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UNEP chief addresses opening of Biodiversity summit in Nagoya

Delegates from across the world have gathered in Nagoya, Japan for the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) summit. Governments are meeting to discuss progress on biodiversity targets, as set by parties to the convention in 2002. The Nagoya summit will also consider adopting new set of targets for 2020 that aim to tackle biodiversity loss.

Remarks by Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at the opening of the summit:

Nagoya, 18 October 2010- Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to address the opening of the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD here in Nagoya.

Honorable Minister Matsumoto, I would like to thank the Government of Japan and the leaders and people of Aichi Prefecture and the city of Nagoya for being such splendid and welcoming hosts.

Japan's ancient culture and legendary technological innovation has given the world many things.

  • In Aichi, a centuries-old tradition of ceramics is today providing key components for emerging clean technologies: the Toyota Prius has become the by word for the hybrid car evolution.

But perhaps in many ways Satoyama may prove to be among the most important exports of Japan to a world still searching for sustainability.

This ancient practice of balancing human needs with nature - of taking a systems approach explicitly linking farming and ecosystem services and that sees the mountains, forests, freshwaters and arable land as a seamless landscape - is gaining understanding, awareness and traction in many places.

Already one achievement has been made here in Japan.

Congratulations to governments and to the Executive Secretary and his team for reaching agreement on "the Nagoya - Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety".

Ladies and gentlemen,

Many international meetings are crucial - but this one is perhaps one of the most crucial that any of us will attend.

Indeed I do not believe there can have been many conferences linked with biological diversity upon which the eyes of the world have fallen so piercingly and firmly and where citizens are waiting and watching for leadership.

Here there is an opportunity to shape the landscape and the trajectory of humanity's response to the loss of its natural and nature-based assets in profound and transformational ways.

Here and together we can begin to put in place the kinds of far sighted policy-responses and smart mechanisms that have been incubating for years in many countries and communities.

But whose moment has come, and is coming not a moment too soon.

Biodiversity - Challenges Now Firmly on Global Agenda

Ladies and gentlemen,

Biodiversity and ecosystems have in recent years rapidly rocketed up the international agenda.

They have become - and quite rightly become - issues on a par with the other major challenges for this generation: climate change being the most obvious.

Human-kinds ability to impact the natural systems underpinning lives and livelihoods has gone from the local to the global and is reaching far and wide.

Equally humanity's scientific and technological ability to measure, assess and chronicle those impacts is today unprecedented.

This year's Global Biodiversity Outlook-3, prepared in close collaboration with UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre, points to 'tipping points' fast emerging - changes for example in freshwater systems that soon may be irreversible.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005 concluded that 60 per cent of the services provided by the world's ecosystems that support human well being are now either degraded or heading that way.

Changes in biodiversity as a result of human activities were more rapid in the past 50 years that at any time in human history, it concludes.

The report, the output of more than 1,300 scientists from more than 90 countries supported by UNEP, the Global Environment Facility and many other partners, underlined that rather than exercising the brake the world continues to choose the accelerator.

This is hurtling us all on a collision course towards an extremely sobering destiny.

The issue in front of this meeting is whether human beings have the collective intelligence, wisdom and common humanity to read the writing on the wall.

And to now decisively act and to manage rather than mine the resources that on the one hand makes this planet habitable, and on the other are its fundamental source and engine room of livelihoods and development.

And to do this in a way that is fair and equitable to those who have conserved that wealth over millennia.

But who are all too often and increasingly confronted with day to day realities, external pressures including sometimes perverse market forces and other challenges, just to survive.

It was not by chance that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment included 'Human Well-Being' in its title - that is yours and my well being, your children, families, communities and countries' well being: and our collective responsibility to the next generation's well being.

Making Good on the Promises - Strategic Plan and ABS

Ladies and gentlemen,

The future is before you.

We know that the promises made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 have not been fulfilled.

Not one country reporting to the CBD, as chronicled in the GBO-3, has met the 2010 target of substantially reversing the rate of loss of biodiversity.

Among the important agenda items here in Nagoya is resetting this ticking clock by setting bolder and more determined goals.

UNEP supports the draft Revised Strategic Plan for the CBD and improved indicators. To this end we have been organizing and supporting regional workshops from Africa to West Asia in order for governments to define the plan's direction.

UNEP's Global Environment Outlook-5, which is underway and which will be ready in 2012, has also been tooled to support the plan.

It will also focus on not just the realities and trends but the solutions to biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation amongst other central sustainability challenges.

The plan's success will ultimately hinge on financial support from governments.

But crucially on how policy-makers refocus and redirect the global economy to factor in the world's natural and nature-based assets in order to unleash the markets and the trillions of dollars in investment funds, pension fund and the like.

It will also rest on building the capacity of developing countries.

UNEP is supporting this across many fronts including under a 13 million Euro project funded by the European Union on capacity support for MEA implementation.

  • Last year UNEP also allocated $4 million to strengthen to support to MEAs via our network of regional offices. Focal points have been created covering regional and national fast tracking of the chemicals and biodiversity treaties.

Also before you is the opportunity to finally establish the CBD's missing pillar which in turn can support the strategic plan by providing incentives for conservation and sustainable use and a new flow of funds from North to South.

I refer of course to an International Regime on Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources (ABS)- a smart market mechanism in its own right.

UNEP has, as with many previous negotiations, assisted in facilitating the latest round kick started after Bonn and leading to Nagoya.

These have been at turns frustrating and encouraging.

But in the 18 years since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 that gave birth to the CBD, there has never been a better chance of agreeing ABS than now.

Let us work together to overcome the remaining hurdles and look to the common areas of interest that unite nations on this issue rather than the smaller differences that all too often divide.

In a 21st century, where biological and genetic resources will increasingly become acknowledged as a major part of economic and business life and for inventions and breakthroughs, the notion of not having basic international ground rules and norms and standards is likely to prove short-sighted to put it mildly.

Earlier this year in Busan, in the Republic of Korea, one breakthrough occurred in this important, mile-stone year.

  • Governments gave the green light for the establishment of an International Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services (IPBES).

Such a body has the potential to significantly tear down the firewall and strengthen the interface between science and policy-making in support of the biological conventions and the CBD's strategic plan.

An IPBES has been one of the missing links in the gulf between the reality of what is happening to the natural world and an ambition to fundamentally change and to fix this.

ABS is another missing link, another key piece in the response puzzle.

I understand that real and tangible progress has been made over the past few days.

And there is optimism that a Protocol may be in sight: I congratulate the co-chairs of the Ad-Hoc Open-Ended Working Group for their determination, energy and creativity.

Let this real chance not slip through our fingers here in Nagoya - let's have something more to shout about and to celebrate come the 29th of October that will make us and the global public we serve stand up and congratulate all concerned.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Biodiversity and ecosystems have always been at the heart of UNEP's work since it was established in 1972.

UNEP has and continues to work across the full spectrum in support of the biological conventions from the strategic to the project level.

  • Since 1992 to June this year, UNEP GEF biodiversity projects have invested close to $350 million in this area and generated co-financing of over $420 million.

A 10 year, $10 million UNEP GEF project to save the Siberian crane across partner countries including China, India, Kazakhstan and Russia, has not only boosted the bird's fortunes.

  • This partnership involving NGOs and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) has also played a catalytic role in boosting the conservation and rehabilitation of wetlands covering some 7 million hectares -ecosystems of high environmental and economic importance.

  • A UNEP GEF project on the often overlooked role of below ground biodiversity in sustainable agriculture, and involving Brazil and Cote d'Ivoire to Kenya, Mexico and Uganda, has just been completed.

For the full range of UNEP's activities in support of the biological conventions, please see our report of activities to this meeting.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2010 biodiversity and ecosystems have not just become part of the heart but an aortic and pulmonary component of the organization.

This is as a result of beginning the full implementation of the UNEP Medium-Term Strategy requested by ministers responsible for the environment through their Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum.

In support of the entire family of biological conventions - from CBD and the CMS to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species to Ramsar, the wetlands treaty - UNEP has been bringing not just the science and the policy.

But now increasingly the economics to the fore including in support of the CBD targets.

This body of work also links and curves back to the other conventions whether it be chemicals and hazardous waste or climate or air pollution.

The essential and elemental thrust is to showcase the multiple, and to some hidden benefits and opportunities for action right across the sustainability agenda if only we look for them and seize the opportunities.

To recognize too that far from being a burden, investments in the environment can have inordinate returns if the right signals and structures are factored into sustainable development and growth.

Last year we compiled a rapid assessment report: The Environmental Food Crises: environment's role in averting future food crises.

  • Among its many findings was that over half of the food produced today is either lost, wasted or discarded as a result of inefficiency in the human-managed food chain.

  • There is evidence within the report that the world could feed the entire projected population growth to 2050 by becoming more efficient while also ensuring the survival of wild animals, birds and fish on this planet

Food waste doesn't just translate into the tragedy of billions of people going hungry every night.

It represents a waste of the fertilizers and fuels used across the food chain which contribute to impacts such as dead zones in the world's oceans and climate change - also another avenue for reducing the pressure on land and the pressures on ecosystems and biodiversity and indeed the atmosphere.

The Blue Carbon report produced with the FAO, UNESCO and IUCN, underlined that seagrasses, mangroves and salt marshes globally may be absorbing up to half the world's transport emissions.

We know these marine ecosystems are economically-important in terms of coastal defenses, nurseries for fish and other important services.

Now we know they could be cornerstones in a more comprehensive response to climate change with the right kind of investment including via payment for ecosystem services.

TEEB and the Green Economy

Indeed it is perhaps the economic lens that has been one of the biggest missing links in the international response to biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation.

This week The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) - a partnership hosted by UNEP - will publish its final, synthesis report.

  • If deforestation continues as present rates to 2050, the world will lose $2 trillion-$4.5 trillion of natural capital per year

And what would it cost to replace certain natural services - even if we could.

  • Insect pollinators, including bees, provide services worth an estimated 153 billion Euros annually representing close to 10 per cent of the world's agricultural output for human food

TEEB is also showcasing where some communities and countries are recognizing nature's value.

  • In Vietnam, planting and protecting nearly 12000 hectares of mangroves has cost just over $1 million but saved annual expenditure on dyke maintenance of well over $7 million.

TEEB feeds directly into UNEP's Green Economy Initiative?indeed it is no coincidence that the head of both projects is the same: Pavan Sukhdev who is on secondment to UNEP from Deutsche Bank.

The Green Economy, which is one of the two themes for the upcoming Rio+20 meeting in Brazil, is assembling from across the globe the smart policy-instruments and market mechanisms to further unleash investments.

It is also showcasing where perhaps the global economy is wasting money and perversely contributing to environmental degradation - money that could be better spent on supporting the agenda of the CBD and other biological conventions.

In May UNEP spotlighted the economic, social and environmental contradictions of fisheries subsidizes and their role in fueling the depletion of fish stocks.

  • A Green Economy approach would invest $8 billion of the estimated $27 billion-worth of subsidizes in areas such as Marine Protected Areas and tradable fish quotas

  • This could actually raise catches to 112 million tonnes annually while triggering benefits to industry, consumers and the global economy totaling US$1.7 trillion over the next 40 years

  • Raise total income of fishing households, including those engaged in artisanal fishing, from US$35 billion to around US$44 billion a year while also assisting in fighting poverty by securing a primary source of protein for close to one billion people

TEEB and the Green Economy are both bringing evidence to oft said statement that nature is the wealth of the less well off.

  • Between close to 50 per cent and 90 per cent of the GDP of the poor - effectively the total source of livelihoods of rural and forest-dwelling poor households - are provided by ecosystems and other non-marketed goods

Points being articulated and translated into the work of the UNEP-UN Development Programme's Poverty and Environment Initiative which, as of June this year, has expanded to just under 20 countries.

  • Points made in a Green Economy and MDG briefing launched to coincide with the Millennium Development Goal review last month prior to the 65th session of the UN General Assembly.

    Meanwhile the multiple benefits, mutual supportiveness of the CBD and the UN Climate Convention and the way public policy has the potential to shape investment decisions is no more better illustrated than under Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).

    But where to target investments in order to combat climate change, boost biodiversity and enhance ecosystem services that also contributes to livelihoods?

    • This week UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre will showcase new maps covering countries including Honduras and Tanzania that do just that: offering choices and options to balance the risks and maximize the opportunities of REDD.

    • Recent field work in the Democratic Republic of Congo UN-REDD - which is a partnership between UNEP, UNDP and FAO - have identified seven locations as likely candidates for the first REDD projects

    UNEP and the World Bank are pursuing an ecosystems and natural capital initiative as a result of TEEB and national assessments are being planned and considered by several countries including Brazil and India - again initiatives in support of the proposed Strategic Plan of the CBD.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    Change is underway - environmental change including the rapid and accelerating loss of the world's biodiversity and ecosystems.

    It is now being glimpsed on the bottom line of households, communities, business and indeed entire economies.

    Next week UNEP's Finance Initiative will host CEOs from banks, investment funds and other sectors of the finance community here in Nagoya.

    • According to a survey by the World Economic Forum, the "severity of economic loss' and the "likelihood that biodiversity has a business impact' jumped between 2009 and 2010 - and is rated now as more of an issue of concern to business than international terrorism - perhaps an unusual but intriguing juxtaposition.

    • A recent survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that nearly 30 per cent of CEOs are "extremely worried" or "somewhat concerned" about biodiversity loss with CEOs in Latin America the most concerned.

    And it is not just business where concerns are rising.

    I hope some of you will join us next Sunday where we will announce the winners of this year's global Children Painting Competition on biodiversity - if Hansel and Gretel worried you when you were young, it is the loss of animals and forests that are animating the new generation.

    But in many countries, communities and cities, business and households another kind of change is also being registered and recorded which if scaled-up and embed offers a far different future than the one being forecast by science under the paralysis of the status quo.

    This is the challenge before this meeting.

    On ABS, let me agree that it is complex and challenging.

    But all too often multilateral negotiations seem to reduce to the minutia of extraordinary and in-depth detail.

    It becomes for many almost impossible to see the wood from the trees - we see this all too clearly in the climate negotiations.

    To borrow another biodiversity metaphor: one does not have to have every single duck in place before setting sail - a fact that is also seen clearly in the success of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

    Governments got going on repairing the Earth's protective shield in the 1980s without waiting for every knot to be tied and every bow to be neatly attached to the final package.

    And have evolved and amended that highly successful MEA and Protocol as new science, information and realities have emerged.

    It is the United Nations at its best and goes to the principles of fairness and equity and the search for a peaceful world that underpinned its original charter.

    Here in Nagoya we need to rediscover those principles as they relate to the conservation and sustainable use of the living world and in a way that shares the benefits to six billion, rising to nine billion people by 2050.

    Recognize too that stability and human well-being in the 21st century will rest fairly and squarely on the fate of all life on Earth.

    Science tells us that we are currently going through the sixth wave of extinctions - human beings are not on the IUCN's RED List, but for how much longer.

    If that is what science is telling us, what will this meeting tell the world it is doing about it?

    The plants and animals, fungi and micro-organisms that produce and clean our air, generate drinking water, hydro-power and irrigation; provide food, shelter and medicines and also bring to many joy and a spiritual dimension to our daily lives need a big helping hand from this 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties - if not for their sakes, but for ours.

    As the world famous biologist and insect specialist E O Wilson underlined:" The one process now going on that will take millions of years to correct is the loss of genetic and species diversity by the destruction of natural habitats-this is the folly our descendants are least likely to forgive us".

    Here in Nagoya the world can start putting in place the solutions and systems that will give those alive today and our descendants to come less cause for anxiety but one of well deserved approbation and applause as a result of your decisions in Nagoya in 2010.

    I would like to thank the German presidency which has so ably navigated from Bonn to Nagoya; members of the bureau for their wisdom and energy and again the Government of Japan to whom the presidential baton is to be handed.

    I am pleased to know that a global Satoyama Initiative will be launched here - proof, if proof were needed that sometimes we must go back to the future to re-define a better one - that traditional knowledge as well as modern science has the answers.

    I am sure that under Japan's leadership, the decisions taken here over the next two weeks can be translated from ideas into solid and importantly, supported actions.

    And that the spirit and practical application of systems like Satoyama can become one of the beacons for sustaining humanity together with all life on Earth in the 21st century.

    Thank you.