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News > Switzerland

'Make Peace With Nature' the United Nations Requests

  • Leopard sharks swim surrounded by marine debris, California, U.S.

    Leopard sharks swim surrounded by marine debris, California, U.S. | Photo: Twitter/ @UCSBenioffOcean

Published 19 February 2021

Climate disruption, biodiversity loss, and pollution are threatening our viability as a species.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday asked for global action to reevaluate the relationship between human societies and nature so as to ensure forms of sustainable development.


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"Without nature's help, we will not thrive or even survive. For too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature. The result is three interlinked environmental crises: climate disruption, biodiversity loss, and pollution that threaten our viability as a species," he said at the launch of a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report "Making Peace with Nature."

Human beings are overexploiting and degrading the environment on land and sea. The atmosphere and the oceans have become dumping grounds for waste. Governments are still paying more to exploit nature than to protect it. Globally, countries spend up to US$6 trillion a year on subsidies that damage the environment.

Guterres also explained that the interlinked climate, biodiversity, and pollution crises require urgent action from governments,  international organizations, businesses, cities, and individuals.

The UNEP report shows that the global economy has grown nearly fivefold in the past five decades, but at a massive cost to the global environment.

Earth is heading for more than 3 degrees Celsius of global warming this century. The burden falls disproportionately on women, who represent 80 percent of those displaced by climate disruption.

More than 1 million of the planet's estimated 8 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. And diseases caused by air pollution cause some 6.5 million premature deaths every year.

Polluted water kills a further 1.8 million, predominantly children. Meanwhile, 1.3 billion people remain poor and some 700 million are hungry.

The report points to many ways the world can accomplish sustainable development. For example, governments can include natural capital in measures of economic performance and promote a circular economy.

They can agree to not support the kind of agriculture that destroys or pollutes nature. They can put a price on carbon. They can shift subsidies from fossil fuels toward low-carbon and nature-friendly solutions.

"We need to transform how we view and value nature. We must reflect nature's true value in all our policies, plans, and economic systems. With a new consciousness, we can direct investment into policies and activities that protect and restore nature and the rewards will be immense," Guterres pointed out.

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