Speech | 20 Jul, 2021

IUCN Director General’s open letter ahead of the G20 Environment Ministers’ Meeting

Dear IUCN Members,

The world is experiencing times of much uncertainty and many challenges. To the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss, the COVID pandemic has added numerous hurdles for our societies, economies and health systems to collectively overcome.

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Photo: Pixabay

This year under the Italian Presidency, the G20 is focusing its discussions on three broad, interconnected pillars of action: People, Planet, Prosperity. IUCN salutes Italy’s leadership and welcomes these priorities. In preparation for the G20 Heads of State Summit that will take place in Rome at the end of October, several ministerial meetings are planned.

It is my pleasure to inform you that IUCN has been granted the opportunity to speak at the upcoming G20 Environment Ministers meeting in Naples, Italy on 22 July. It is my honour to be invited to make this intervention as Director General of IUCN.

As reflected by the rich discussions held in working groups and special events organised so far in preparation for the Naples meeting and captured in the draft Communiqué, there is an urgent need for a more coordinated approach to address our global climate and biodiversity crises. As mentioned above, the urgency of the matter is further reinforced by the swiftly unfolding consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In effect, governments are responding to the economic impacts of COVID-19 by allocating trillions of dollars to fiscal stimulus packages and beginning to develop longer-term economic recovery programs. It is our role, as a Union and the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it, to clearly demonstrate to the global community that only through investing in nature will we ever be able to build forward better.

Some countries’ plans have included ‘green’ recovery measures through grants, loans and tax relief directed towards transport, circular economy and clean energy research. IUCN welcomes those efforts. But recognising the deep interlinkages between biodiversity loss and climate change, this can be much better done when both challenges are tackled together. Indeed, it has been documented that investing in the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of the world’s ecosystems can provide around a third of the cost-effective climate mitigation need by 2030 to limit warming to below 2 degrees C.

IUCN’s message is very simple: The time to invest in nature is now. Investment in nature is good investment – it pays off in the short and long-term.

Healthy ecosystems support 55% of global GDP, and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity underpins sustainable development. But biodiversity - the variety that sustains life on Earth - is declining at rates never experienced before in human history. It is key that to respond to these challenges, the G20, bringing together much of the world’s population and of the global economy, steps up efforts and lives up to its role. IUCN can help.

This year brings forward numerous opportunities for multilateral global action, the G20 process being one of them and a very important one. IUCN thus calls on G20 countries, and in particular those countries that are State Members of IUCN, to:

  1. Support the emergence of nature-focused economic activity, by supporting sectors and companies that commit to nature-positive outcomes, and Nature-based Solutions (NbS), through incentives, tax concessions, technical advisory support and concessional finance;
  2. Support the adoption of NbS across the 3 Rio Conventions and other global blueprints and policy processes such as the Sustainable Development Goals;
  3. Move rapidly towards a circular economy, by maximising the efficiency of raw material use and minimising waste such as plastics harmful to nature;
  4. Reorient subsidies that harm biodiversity, such as those favouring the expansion of agriculture into intact ecosystems, promoting fossil fuel extraction and construction of infrastructure that destroys nature, into support for regenerative agriculture, conservation of natural systems and markets that support ecosystem service provision;
  5. Recognise that much of the impact on nature that has caused the global biodiversity crisis is due to the consumption of commodities outside the countries where they are produced, and evaluate and focus efforts to reduce the impacts of commodity production at the point of origin;
  6. Ensure that nature-positive economies benefit local communities and indigenous people, women and youth, whose livelihoods depend disproportionately on nature;
  7. Ensure increased assessment and disclosure of biodiversity-based investment risk for the finance sector, building on the upcoming recommendations of the Taskforce for Nature-based Financial Disclosure;
  8. Make use of the important opportunity presented by the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow (hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy) to spotlight the critical role that NbS can play in addressing the climate crisis, while also providing a range of other societal benefits and commit to ensure the highest levels of ambition and action;
  9. Commit to adopt and implement an ambitious new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that is fully aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and the vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050; supporting in particular goals on protection of sites of importance for biodiversity and species threat reduction;
  10. Through the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and to advance the goals of the Rio Conventions and the SDGs, immediately scale-up ecosystem restoration to reverse loss in area, integrity and connectivity of all natural ecosystems by 2030;
  11. Reduce pressure on natural ecosystems and regenerate long-term sustainability of managed ecosystems, to maximise their contributions to biodiversity and ecosystem services through integrated spatial planning covering at least 50% of land, freshwater and sea areas by 2030;
  12. Invite all actors of society, including the business and financial sectors, to actively take part in a collective effort to set the world in a transformational trajectory towards societies that gradually but steadily build forward better and greener, leaving aside their relentless demand and use of natural resources or fossil-fuels for growth.

I am convinced that only through collective action we can make this happen.

Quoting the United Nations Secretary General in his speech “The State of the Planet” late last year at Columbia University: “Humanity is waging war on nature” and so “Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century. It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.” I could not agree more.

I invite you all to join us at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France, from 3-11 September and continue this important conversation.


Bruno Oberle signature       Photo: IUCN



Dr Bruno Oberle
Director General