The world is facing a planetary crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss. The erosion of biodiversity is no longer a hypothesis, but a fact – one that can already be seen and felt in our everyday life. Year after year, the figures worsen, revealing the true depth of the crisis the world is currently confronting.
This global loss of biodiversity is threatening the security of the world’s food supplies and the livelihoods of millions of people including indigenous people and local communities especially in the African region.
This trend puts not only human survival at risk, but also the beauty, the poetry, the diversity of the world.
However, stakeholders in the climate change sector believe there is still hope for the world to reverse this ugly trend.
This was the crux of deliberations of the 33rd session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)’s International Coordinating Council of Man and Biosphere (MAB-ICC) programme hosted recently by Nigeria.
In his speech at the opening session of the deliberations at the Banquet Hall of the State House, Aso Villa, Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari tasked world leaders to change their behaviours towards the biosphere by respecting the natural habitat and living in peace and harmony with nature, stressing they are paramount to a future resilient generation where biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and sustainably used while maintaining ecosystem services and delivering social benefits to the people.
Represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Buhari reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to emerging global solutions for addressing climate change and other environmental challenges, informing the participants that he pledged at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly that the country would plant 35 million trees nationwide, a pledge he had kept, with about 80 per cent of the trees so far planted.
In her remarks, the UNESCO director-general, Ms. Audrey Azoulay, highlighted the inextricable link between climate and biodiversity and contended that “when one suffers, the other does too” – as Nigeria knows all too well, especially on the shores of Lake Chad, adding with this impending collapse, not only was human survival at risk, but also the beauty, the poetry, the diversity of the world.
According to her, there is still time to make peace with the planet to stop the impending collapse of the earth’s biodiversity and reverse the negative effects of climate change.
“The conviction is that we can reforge our relationship with nature. That we can reconcile development and environmental protection. That local and indigenous populations, custodians of 80 per cent of ecosystems have so much to teach us.
“50 years on, this vision has become reality, since 275 million people now live in UNESCO’s 714 Biosphere Reserves in 129 countries. And, 50 years on, it is this legacy that brings us together at today’s council,” she said.
Azoulay further harped on the need to harness the power of education to rebuild man’s relationship with nature, saying UNESCO was fully mobilized to ensure that the environment becomes a key curriculum component by 2025, in line with the commitment made by the 80 governments that gathered at the Berlin conference last May.
In his goodwill message, the UN resident coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, said the COVID-19 pandemic had brought with it devastating consequences, resulting in an unprecedented human crisis that is affecting the world’s most vulnerable and poorest, especially youths, women and children.
According to him, the pandemic has compounded already existing problems like violent extremism, children staying out of school, poverty and food insecurity.
Despite these consequences, he said the COVID-19 pandemic had called the world’s attention to fixing its deteriorating relationship with nature and had reaffirmed that biodiversity was fundamental for human health and critical for sustainable development.
“As we may observe, our combined attitudes and lifestyles have dramatically altered the land around us. We have cleared forests and other natural terrains to create spaces for urban areas, settlements, agriculture and industries.
“In doing so, we have reduced the overall space for wildlife and degraded natural safe spaces between humans and animals. We must all rise and take responsibility to restore this human-nature safe space by taking responsible steps to conserve biodiversity and restore lost resources.
“This brings to mind the current ‘UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’ which aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean, in line with the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Decade, therefore, places a demand on scientists and, indeed, on all of us to work together to recover our lost ecosystems and biodiversity to Build Back Better,” he added.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, said the MAB programme presented a unique platform for cooperation on research and development, ecological restoration, capacity-building and networking to share information, knowledge and experience on three interlinked issues: biodiversity loss, climate change and sustainable development.
Ikeazor pointed out that the world is facing planetary crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, saying the global loss of biodiversity was threatening the security of the world’s food supplies and the livelihoods of millions of people, including indigenous people and local communities, especially in the African region.
The good news, according to her, is that it is not too late to reverse the current trends if conservation efforts are scaled up and protected areas are expanded, adding protected areas are the cornerstones of biodiversity and conservation.
While stressing Nigeria’s commitment to taking bold steps to reverse biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change, she pointed out that the country would continue to play her role to safeguard the environment for future generations, adding with the support of partners like UNESCO, a resilient environment could be sustained as the world strives to live in harmony with nature.