Humans treating nature like a toilet, UN chief says in Montreal

 Urges for bold Post-2020 Global Framework to tackle drivers of ‘biodiversity apocalypse’

By Nandita Banerji
Published: Wednesday 07 December 2022
Guterres made the remarks at the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on December 6, 2022. Screengrab: @antonioguterres/Twitter__

The opening session of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) began with a stark warning from the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about the destruction of wildlife at the hands of humans, calling it a war on nature.

“Humankind is treating nature like a toilet” by poisoning the land, water and air with chemicals, pesticides and plastics, Guterres remarked at the summit in Montreal, Canada, on December 6, 2022.

Read more: Include wetland conservation in upcoming biodiversity, climate change negotiations: Experts

He urged urgent action by tackling the drivers of the ‘biodiversity apocalypse’ with a bold Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

Guterres urged for three concrete actions:

  • Governments to make bolder national action plans 
  • Private sector to recognise that profit and protection must go hand-in-hand
  • Developed countries to provide financial support for the Global South

The summit is an international meeting bringing together governments from around the world. Participants will set out new goals to guide global action to preserve biodiversity through 2030 to halt and reverse nature loss.

Land- and sea-use change, overexploitation of species, climate change and pollution and invasive non-native species need to be tackled urgently, said the secretary-general.

The framework must address the root causes of destruction, like harmful subsidies, misdirected investment, unsustainable food systems and wider consumption and production patterns, he added.

The new framework must support the global agreements aiming at protecting our planet that can bring us closer to achieving the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals, Guterres further said.

Read more: Road to COP15: DTE’s coverage in the run-up to Montreal

The national action plans should repurpose subsidies and tax breaks away from nature-destroying activities towards green solutions like renewable energy, Guterres said.

The rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who have always been the most effective guardians of biodiversity, also need to be recognised and protected, the secretary-general noted.

The food and agricultural industry also needs to move towards sustainable production and natural means of pollination, pest control and fertilisation, he added.

The timber, chemicals, building and construction industries have to take their impacts on nature into account and industries like biotech and pharmaceutical must share the benefits of biodiversity fairly and equitably, the secretary-general highlighted.

Read more: How to fight deseritification: Here’s what the 15th COP to UNCCD agreed on

A mechanism that can ensure developing countries have more direct, simpler and faster access to much-needed financing is also the need of the hour, Guterres further said.

“International financial institutions and multilateral development banks must align their portfolios with the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity,” he added.

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