MANILA, Philippines – United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) head Erik Solheim on Wednesday, October 25, challenged countries to bring the politics of biodiversity at the same level as climate change by 2020.
Solheim is in Manila for the 12th Conference of the Parties (COP12) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) of Wild Animals. On Wednesday morning, he addressed delegates to talk about why people should care about protecting biodiversity.
"I think we should aim that by 2020 to be at the same stage with biodiversity as we are with climate," Solheim said in his 40-minute speech.
He continued: "The climate message has been adopted by nearly every politician on the planet with the exception of one very important one, but every other nation [has] accepted the climate message, and we should be at the same place by 2020 with biodiversity."
Solheim said it should be easier to set out the case for biodiversity since it is "more concrete, more here and now" than climate change.
He dubbed 2020 as the "year of biodiversity" since two very important biodiversity conferences will happen that year: CMS COP13, and the Convention on Biodiversity.
"We should aim at that being as important to biodiversity as the Paris Agreement was to climate change," he added.
On Wednesday, the UNEP chief also discussed 3 reasons why people should care about protecting biodiversity: the spiritual argument, the ecosystem argument, and the economic argument.
He argued that whatever religion people may adhere to, biodiversity is at "front and center." He said there is a need to protect the planet for the next generation.
"Who are we to put ourselves in the place of God, destroying the beauty of the planet God created? We cannot do that. Our duty is to protect the planet and bring it to the next generation in a better place than we inherited from our fathers and mothers," Solheim explained.
He also pointed out that picking on and destroying one species in a big ecosystem "nearly always have a lot of consequences." He said it's unlikely for an ecosystem to remain the same even after one part of it is taken out.
"If you pick out and destroy the number one carnivore in the system, say the lions, I guarantee it will have a huge impact on the entire ecosystem... So we can't do all these experiments on ecosystems, we need to be better at protecting the entire ecosystem," he added.
Ecosystems also sustain human life, Solheim noted.
"We are completely dependent in our life on the ecosystems. Think of tourism – the biggest producer of new jobs on planet Earth at the moment – again completely interlinked with ecosystems and species, so we will destroy the economic foundation from modern economy if we do destroy [ecosystems]," he said.
Solheim also urged delegates to "speak in a language that people can understand" when setting out issues concerning the protection of biodiversity.
This is the first time the triennial conference is held in Asia since the international treaty was adopted in Bonn, Germany in 1979, and entered into force in 1985. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.