UN biodiversity summit chief: Make peace with nature or risk more war

By Thomson Reuters May 31, 2024 | 11:56 AM

By Jake Spring

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – The world must make peace with nature or risk fueling more global conflicts like the war in Gaza, the president of the upcoming United Nations COP16 biodiversity summit said on Friday.

The October summit in Colombia is charged with negotiating next steps to implement the landmark 2022 Kunming-Montreal accord – likened to the Paris Agreement on climate change, but for nature – in order to address the drastic decline in biodiversity globally.

Climate change, deforestation, pollution and habitat destruction have led to a 69% decline in global wildlife populations since 1970, according to nonprofit WWF.

Colombia’s Environment Minister, Susana Muhamad, laid out her priorities as COP16 president, along with a warning if the world fails to reform global governance to solve problems like the climate crisis.

“The situation currently in Palestine, where humanity is observing how a people of the world is being crushed militarily. And there’s not even the capacity of the U.N. to provide the humanitarian relief,” Muhamad said during a five-minute speech at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington.

“That situation is what we could expect in a lack of governance and in a chaotic world because of the climate crisis.”

Muhamad said the “suicidal war against nature” is causing conflict to increase but did not elaborate on the connection.

Multilateral institutions are not equipped to deal with unprecedented challenges like climate change and must be overhauled or risk the world slipping into rule by the strong through violence, Muhamad said.

Colombia’s top priorities for COP16 include an “intense” discussion on how to reform the global financial system that will allow developing countries to make strong environmental commitments without taking on more debt, she said.

Countries must submit biodiversity targets before the summit. Colombia will prioritize working with U.N. officials to measure how those commitments line up with 2030 goals in the Kunming-Montreal agreement, she said.

Colombia will also seek to boost the participation of Indigenous people and traditional communities in the process, by organizing three pre-summit events giving them an opportunity to lobby governments.

(Reporting by Jake Spring; Editing by Rod Nickel)