The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress (WCC), the first major environmental event held in a hybrid format since the COVID-19 pandemic, began on Friday, attracting thousands of in-person and virtual participants.
The opening ceremony convened in the afternoon. Zhang Xinsheng, IUCN President, noted urgent calls by scientists to safeguard nature’s benefits or pay a terrible price. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), highlighted the need to protect 30% of the planet between now and 2030.
Li Keqiang, Premier Minister of the People's Republic of China, emphasized the need to promote multilateralism, nature-based solutions, and a circular economy. David Ige, Governor, State of Hawaii, US, passed the baton to the Mayor of Marseille, reiterating Hawaii’s commitment to implementation of the 2030 marine and conservation goals.
Benoît Payan, Mayor of Marseille, France, said while cities are at the forefront of protecting biodiversity, they have become “custodians of a garden that is dying.” Barbara Pompili, Minister of the Ecological Transition, France, said the WCC must place ecosystem conservation at the heart of a post-COVID-19 world. Sebastião Salgado, Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist, stressed the world depends on the Amazon, calling for a global ban on Amazon wood products.
Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President, European Commission, bemoaned the considerable loss of biodiversity globally, particularly in forest ecosystems, but expressed hope this can be turned around with targeted actions. Mahamadou Issoufou, former President of Niger, highlighted how humanity is living on borrowed time with the ecological debt to future generations increasing by the day.
Christine Lagarde, President, European Central Bank, noted biodiversity bolsters the resilience of societies and economies, and highlighted nature-based solutions to address climate change. Gilbert Houngbo, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), called for reorienting climate funding and harmonizing the way data is measured.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister, Greece, highlighted various threats facing the Mediterranean Sea, including marine pollution and unsustainable fishing and transport. Charles Michel, President, European Council, called for banning single-use plastics and increasing the number of protected areas.
Emmanuel Macron, President of France, officially opened the Congress, stressing that the destinies of humanity, the climate, and nature are inseparable. He lamented that the economic impact of nature is underestimated. He focused on the need to protect living soils, the ocean, and forests, and further called for harmonizing instruments and relevant methodologies.
Harrison Ford, Actor and Vice-Chair, Conservation International’s Board of Directors, urged people to cry out for justice, mother nature, Indigenous Peoples, marginalized communities, and all the planet’s inhabitants.
During the day, four Summits were held: the World Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nature; the Global Youth Summit; the IUCN Local Action Summit; and the IUCN CEO Summit.
World Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nature
Keynote speakers during the World Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nature stressed the need to incorporate indigenous knowledge to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and said this inaugural summit constitutes a milestone in recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ contributions to conservation.
During the CEO summit, business leaders came together to discuss ideas and initiatives to address the inextricably linked biodiversity and climate change crises. Participants emphasized the role of the private sector in tackling biodiversity loss and reducing emissions. They attended panel discussions aimed at safeguarding nature across value chains, creating new business models, and enabling a nature-positive future moving from commitment to action.
Local Action Summit
Participants in the Local Action Summit: focused on IUCN’s work on integrating nature with urban environments; highlighted regional-level synergies of action; shared public and private entity experiences; and called for transformational change involving infrastructure, services, and investment.
Global Youth Summit
Global Youth Summit participants: listened to opening remarks; discussed youth participation in environmental decision-making bodies; and addressed the 1 Million Youth Action Challenge (1MYAC).
In the evening, participants attended a welcome reception.
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