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Your Excellency Mr. Huang Runqiu, distinguished delegates, it is my pleasure to speak to you on behalf of Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF International, and my own global BirdLife International family, present in 115 countries.

We know, you know, nature is in crisis. The science is unequivocal. Our very survival is at risk, as well as that of entire ecosystems and more than a million other species. The biodiversity and pandemic crises are in deadly lock-step with the climate crisis.

We all know and agree we need, we demand, a strong post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This must set and achieve clear, measurable milestones and targets to achieve a mission of being nature-positive – that is, halting and reversing the loss of biodiversity – by conserving and restoring it by 2030. This means concrete, specific numbers starting now, with scrutiny along the way as to how we’re doing – it isn’t acceptable to wait for 10 years and then look surprised when we didn’t get there.

We must not equivocate – we must now conserve and restore the world’s key biodiversity areas, the integrity and intactness of its ecosystems and its incredible diversity of species – as a win/win/win solution to the biodiversity, climate, and health crises. Through measurable targets such as the effective protection and conservation of at least 30% of land, freshwater and sea by 2030 – working with and for local people, with priority given to Key Biodiversity Areas which provide life sustaining ecosystem services.

Let us listen and learn from the Indigenous Peoples and local communities who know and treasure their landscapes and seascapes best. Let’s join forces with them, respecting and honouring their rights and wisdom.

Conserving and restoring nature is just one tool in the toolkit, and unfortunately will not be enough unless we effectively address the drivers of nature loss. We know what they are: unsustainable agriculture and fishing, wildlife exploitation, unbridled destruction of forests, wetlands, and grasslands and climate change. And we know how to do this – there are many successful examples of sustainable use and management of nature to meet human needs for food, fibre and other commodities.

We must seize this opportunity and impose nature at the heart of inclusive, sustainable and just nature-positive economies by collectively closing the biodiversity finance gap. Government commitments, unlocking private sector financial flows, and ending harmful subsidies are the bottom line. Right now, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to drive the trillions of dollars being mobilised to build back better, to build back greener, bluer and more equitably after COVID-19.

Now must be the turning point where we stop trashing and destroying nature — now is the moment to overwhelmingly redress our dangerously unbalanced relationship with the planet and demand from ourselves, our governments, all players, action, not words. Many young people have a finely-tuned ear for what they call blah-blah-blah. My daughters have an uncanny ability to see through our words. Let us prove them wrong. Prove to my daughters, and your children and grandchildren, that transformational change is not empty words but concrete and measurable actions in our daily lives, and our daily acts. Ambitions and aspirations won’t save nature alone, won’t reverse climate change, and won’t prevent the next pandemic– only action will.

Just last week we and 1350 other civil society organisations called for the UN Human Rights Council to recognise the right to a healthy environment – and following its resounding support, we must now reflect this right in the global biodiversity framework.

We international conservation NGOs are fully committed to working with you to turn these words into reality, to create and then implement a global biodiversity framework that defines a generation and secures our planet’s nature for us and future generations – and we commit to hold you and ourselves accountable to these promises.

It is nothing short of a moral obligation. Humanity and nature are at a tipping point – there cannot be further delay.

Let’s fight together for justice for nature, the planet, and her people. We are in this together!

Gracias 谢谢

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Richard Kipng’eno stares at a multitude of pink carcasses scattered on the ground. The scene looks horrific. Several dead Lesser flamingos Phoeniconaias minor dot the area which is adjacent to a high-voltage powerline. Richard’s rough estimate puts the casualty numbers between 50 and 100. All are the latest victims of collision with the 132kV Juja-Naivasha-Lanet-Lessos electric line at Soysambu, northwest Kenya. 

“Over the years, we’ve seen numerous collision and electrocution incidents involving flamingos, pelicans and other birds along this section of the power line. The situation is quite dire,” says Richard.

Richard’s fears are not far-fetched. The Juja-Naivasha-Lanet-Lessos powerline cuts through a section of the Lake Elementaita Important Bird Area (IBA), a breeding site for Great White pelicans Pelecanus onocrotalus and home to thousands of waterbirds. Over the years, Richard, who has worked in the area as a tour guide, has witnessed the devastating effects of powerline collision and electrocution on birds. As he recalls, these incidents occur frequently but are not reported.

“Unfortunately, most of these occurrences go unreported and the relevant wildlife authorities seem not to be that concerned. The situation is dire,” adds Richard.

Worldwide, collision and electrocution by power line are responsible for the death of several species of birds. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of birds die every year from collision and electrocution with power transmission lines.

By John Mwacharo

A mutilated carcass of a Lesser Flamingo which died from collision with a power line at Soysambu © Richard Kipn’geno
A mutilated carcass of a Lesser Flamingo which died from collision with a power line at Soysambu © Richard Kipn’geno

Double Threat
Running almost parallel to the Juja-Naivasha-Lanet-Lessos powerline is another 400kV line; the soon to be commissioned 308 km Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu transmission line, another potentially deadly threat to migratory birds. A three-kilometre stretch of the new powerline runs along the southern edge of Lake Elementaita. Its proximity to the shore puts at risk lives of thousands of birds which frequent the lake. Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner) and other conservation organization are concerned about this development. 

“The current routing of the powerline just at the edge of Lake Elementaita is a death trap for birds. This section of the line does not comply with global avian safety standards,” says Dr Paul Matiku, Nature Kenya Executive Director. 

“This line is a threat to migratory wetland birds and critically endangered vultures through electrocution and collision. Lake Elementaita and other central Rift Valley lakes are key biodiversity hotspots of local and international importance,” adds Dr Matiku.

Environmental Concerns
Of concern to conservationists is Lake Elementaita’s biodiversity significance. For starters, the lake is the only breeding ground for the Great White pelicans in East Africa. Lake Elementaita, together with lakes Nakuru, Natron and Bogoria, form the Rift Valley alkaline lakes network, a significant part of the flamingo migration. Lake Elementaita is also an integral part of the African-Eurasian flyway. Millions of birds use this flyway to migrate from their wintering grounds in Africa to their breeding sites in Europe and Central Asia.

“Investors need to pay special attention when designing and installing power lines through critical biodiversity hotspots such as Lake Elementaita. Any slight error could be catastrophic to the conservation of birds nationally and internationally,” warns Dr Matiku.

One of the dead flamingos trapped between high voltage power lines at Soysambu © Richard Kipn’geno
One of the dead flamingos trapped between high voltage power lines at Soysambu © Richard Kipn’geno

Proponents of the powerline project, led by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO), claim due diligence was exercised as recommended in a 2009 Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report. Critics on the other hand, say otherwise. “The ESIA being relied upon by this project is flawed and invalid,” asserts Dr Matiku.

“There were no consultations or any form of engagement with ornithology experts and other stakeholders for this particular project. Design and specifications of all transmission line components were not part of the ESIA and were indicated to have been procured at a later date. The design and components are key determinants of the impacts and mitigation measures of any given project. This was a critical omission and should have formed the basis for review of the ESIA before implementation of the project,” he adds.

Intervention
To date, Nature Kenya has twice written KETRACO and held two meetings seeking to have the contentious 3km section of the powerline halted or rerouted. None of these interventions has borne fruit. The appeal was extended to other stakeholders including the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project’s financiers. The National Environment Complaint Committee (NECC) was also made aware of the issue and has asked KETRACO and the Ministry of Energy to respond to queries raised.

Audience with international conservation institutions was also sought over the matter. These included BirdLife International, the Ramsar Secretariat, and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). Ramsar wrote to the Kenyan government seeking a response.

Among recommendations fronted by Nature Kenya to avert bird deaths by collision or electrocution, was halting construction activities to allow for participatory stakeholder engagement. Another suggestion was rerouting of the power line further away from Lake Elementaita. It was also proposed that an ornithological study be conducted to understand the potential negative impacts of the project on birds, with the aim of agreeing on avian safety measures in the project location, design and engineering works.

Other suggestions included; making the transmission line more visible to birds, abandoning overpass of transmission lines and availing maps and GPS coordinates of the entire power line from Olkaria.

Gloom Ahead?
As of January 2021, nothing seems to have changed. Newly installed pylons stand close to the old ones with no rerouting or any other mitigation measure envisaged by the developer. KETRACO remains numb over the issue. Nature Kenya has now written to the Energy and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary over the matter. The National Environmental Complaint Committee has however acknowledged it is aware of the issue and is looking into it.

“We are working on a report on this issue. We have already visited the site in question. Thanks for the continued support of conservation in particular protection of our birds. Please count on our support on conservation efforts,” notes Dr. Chumo Kipkorir, the committee’s secretary, in an email to Nature Kenya.

For Richard and other nature enthusiasts, the omnipresence of electric lines and pylons at Lake Elementatia spells doom to the area’s bird population. And if the latest flamingo death incident is anything to go by, the worst is yet to come.

On its part, Nature Kenya continues to pursue every possible avenue, including engaging relevant stakeholders, to make the country’s IBAs, KBAs and flyways safer for birds.


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By Mireia Peris

Traslasierra National Park – located in the northwest of Córdoba, Argentina and created in March 2018 – will add 17,000 hectares to the 27,000 it already has. This significant milestone will help protect an important part of the Gran Chaco, a hot, semi-arid forest which is home to immense biodiversity and historical heritage. After the Amazon, it is the biggest forest area left standing in South America, but is threatened by deforestation, cattle production and other human activities.

This habitat acts as natural refuge for about 200 species of birds, 34 mammals and 30 reptiles, some of which are rare and globally threatened with extinction. Traslasierra National Park plays host to threatened birds such as the Crowned Solitary Eagle Buteogallus coronatus (Endangered) and the Andean Condor Vultur gryphus (Vulnerable), which was moved to a higher threat category in the last year’s update to the IUCN Red List. Other rare species that will call this new paradise home include the Yellow Cardinal Gubernatrix cristata (Endangered), Turquoise-fronted Amazon Amazona aestiva and Chaco Owl Strix chacoensis (both Near Threatened).

Hernán Casañas, Executive Director of Aves Argentinas, mentions that expanding the territory of a national park is a “transcendent” step towards achieving the biodiversity conservation goals that should govern Argentina’s environmental policy. It will also help local people to earn a more sustainable living: “With the implementation of the Traslasierra National Park… an auspicious panorama opens up for Cordoba in terms of tourism, not only locally but also internationally… Córdoba can demonstrate that nature conservation and development go hand in hand,” says Casañas.

Through our partner Aves Argentinas, which has been part of the promotion and management of this project from the very beginning, the Wyss Foundation provided the necessary financial resources for the creation of the National Park, as part of a joint effort led by the Province of Córdoba and the National Parks Administration.

This majestic landscape can now be preserved for future generations © Aves Argentinas