- The world needs to move away from economic models that value growth for growth’s sake, President Cyril Ramaphosa told the UN summit on biodiversity.
- He said recovery strategies should strike a balance between environmental and economic imperatives.
- He committed South Africa to the UN Environmental Programme to track the future emergence of zoonotic diseases.
The world needed to move away from economic models that valued growth for growth’s sake towards a “circular economy”, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.
He was addressing the United Nation’s summit on biodiversity.
He said the coronavirus pandemic had had a negative effect on national economies’ ability to respond to challenges like environmental degradation and climate change.
“But even as we prioritise economic revival and reconstruction, we must maintain our collective commitment to environmental conservation,” he said.
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He said this was even more important when the strong link between environmental destruction and the emergence of new deadly diseases in humans was considered.
“Biodiversity loss, deforestation, the loss of farmland, animal habitat loss and the consumption of wild species are creating conditions for infectious diseases that we will soon be unable to control.”
He said the complex interdependence between nature, economic activity and human development should be appreciated around the world.
He said in pursuit of sustainable development, recovery strategies should strike a balance between environmental and economic imperatives.
“As responsible global citizens, we need to change our behaviour and consumption patterns and integrate approaches to improve conservation of species and ecosystems,” Ramaphosa said.
Sustainable land practices
“We need to adopt sustainable land management practices, restore degraded lands, implement sustainable food production models and develop more climate-friendly agriculture.
“There needs to be a shift away from economic models that value growth for growth’s sake towards a circular economy.”
He said governments must engage with local communities, draw on traditional knowledge and promote the inclusion of women and indigenous populations in bioprospecting and other sectors.
“South Africa commits to working with the UN Environment Programme in the development of tools to track the future emergence of zoonotic diseases.”
Ramaphosa said South Africa was the third most mega biodiverse country in the world, with unique species and ecosystems found nowhere else on earth.
“As a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, we are working to conserve our biodiversity, promote its sustainable use and ensure the benefits of the commercial use of genetic resources are fairly distributed.”
He said South Africa had a Biodiversity Economy strategy that integrated the sustainable management of biodiversity with job and business creation opportunities and increased territorial protected areas and protected ocean space.
“As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, not only must we raise the ambition of our biodiversity targets, we must also ensure that the recovery effort fosters greater and not less harmony with nature.”
– Compiled by Jan Gerber