UN Executive Secretary: Get everyone involved in the green transition!

22.12.20 | News
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema
The Nordic governments need to talk with their residents - entrepreneurs, farmers, indigenous peoples, and young people - about the transition that must take place to stem the loss of biodiversity. That's the message from Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the UN Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

“We need ambitious promises from all the world’s governments to stem the acute loss of species. But if these promises are to be implemented, they must also be well anchored at every level of society,” she said. 


2020 will come to an end in just a few days, and time will have run out for the 20 global goals for biodiversity agreed upon by the world’s countries.

None of these goals has been fully met. 

Species are dying out

The goals include protecting the oceans, limiting deforestation, making agriculture more sustainable, limiting environmentally harmful pollution, and limiting the exploitation of ecosystems.

Instead, biodiversity is declining at an ever-faster rate across the globe. Species are dying out and will never return.


The UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warns that the extinction of species will have serious consequences for humans and all life on Earth. 

The pandemic is a part of the nature crisis

“These reports come at the same time as the COVID-19 crisis is challenging us all to rethink our relationship with nature and reconsider the profound consequences to our own wellbeing and survival from the continued loss of biodiversity.  They also serve to highlight the urgent need for a transformative change. But these changes must be just and equitable,” said Maruma Mrema, the UN Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.


How can we bring about a transformative change without creating unemployment and social disparities, and without getting everyone involved in the fight?

This was the topic of the debate between young environmentalists and Nordic politicians on 8 December.

Politicians must show the way

Swedish parliamentarian and member of the Nordic Council sustainability committee Cecilie Tenfjord Toftby emphasised her own responsibility to lead the change in her local constituency. 

“For me, equitable change means me as a politician talking with voters about where we’re headed and how. I have to make sure that people are on my side. As politicians, we have to demonstrate different ways of living and working. We need to be able to offer an alternative and not leave anyone behind,” said Tenfjord Toftby.  

Polarised debate

Annika Lepistö, a member of the Nordic Youth Biodiversity Network in Åland, connected the local to the global: 

“At the global level, we can see how the climate and biodiversity crisis is exacerbating social disparities and affecting people differently. Inequality also makes it more difficult for people to join forces. The green transition requires that we come together and implement the necessary changes, which is why we must always link social policy and environmental policy.” 


According to Christian Schwarzer of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network in Germany, income gaps and conflicts of interest are creating a polarised environmental debate in the Nordic Region and Europe. 


“If you ask me as an environmentalist, the new Common Agricultural Policy in the EU is a disaster. But when you talk to young farmers, you will hear the opposite: they have been fighting for it. So there is a gap, and I think entering into dialogue with these communities is essential,” he said.  

Biodiversity is not an issue just for the elite

Schwarzer said that the forthcoming updated global agreement on biodiversity must be preceded by a long series of consultations with all the different sectors and groups affected by a green transition.

“Here in the global north, we have a lot of people who are upper middle class and who are concerned about nature. But we have a huge disconnect with people from socially disadvantaged groups. This cannot be a movement just for the lucky few that can afford to go shopping in organic stores. Ordinary workers and farmers must be involved in shaping the next global agreement for biodiversity,” he said.


The Nordic Region is one of the richest in the world, and its overconsumption is contributing to the rapid loss of species.  How can the Nordic Region be part of the solution instead of part of the problem?  

The Nordic Region can be a force for change

“The Nordics are already doing a lot, especially when it comes to supporting the work of the biodiversity convention and helping other countries to eradicate poverty. We want the Nordics to continue to play the role of agents of change as you develop new ways of working to safeguard the environment and promote social justice,” said Maruma Mrema.


Next year, global leaders will convene in Kunming in China to agree new goals to stem the loss of biodiversity within the framework of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  

Negotiators need popular support

The UN Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, is hoping for an ambitious new agreement to stem the loss of biodiversity.

Ahead of this, she wants negotiators to do their homework and ensure that they have the support of their populations. 

“We need to see negotiators with input from the ground, and not just input from the capitals. We want to be sure to get a contribution from the indigenous people, from local communities, from young people. It’s necessary for policymakers to mainstream biodiversity issues across all sectors in society, and also to respect people’s right to a good working life and social protection,” she said.   

A unique opportunity in front of us

Reports on biodiversity from IPBES are encouraging. Nature can be preserved, restored, and used sustainably in conjunction with meeting other global goals for society, such as a reduction in inequality. 


“We have a unique opportunity to change things. Over just a few months, governments around the world have stumped up billions of dollars to deal with the pandemic.  If governments can mobilise such resources to save their economies, I’m certain they have the means to save the planet,” said Schwarzer of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network.