'Triple planetary emergency' requires nature-based solutions, UN says

19th February 2021

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Christopher Hayes

The world's climate, biodiversity and pollution crises must be tackled simultaneously with nature-based solutions that also help prevent future pandemics, the UN has said in a new report.

The Making Peace with Nature report, published yesterday, explains how the trio of environmental emergencies interact and have common causes, and can only be effectively addressed together.

Subsidies on fossil fuels, for example, and prices that leave out environmental costs, are driving the wasteful production and consumption of energy and natural resources that are behind all three problems.

The document lays out a comprehensive blueprint for addressing the “triple planetary emergency”, which includes reimagining how we value and invest in nature, overhauling subsidies, and fostering innovation in sustainable technologies and business models.

It draws on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, and new findings on the outbreak of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19.

“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,” said UN secretary-general António Guterres.

“It also guides us to a safer place by providing a peace plan and a post-war rebuilding programme. By recognising nature as an indispensable ally, we can unleash human ingenuity in the service of sustainability and secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet.”

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and a carbon-neutral world by 2050, are both possible while bending the curve on biodiversity loss and curbing pollution and waste, according to the report.

This will require stakeholders at all levels of society to be involved in decision-making, with dozens of key actions identified that governments, businesses, communities and individuals can and should undertake.

For example, governments can include natural capital in measures of economic performance, put a price on carbon, and shift trillions of dollars in subsidies from fossil fuels and non-sustainable agriculture and transportation towards low-carbon and nature-friendly solutions.

Businesses can adopt the principles of the circular economy, while individuals should reconsider their relationship with nature, learn about sustainability, and change their habits to reduce their use of resources and adopt healthier diets.

“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,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Programme.

“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.

“Green recovery plans for pandemic-hit economies are an unmissable opportunity to accelerate the transformation.”

Image credit: iStock

Author: Chris Seekings


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