Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi delivers South Africa’s message of support for UNEP World Environment Day 2020

South Africa’s message of support on World Environment Day as delivered by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries’ Deputy Director-General: Biodiversity and Conservation, Mr Shonisani Munzhedzi during UNEP World Environment Day 2020 webinar

5 June 2020

I would like to acknowledge partners from United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), Reimagine South Africa, Western Cape Provincial Government, youths and international friends.

We began 2020 as the super year for biodiversity as we were anticipating in a number of global events in the run up to the adoption of a new Post 2020 global biodiversity Framework.

We recognised that the year was special and that it was imperative that we adopt a new global compact that would deliver benefits for nature and people.

The World Environment Day 2020 took this into account hence the relevant and timely theme “It’s Time for Nature”. The theme affirms human beings as part of the ecosystem and therefore intricate with nature. We consider this year’s theme as a call to action to combat the accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world.

South Africa is a signatory and an active member of the three Rio Conventions, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). We are also a party to numerous biodiversity based multilateral agreements. We honour our obligations through these global instruments and the many programmes that we implement nationally.

We believe that efforts to address the impact of climate change, efforts to address biodiversity loss and those geared towards reversing land degradation are mutually inclusive and mutually beneficial. 

We believe that biodiversity is life, biodiversity is health, and biodiversity is economy. The recent National Biodiversity Assessment indicates that the country has more than 418 000 biodiversity related jobs straddling across protecting biodiversity, restoring ecological infrastructure, extractive use of biodiversity, biodiversity based tourism as well as research and professional services. I therefore call upon the young people to consider their career paths in some of these disciplines.

South Africa is one of the 10 nations globally for plant species richness, 2nd highest in plant endemism, and 3rd highest in marine species endemism. We have 9 biomes and 458 ecosystem types with approximately 80% of which are endemic.

The COVID 19 Pandemic has put nature into sharp focus as we recognise the need to take better care of nature so that nature can in turn take care of us.

2020 has seen the world change in phenomenal ways and provided opportunities for young people such as yourselves to make meaningful contributions on how we reshape the world for the better. The COVID 19 crisis has highlighted the challenges we face as a people and put a spotlight on among others the importance of nature, compassion and solidarity.  It further brought to the spotlight the delicate balance between biodiversity and human life.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought sharp focus on societal vulnerability to systemic and multidimensional risks of climate change and biodiversity loss. Humanity has a role to work towards a resilient society as a response to climate change, and to reverse biodiversity loss and protect the most vulnerable.

We subscribe to the slogan that says, no one should be left behind in the path towards a better and truly inclusive development which will form part of the legacy of the post COVID 19 response and recovery plans. Nature must be central to this new path.

The Department would therefore like to encourage citizens to be partners in the protection of the network of protected and conservation areas in south Africa represented by a network of national botanical gardens, nature reserves, natural open spaces, world heritage sites, wetlands, and spectacular mountains and ridge. All of these play an important role as centres of social cohesion and serve as valuable windows into South Africa’s biodiversity.

This year we will profile our work on adding value through protected areas, investing in ecological infrastructure through the protection of strategic water sources, restoration programmes, rewarding benefits through payments and markets and advancing the biodiversity economy.

We therefore reiterate our commitment to protect biodiversity and safeguard natures’ contribution to people. We commit to work with the youth and other partners on the whole society approach to heighten nature’s solutions to the many challenges that humanity faces.

I thank you

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