In 2020, as COVID-19 disrupted the world, UNEP responded to immediate environmental impacts of the pandemic, while supporting a green recovery and pushing even harder to address the planetary emergency. Executive Director, Inger Andersen, shares highlights from UNEP’s work on the climate crisis, the biodiversity and nature crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is a passionate advocate for planetary and human health. For almost 50 years, UNEP has delivered science to help the world understand the damage humanity’s carbon- and resource-hungry
development path is causing to the planet, human health and economies, and has supported policies and actions to halt and reverse this damage.
But in 2020, the planet spoke up for itself. COVID-19 hit hard, claiming lives and magnifying inequalities. Economies are facing deep recessions. For the first time in 30 years, poverty is on the rise while the pandemic is driving the world further off-course from achieving the promise of the 2030 Agenda.
Like others before it, this pandemic is linked to the way humanity treats nature as fuel for the economic growth engine. The systemic issues that helped to create this pandemic – particularly unsustainable consumption and production – are the same ones driving the three planetary crises: the climate crisis, the biodiversity and nature crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis. The world continued to heat up in 2020, contributing to wildfires, droughts, floods and ravenous locust swarms. The loss of nature to agriculture, infrastructure and human settlements continues to escalate. Pollution of the air, land and sea is still claiming lives and damaging crucial ecosystems. In December 2020, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres put these issues at the top of the agenda. He said that humanity must make peace with nature, or face problems far more
damaging than COVID-19 in the future. Making peace with nature requires resetting the system. It requires a long-term transformation of how humanity extracts and consumes resources. It requires a rapid and permanent shift to a world that works with nature, not against it. In 2020, despite disruption from the pandemic, UNEP pushed even harder to address the
three planetary crises, including by refocusing some of our work to deal with the immediate environmental impacts of COVID-19, such as increased waste and laying the foundations for a green post-pandemic recovery. With this letter, I present some highlights from this work.”
We face three imperatives in addressing the climate crisis:
- First, we need to achieve global carbon neutrality within the next three decades.
- Second, we have to align global finance behind the Paris Agreement, the world’s blueprint for climate action.
- Third, we must deliver a breakthrough on adaptation to protect the world.
Nature and Biodiversity
2020 was slated to be the super year for nature. Even though COVID-19 delayed significant processes, attention to biodiversity grew significantly. The first-ever UN Biodiversity Summit and the Leader’s Pledge for Nature galvanized global commitments on stopping and reversing biodiversity loss. This is critical because nature is in trouble. The UNEP-administered Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2020 released the Global Biodiversity Outlook, which found that, despite progress, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets have not been met. Through the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), UNEP played a key role in bringing together the data for these findings, including updating, verifying or adding records for over 200,000 protected areas and other area-based conservation measures in the Protected Planet databases.
Full report can be read here.
Source – UN Environment Programme