UN BIODIVERSITY SUMMIT: Accelerated biodiversity loss re-ignites calls for action by Heads of State and Government

Heads of States and governments together with international stakeholders gathering to take action on biodiversity for sustainable development.
On 30 September 2020, the General Assembly convened the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity under the theme “Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development.” In the lead up to the negotiations for the post-2020 framework for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) the Member States, UN system and partners have had a unique opportunity to boost momentum towards the 15th Conference of Parties (CoP15) CBD to be held in Kunming, China in 2021.

After the Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 confirmed that none of the Aichi targets will be met, accelerating biodiversity loss jeopardizes progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and human wellbeing.

“Humanity is waging war on nature.” Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General.

The first UN Biodiversity Summit highlighted the crisis facing humanity from the degradation of biodiversity and the urgent need to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development. It gave impetus to the following UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon and UNFCCC COP25 in Glasgow late in 2021. The post 2020 biodiversity framework, and its effective implementation, must put nature on a path to recovery by 2030 to meet the SDGs and realize the Vision of “Living in harmony with nature”.

Our solutions are in nature. We need to strive to find development opportunities whilst preserving nature. COP 15 offers an opportunity for new strategies for biodiversity governance.Xi Jinping, President of China

Speaking virtually, over 150 world leaders aimed to mobilize concrete action to stem the decline of the planet’s biodiversity, which has seen a 68% loss of vertebrates since 1970. The goal is to build political momentum for the Convention on Biodiversity’s Conference of the Parties (COP15), in Kunming, China in 2021, where world leaders will agree to an ambitious plan of action on biodiversity. This Summit culminates on the wake of an intense two-week period mobilization from a wide range of stakeholders, CBD parties, cities, local & subnational governments, business and finance sector, civil society, NGOs, international organizations, experts, the youth… These far-reaching commitments fostered the adoption of calls to action from youth representatives and NGOs, and pledges from world leaders and businesses.

There needs to be a shift away from economic models that value growth for growth, towards a circular economy.(..) We must build back better and greener. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa


The current COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the importance of the relationship between people and nature. Responses to the pandemic provide a unique opportunity for transformative change as a global community. By working and living in harmony with nature, together we can ensure a stronger, better recovery, and prevent future pandemics.

Leaders unite to send a joint signal to the world in a Leaders Pledge for Nature

Two days ahead of the Summit, Heads of State and Governments and other leaders from all the world’s regions endorsed the “Leaders Pledge for Nature: United to Reverse Biodiversity Loss by 2030 for Sustainable Development”. They came together to send a united signal to step up global ambition for biodiversity and to commit to matching their collective ambition for nature, climate and people with the scale of the crisis at hand.

The Pledge was presented during the Leaders Event For Nature & People – A global response to our planetary emergency – protecting our safety net, held as part of the Nature for Life Hub – Global Ambition Day. So far, more than 70 countries have signed it. This political momentum shall strategically help raising the ambition for the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, just as the Secretary-General’s Climate Summit had served in 2015 to successfully deliver the Paris Agreement.

A whole-of-society mobilization for Nature

The Pledge responded to numerous calls to action from civil society, businesses, youth, cities, IPLCs, academia and citizen movements across the globe and complement their actions and initiatives. All received ahead of the Biodiversity Summit.

This whole-of-society mobilization has been led by biodiversity mobilization pioneers.

Today we are calling to everyone who is willing to join our actions to halt biodiversity loss. The community is becoming bigger and stronger every day. Let us make this our common mission. You can count on my commitment.” Ursula Van Der Leyen, EU Commission President.

CITIES & Subnational governments

It first builds on the political momentum of local and subnational governments’ mobilization, echoed through the voice of ICLEI’s Ambassador for Biodiversity Mayor Plante of Montreal. In the session plenary Leaders Dialogue 2 “Harnessing science, technology and innovation, capacity building, access and benefit-sharing, financing and partnerships for biodiversity”, she will introduce the Edinburgh Declaration agreed between subnational and local governments across the world and calls on the global leaders to take bold action to halt biodiversity loss.

“At the dawn of a new decade, the future of our planet will be determined by the actions we take now to reverse the unprecedented loss of nature and secure our increasingly urban future.” ICLEI’s Ambassador for Biodiversity Mayor Plante of Montreal

Business and Finance

This momentum is also supported by the Business Call to Action led by Business for Nature that was presented to Heads of States on 30th September across the Leaders Dialogue by the CEO Sintesa Group and the organization Business for nature. Released on 21st September, the call to Action has been signed by over 560 companies from 54 countries, employing 9.5 million people and with combined revenue of US$ 4 trillion across all sectors.

“Healthy societies, resilient economies and thriving businesses rely on nature. Governments must adopt policies now to reverse nature loss in this decade.  Together let’s protect, restore and sustainably use our natural resources.” Business Call to Action

Through the Finance for biodiversity pledge signed by 26 financial institutions from around the globe to be released on the 25th this group is calling on global leaders and committing to protect and restore biodiversity through their finance activities and investments. It will also be brought to the attention of Heads of States during the Nature for Life- Global Ambition Day but on the 30th during the second Leaders’ Dialogue.

There is a plan A: we need to reverse this trend. There is no plan B. We cannot run a business on a dead planet!Roberto Marques, CEO of Natura & Co


This movement is now intensified with the Manifesto and Open Letter, submitted to the UN Secretary-General at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Biodiversity Summit by Youth from around the world.  It aims at mobilizing world leaders to support youth priorities for 2020 and 2021 and the resolutions youth want to see being addressed and adopted in the next decade and beyond to achieve a vision of “living in harmony with nature”. This Letter outlines priorities that young people feel must be addressed to set humanity on course for achieving the 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature”, agreed by world leaders in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“We need fundamental reform of our priorities, behaviors and values for the sake of our shared future.” Gustaf Zachrisson, GYBN Nordic Region.

Part of this mobilization, our partner GYBN also launched a video-appeal to Heads of States on 30th September.

Civil Society

As part of this concerted effort, 15 partner organizations from the WCC Post-2020 Pavilion Partnership including environment, development and other organizations issued a call to action to Heads of States and Governments to set nature on the path to recovery by 2030 and secure an equitable, carbon-neutral and nature-positive world.

In total, seven distinct groups, representing global concerns and cultures, have called for governments to take action on nature loss: Environment, Development and other partner organizations; Development and Humanitarian organizations; Faith-based organizations; Indigenous People; Business; Local and Regional Governments; and Youth. They represent more than 1,000 organizations and individuals, present in almost every country worldwide, issuing an extraordinary coordinated call for immediate action to tackle our nature crisis, and committing to take action themselves to help halt and reverse the loss of nature. This combined movements joining forces for necessary ambition commensurate with the emergency in UN processes on biodiversity, climate, oceans and sustainable development sent a strong message of hope building on a spirit of global solidarity for Nature and People.

This Summit has highlighted commitments made around the world to bend the curve of biodiversity loss and move towards a nature positive world, thus making peace with nature.” Amina Mohammed Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Parties signatories to the Leaders’ Pledge engaged themselves in joining forces in the run up to the key international events and processes taking place throughout 2021, including the G7, the G20, the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the fifth UN Environment Assembly, UNFCCC COP26 and the UN Ocean Conference, aiming to achieve ambitious and realistic outcomes to pave the way for a strong Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. They’ve also been invited by president Macron to join the One Planet Summit next January. Parties also urged all stakeholders to join them in making commitments to address the planetary emergency on the road to CBD CoP 15 and beyond.

All stakeholders committed to meeting again next year, and beyond, at such key international events, in particular at the next UN General Assembly High Level Week in September 2021, to review progress made and reaffirm these strong engagements.

LATEST Articles

LATEST resources