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Speech by Minister Creecy during the APPG Summit hosted by China in Kunming as biodiversity

Speech by Ms Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa during the APPG Summit on the aims and priorities for the Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be hosted by China in Kunming as Biodiversity.


Video conference, 28 October 2020

Chair of the session: Mr. Barry Gardiner MP, Co-Chair APPG on International Conservation
Ms. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity
H.E. Liu Xiaoming, Ambassador of China to the UK
H.E. Lee White CBE; Minister of Water, Forests, the Seas and Environment, Gabonese Republic;
Mr. Frans Timmermans; First Vice President of the European Commission
Mr. Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO of Global Environment Facility, Former Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica
Mr. Henry Paulson Jr, Chairman Paulson Institute, 74th United States Secretary of the Treasury
 The Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, UK Minister for Pacific & Environment
Members of Parliament
Distinguished delegates

Ladies and gentlemen

It is indeed great honor to be part of this important Conference, and I take this opportunity to sincerely thank the APPG for inviting me to participate at a time when humanity is at a crossroads due to an unprecedented rate of biodiversity loss, land degradation and climate change.

Scientists tell us the planet and all its life forms have reached a tipping point. Excellencies, it is almost three decades since the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) yet biodiversity is still continues at a rate that now threatens achievement of 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

We remain concerned that none of the 20 Aichi Targets were fully met.  This places enormous pressure on all of us to ensure the outcomes of the upcoming CBD-COP deliver an ambitious and well designed  Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.  

We need clear targets to put nature on a path to recovery in the next decade and beyond. We need a clear plan to enable people in developing countries to secure their lives and livelihoods in harmony with nature.

Excellencies, we meet today as the COVID-19 pandemic , continues to undermine socio-economic development across the globe.  This has added to the challenges faced by many developing countries, particularly on the African continent. COVID-19 has adversely impacted on resource availability at a time when the region is facing a multitude of inter-related crises, including rising debt levels. This puts attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the aspirations of the Agenda 2063 (‘The Africa We Want’) at risk.

On the conservation front, the global decline of tourism has placed considerable strain on the financial sustainability of protected areas. Loss of income by communities living on the borders of protected areas increases food insecurity and threatens a rise in illicit trade in wild species.  South Africa as you know, is one of the three most mega-biodiverse nations on earth.  Yet our country has not been spared the effects of the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis on our conservation efforts.

Our nation’s biodiversity provides an array of benefits to the economy, society and human wellbeing, and there still remains opportunities to be unlocked through biodiversity based economic activities.

However even before the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, Our 2018 National Biodiversity Assessment highlighted the need to address threats from habitat loss due to fragmentation and degradation, pollution, impacts on wetlands, climate change and invasive alien species.

The assessment prioritised efforts directed at improving habitat connectivity and restoration, protection of wetlands and strategic water sources, enhancing ecosystems resilience, conservation of species most threatened and vulnerable to extinction, and towards regulating or prohibiting activities which have adverse impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems.

Accordingly as our country implements our economic recovery plan we have prioritised public employment in areas such as restoration of wetlands, water sources and other ecosystem services.

Ladies and gentlemen, at a regional level, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 2018,  indicates that biodiversity is diminishing at unprecedented rates, with current consumption and production patterns overshooting earth’s carrying capacity and threatening our collective future on earth.

Accordingly here on the African continent we hope that the Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will provide our continent with a new opportunity to shape the global plan for sustainable development and biodiversity into a meaningful and responsive tool for the continent’s developmental ambition.

It is our considered view that this will only be achieved if we can agree on certain common principles.

The first of these is multilateralism. We respect the sovereign rights of countries over their own biological resources, and the need for countries to address the overriding priorities of socio-economic development and the eradication of poverty. We also believe that retreat from multilateralism threatens our collective global responsibility and  ability to tackle shared and critical global risks to biodiversity.

In this regard, we think it is important to foster synergies in multilateral environmental agreements particularly  CBD (Biodiversity Loss), UNFCCC(Climate Change), and UNCCD (Desertification, Drought and Land Degradation). We motivate this from an understanding that the challenges we face in each of these areas are interlinked.

Our third principle is that there needs to be equal ambition and equitable treatment of the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity in the Global Biodiversity Framework, namely: Conservation, sustainable use and access and benefit sharing of the genetic resources. The three objectives of the CBD are the main pillars towards the achievement of the 2050 Vision for biodiversity of living in harmony with nature and therefore should be properly reflected in the Post 2020 GBF.

Lastly we remain convinced that if we are to achieve the ambitious goals we need to set, equally ambitious targets with regard to the means of implementation must be enhanced for the attainment of the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework targets. This must include but not be limited to finance, capacity building, and cooperation or sharing of technological innovations.

The burden for biodiversity conservation in post 2020 governance  should not be unduly placed on the shoulders of the developing countries  who are the custodians of biodiversity, especially megadiverse countries.

We must observe the principle of common but differentiated approaches to conservation, while noting the parties at COP-15 are not re-negotiating the text of the Convention.

We also hope that COP -15 will result in enhancing sustainable use and realising a fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources incentivises conservation, as well as promoting a whole-society approach to the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems.

If we understand that climate change will affect different nations and different communities within nations, in different ways, the same can also be said of biodiversity loss, and the ways in which it will manifest differently according to local conditions. In particular we understand that both these phenomena will impact most severely on women who are primarily responsible for provision of food and water in rural African communities.  This makes the mainstreaming of our responses to biodiversity loss, ecosystem restoration and conservation so important on our continent.

Equal attention should be given to the priority work under the Biosafety Protocol and the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing, both of which are critical to sustainable development

Esteemed participants it is also imperative that Cop-15 observe evidence based decision making that respects the outcomes of science and global assessments. In this case, the role of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services(IPBES) remains valid.

We cannot afford to ignore the predictions from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report of an estimation of about a million species that can be extinct if we do not strengthen our efforts to prevent biodiversity loss.

Excellences, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, a successful CBD COP 15 will therefore be one where Parties agree to adopt a Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that is both ambitious and realistic with regard to what it will take to provide for adequate and predictable means of implementation.

The global framework must be based on well-designed goals and targets formulated with clear and simple language. Capacity building initiatives are also key to support effective implementation of the framework as well as robust processes to ensure accountability and reporting.

The successful reduction of threats to biodiversity will provide direct and indirect benefits to environmental challenges. A one-health approach will result in the achievement of the 2050 vision of biodiversity of living in harmony with nature and practical solutions to unprecedented environmental challenges facing humanity and the planet.

Excellencies, I would like to conclude by saying that, both the pre and post 2020 biodiversity era should be premised on inclusivity which integrates all stakeholders, including women, indigenous people, local communities, youth and civil society. We must leave no one behind!  As the well known African Proverb says: “ if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far, go together.

Thank you


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