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Remarks by Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director To the 2nd Diversitas Open Science Conference

Cape Town, 14 October 2009 - Distinguished delegates, members of the international scientific community, ladies and gentlemen,

Your press release issued on Sunday in some ways said it all-seven years after the World Summit on Sustainable Development there is a public acceptance that the biodiversity target will not be met.

The fact that reversing the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010 is going to be missed does not however undermine the goal-or can it.

Everyone in this room knows that acceptance on this issue is no strategy at all.

Anyone around the world who is interested in alleviating poverty and combating climate to realizing the next generation of smart and sustainable products based on genetics and biomimicry knows that any more biodiversity losses make zero social, environmental or economic sense.

This meeting here in Cape Town must be part of the launch pad that takes the international response on biodiversity and ecosystem loss from the incremental to the strategic and comprehensive.

An occasion where scientists, national and multilateral institutions like UNEP, the private sector and civil society begin making sure that 2010 is not a cause for hand-wringing.

But a year where many busy hands start making this challenge a lighter and finally achievable one.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The New Economics of Climate Change

There are reasons for cautioned optimism-optimism in part born from the fact that some of the missing links in the evolution of a more comprehensive response are emerging.

Firstly we gather here just weeks before more than 190 countries meet in Copenhagen at the crucial UN climate convention meeting.

As head of the UN's environment body, I confess that my optimism over what will be achieved in December waxes and wanes at turns.

There remain big uncertainties still over developed country commitments in terms of emission reductions and financial support for developing economies.

But then you read the 'Yes We Can' editorial by John Kerry and Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator from South Carolina, in Sunday's New York Times.

Or the statement last Saturday in Beijing by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and one feels the chance of a scientifically-credible deal may be possible or at least less implausible.

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Further Resources

Healthy Oceans New Key to Combating Climate Change

UNEP: Biodiversity


UNEP Hosts Intergovernmental Negotiations On Strengthening Science for Policy on Biodiversity

UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)

The Natural Fix? - The Role of Ecosystems in Climate Mitigation

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)


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