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Remarks by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen on World Environment Day, June 5, 2020

28.05.2020 - Speech

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Let me start by highlighting that today's World Environment Day should encourage us to think about what the environment does for us humans and especially the diversity of species and ecosystems on our planet. Our well-being relies on nature and its services. Nature provides many solutions for our societal challenges, such as food security, health and climate change. But the area of intact ecosystems has been reduced by an average of 47 percent. Humans have massively changed seventy five percent of the land area and 66 percent of the seas. Land and resource use, climate change, pollution and invasive species are pushing many ecosystems to their limits. Agriculture has been practiced too intensively in many countries, and soil fertility and biodiversity are suffering negative consequences. On 23 percent of the land area and the area of our planet, soil quality and thus agricultural productivity has deteriorated with a growing population that needs to be maintained.

The challenges are enormous. We need to protect and sustainably use natural ecosystems on which we all depend. There are numerous projects around the world that are advancing in that direction. I would like also to commend what the Colombian government is doing. Let me give just a small example of a project supported by Germany within the framework of the International Climate Initiative. The project deals with biodiversity and ecosystems services in agrarian landscapes. It strengthens the capacities of about 700 farmers, 50 percent, by the way, of whom are women, in India, Kenya and Tajikistan, to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes by biodiversity, promoting farming practices, and by diversifying their crops.

Despite some progress, the Global Assessment Report by the International Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services sheds light on the crisis of biodiversity loss that we are currently facing. One million species are in danger of extinction. The COVID-19 pandemic makes us aware that the destruction of natural habitats of wild species can be an immediate cause of the spread of new viruses and diseases that are life threatening to humans. It shows clearly the link between the loss of biodiversity and land use changes, increased human encroachment on wildlife habitats, illegal wildlife trade, and other dangerous interactions with wild fauna and flora such as poaching.

We urgently need to take care of nature, climate and wildlife, in a one health approach so that nature can take care of us. Germany cooperates with a multitude of diverse partners and supports activities on an international, national and regional level to mend our relationship with nature and keep it sustainable. We are one of the major donors in the fight against poaching and the illegal wildlife trade with current funding of over 250 million euros for multi-country and bilateral projects where 60 bilateral projects are aimed at reducing the illegal wildlife trade, for example, by improving protected area management to prevent poaching, by developing alternative livelihoods, or by advising partner countries on legal systems and law enforcement.

Next year, the world community will have the opportunity to adopt a new global framework for biodiversity for the post-2020 era. We will hopefully set a global stop sign for the loss of biodiversity and destruction of ecosystems. Germany is determined to achieve an ambitious framework and to implement it at home.

At the end of my opening remarks for the celebration of World Environment Day, I would like to turn from nature to culture. Today is not only World Environment Day, it is also Pastoral Day. Ludwig van Beethoven, who's 250 anniversary we are celebrating this year, not only loved nature, but was inspired by it. Witness the Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral Symphony”. Building on the composer's legacy of enlightenment and humanism, the Beethoven Pastoral Project was launched in 2017 at the climate conference in Bonn and today reaches its long awaited culmination with a focus on music and inspiring action, demanding action and promising action. The world of culture and music are adding their voices to the growing calls to live up to the Paris Agreement, to implement more rigorously the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as the SDGs, and to launch a new deal for nature and People.

 

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