The world can transform its relationship with nature and tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises together to secure a sustainable future and prevent future pandemics, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) that offers a comprehensive blueprint for future action.
The report, Making Peace with Nature, lays out the gravity of these three environmental crises by drawing on global assessments, including those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, as well as UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook report, the UNEP International Resource Panel, and new findings on the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.
The authors assess the links between multiple environmental and development challenges, and explain how advances in science and bold policymaking can open a pathway towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and a carbon neutral world by 2050 while bending the curve on biodiversity loss and curbing pollution and waste. Taking that path means innovation and investment only in activities that protect both people and nature. Success will include restored ecosystems and healthier lives as well as a stable climate.
“By bringing together the latest scientific evidence showing the impacts and threats of the climate emergency, the biodiversity crisis and the pollution that kills millions of people every year, [this report] makes clear that our war on nature has left the planet broken,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in the report’s Foreword. “But it also guides us to a safer place by providing a peace plan and a post-war rebuilding programme.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said the report highlighted the importance of changing mindsets and values, and finding political and technical solutions that measure up to the Earth’s environmental crises.
“In showing how the health of people and nature are intertwined, the COVID-19 crisis has underlined the need for a step-change in how we view and value nature. By reflecting that value in decision-making – whether we are talking about economic policy or personal choices – we can bring about a rapid and lasting shift toward sustainability for both people and the environment,” she said. “‘Green recovery’ plans for pandemic-hit economies are an unmissable opportunity to accelerate the transformation.”
Released ahead of the fifth UN Environment Assembly, the report presents a strong case for why and how urgent action should be taken to protect and restore the planet and its climate in a holistic way.
It also lays out the roles that everyone – from governments and businesses to communities and individuals – can and must play. 2021 is especially crucial, with upcoming climate and biodiversity convention meetings - UNFCCC COP 26 and CBD COP 15 – where governments must come up with synergistic and ambitious targets to safeguard the planet by almost halving greenhouse gas emissions in this decade, and by conserving and restoring biodiversity.
UNEP press release is here