A group of 23 former foreign ministers has warned that humanity’s ongoing destruction of nature threatens the survival of our species. In an 18 February statement released by members of the Aspen Ministers Forum, the ministers call for more attention to be focused on rapidly warming oceans given their importance in producing oxygen and food for the world’s population of over 7 billion people. In addition, the group urges world leaders who will convene in Rome, Italy, 24 February to back the draft United Nations agreement to protect about one-third of the world’s oceans and land.
A meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was planned to take place in Kunming, Yunnan province, China from 24-29 February, but has been relocated to Rome, Italy, on the same dates because of coronavirus concerns.
“The loss and degradation of nature jeopardises human health, livelihoods, safety and prosperity. It disproportionately harms our poorest communities while undermining our ability to meet a broad range of targets set by the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. We must rise above politics and ideology to unite the global community around the urgent cause of protecting our planet and way of life,” reads the statement.
The former ministers highlighted the climate crisis, the “excessive exploitation” of natural resources, and ecosystem degradation as grave threats to international security, warning they “imperil the future for our grandchildren”.
The statement calls for special attention to the marine environment, as it covers 70 percent of the planet, is a source for oxygen and is the primary source of protein for over three billion people. In addition to protecting 30% of the ocean, the ministers are also calling on nations of the world to manage the entirety of their ocean territories in a manner that is sustainable, equitable, and integrated across sectors.
Ominously, the statement warns that: “Humanity sits on the precipice of irreversible loss of biodiversity and a climate crisis that imperils the future for our grandchildren and generations to come. The world must act boldly, and it must act now.”
The group supports the finalisation of a new international legally binding treaty to be signed in 2020. The treaty would set targets for and govern the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in the high seas and establish mechanisms to sustainably manage the rest of the high seas, referring to nearly two-thirds of the global ocean that lies beyond the legal jurisdiction of any one country.
The group statement asserts that: “Ambitious targets for conservation of land and ocean ecosystems are vital components of the solution. We are proud to join with a broad coalition – including youth, the business community, and representatives from the developing world – in calling on world leaders to support an “at least 30 percent” conservation target through the Convention on Biological Diversity.”
The signatories of the stqatement are:
Madeleine K. Albright (United States of America), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada), Mohamed Benaissa (Morocco), Maria Eugenia Brizuela de Avila (El Salvador), Erik Derycke (Belgium), Lamberto Dini (Italy), Alexander Downer (Australia), Jan Eliasson (Sweden), Joschka Fischer (Germany), Jaime Gama (Portugal), Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria), Marina Kaljurand (Estonia), Tzipi Livni (Israel), Susana Malcorra (Argentina), Donald McKinnon (New Zealand), Daniel Mitov (Bulgaria), Amre Moussa (Egypt), Marwan Muasher (Jordan), George Papandreou (Greece), Malcolm Rifkind (United Kingdom), Claudia Ruiz Massieu (Mexico), Javier Solana (Spain), Knut Vollebæk (Norway).