least on the need for an international regime on Access and Benefit Sharing of genetic resources by 2010.

There are moments in history when we need stand up and counted. The Bali climate convention meeting was such an occasion. Governments put aside the smaller things that divide in favour of the bigger ones that unite us all. This should and must also happen in Bonn. I thank you for your commitment to our collective mission.




Further Resources

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

UNEP Resources on Biodiversity


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