The UN General Assembly (UNGA) President convened a high-level thematic debate to address the interconnected challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, land and ocean degradation, pollution, and unsustainable consumption and production. The “super session on nature” sought to contribute to achieving the level of cohesion needed among the global environmental work streams to “keep the 1.5°C target alive,” and rapidly accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The day-long results-oriented event assessed recent decisions taken at global environmental fora, and highlighted the need to address the gap between commitments and implementation.
UNGA President Abdulla Shahid sent a message of hope “stemming from the conviction that, despite the daunting challenges we face, [we] have the capacity and capabilities of changing our world.” He recalled a time when renewables were perceived as “too weak and expensive to make a difference,” highlighting that today, with “fleets of vehicles and countless homes [being] run on renewables,” “the possibilities are endless.”
Highlighting the “mounting scientific evidence” on climate change, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) President Collen Vixen Kelapile called for a transformative change to shift to nature-sensitive economic growth, nature-based solutions, and altered consumption and production patterns.
Addressing the meeting through a video message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted “a triple crisis of climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution,” caused by ways of life based on “producing, consuming, discarding and polluting.” He cautioned against “empty promises,” and called for: commitments at the UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, to a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45% by 2030 and net zero emissions by mid-century; and a bold global agreement to tackle the key drivers of biodiversity loss and close the biodiversity finance gap by repurposing the annual USD 500 billion in harmful subsidies.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed called for a holistic approach in addressing the drivers of environmental degradation and for strengthening nature’s capacity to protect us from hazards and extreme events.
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen outlined how global cross-cutting challenges have been highlighted at recent multilateral environmental meetings. She noted that the Glasgow Climate Change Conference “recognized the centrality of healthy nature to a healthy climate,” and highlighted a package of resolutions adopted at the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), including decisions to establish a science-policy panel for chemicals and waste and to create, by 2024, an international legally binding agreement on plastic pollution.
With much intersessional work remaining on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, Andersen said “we need to see a massive political lift for nature” at the UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15), where the framework is expected to be adopted. COP 15, which was originally scheduled to take place from 15-28 October 2020, in Kunming, China, was postponed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After several date changes, its in-person segment was moved to Montreal, Canada, where it is now scheduled to convene under the Chinese Presidency from 5-17 December 2022.
The New Zero World Campaign launched in the margins of the high-level debate. Addressing the side event, UNGA President Shahid stressed the need for whole-of-society responses to achieve our global environmental goals, with all sectors engaged in the process.
The Moment for Nature discussions will be captured in the UNGA President’s summary that will inform: future action and policies by the General Assembly and implementation bodies at the international, regional, and local levels; relevant policies and actions by Member States and stakeholders; and engagement of Member States at other high-level meetings and processes. [Moment for Nature Concept Note] [UN News Story]