The UN Biodiversity Conference has the “urgent task of making peace with nature,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres reminded participants at the opening ceremony, which featured a ceremonial welcome, statements by high-level representatives, and cultural performances. “If we can’t agree as a world on something as fundamental as protecting nature, then nothing else matters,” said Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Indigenous activists interrupted his speech, demanding land rights and justice for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
The ceremony opened with a welcome by the traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation Tadodaho Sid Hill, who stressed the need to “put our minds together as one and act together as one.”
Justin Trudeau began by honoring the memory of the 14 women who were murdered during the mass shooting at the Ecole Polytechnique of Montreal on 6 December 1989. He drew attention to Canada’s commitment towards protecting 30% of its lands and water by 2030, and pledged CAD 350 million in biodiversity funding for action in developing countries.
“Nothing less than a bold global biodiversity framework” can stop destruction and inspire ambition and action, said Secretary-General Guterres. He urged addressing the root causes of biodiversity loss, including subsidies and unsustainable production and consumption, and called on developed countries to provide “massive” financial support to the countries of the Global South. He noted the need for strong national plans towards green solutions that recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, adding that “promises made must be promises kept.” “The private sector must recognize that profit and protection go hand in hand,” he concluded, calling for sustainable production models and for fair and equitable sharing of benefits, against the “relentless concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.”
Huang Runqiu, Minister of Ecology and Environment of China and President of the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15), drew attention to the Kunming Declaration adopted during the first part of COP 15 held in October 2021 in Kunming, China, and virtually, and to China’s efforts on biodiversity protection and the promotion of an ecological civilization. Highlighting the links between biodiversity, climate change, food security, and poverty eradication, he stressed the need to maintain a sense of urgency to respond to the high expectations of the international community.
François Legault, Premier of Quebec, drew attention to Quebec’s efforts on protected areas, designation of threatened species, and support for Indigenous leadership in biodiversity conservation. Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal, called for concrete biodiversity-related actions to improve quality of life in urban areas and support people living on the frontlines of climate change and biodiversity loss. Liu Jiachen, Mayor of Kunming, outlined efforts to protect ecosystems and species in the Yunnan province, and called on parties to work closely with local governments to support implementation of the Convention and the renewed global biodiversity framework through local actions.