Nature is angry. And we fool ourselves if we think we can fool nature. Because nature always strikes back. And around the world, nature is striking back with fury.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Climate Action Summit, New York, 2019
Preserving nature is the essence of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is indivisible from the rest of the United Nations’ agenda. Current negative trends in biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation will undermine progress towards 80% of the assessed targets of the SDGs related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land. The implications of these drastic changes in nature for human health, well-being, security and economic development are staggering, reaching across the UN system’s pillars - from sustainable development to peace and security and human rights.
The year 2020 was poised to be a ‘Super Year’ for nature, with a series of global conferences and opportunities scheduled to reset humanity’s relationship with nature and get the world on track to decisive climate action and a more sustainable future. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically demonstrated the repercussions of the loss of nature and has halted progress towards sustainable development.
There needs to be a focus on building back better, including stronger and more resilient economies that incorporate integrated climate action, green investments and nature-based solutions, and policies and measures to reverse current negative trends in biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation. Protecting nature and biodiversity will also be critical to preventing future pandemics; 60% of all known diseases and 75% of new infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature, originating from wildlife or raised animals.
At its first regular session of 2020, within the context of the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN System Chief Executives Board (CEB) focused on how the UN system can support Member States to set in motion systemic changes towards nature-positive shifts across sectors and to develop a shared and strong UN system-wide commitment and narrative on halting, restoring and reversing the current trajectory of nature loss and climate change, and providing a significant ‘lift’ of the nature agenda in the 2020 ‘Super Year’ and beyond.
CEB members saw the need for a stronger mobilization around nature across the whole UN system, and a greater understanding of the organization’s footprint on nature and actions that can be taken to regulate that footprint. The Board endorsed a stronger focus on nature across the UN system and tasked its High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) to develop a common approach to integrating biodiversity and nature-based solutions for sustainable development into the UN’s policy and programme planning and delivery.
Subsequently, at its 40th session in October 2020, HLCP considered a discussion note outlining proposed building blocks of such a common approach, as well as options for collective action at the global, regional and country level. The paper had been developed through a time-bound HLCP task team on biodiversity and nature-based solutions, co-led by UNEP and UNDP. The approach will build on the work of the Environment Management Group on biodiversity and other inter-agency coordination mechanisms, including drawing on current commitments by agencies, funds and programmes. The Committee requested the task team to further elaborate the draft UN system common approach to integrating biodiversity and nature-based solution for sustainable development into the UN’s policy and programme planning and delivery for consideration by HLCP at its 41st session.