High-Level Event at the Montreal Botanical Garden

2007 represents the 15th year of the signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the signature of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), two major agreements for sustainable development, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. This year’s theme underlines the important relationship between the two environmental agreements and supports the International Polar Year.

In partnership with the City of Montreal, the Secretariat organized a day long conference that looked at the way these two issues have evolved from the Earth Summit and to the challenges for the future: achieving the 2010 biodiversity target and combating the impacts of climate change. This major international event took place at the Montreal Botanical Garden on 22 May 2007.

The day’s events began with a tree-planting ceremony where the Montreal Botanical Garden was pleased to receive the very rare Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis). Today there are fewer than one hundred specimens growing in the wild. Named for the location where it was found and the man who discovered it, this pine is considered one of the world’s rarest species. In order to safeguard this precious find, UNESCO designated its habitat as a World Heritage site, and a propagation program was started to help safeguard this unique treasure.

H.E. William Fisher, the Australian High Commissioner to Canada, graciously offered the tree to the City of Montreal on behalf of the Government of Australia. Ms. Helen Fotopulos, member of the Executive Committee of the City of Montreal, accepted this gift and presented it to the Montreal Botanical Garden. As part of their partnership with the CBD, the Montreal Botanical Garden will make the Wollemi Pine part of their “Biodiversity Garden,” which plans to showcase some of the world’s unique floral biodiversity.

Following this event, which took place in one of the greenhouses, everyone moved into the auditorium for the first of the day’s panels. This panel focused on policy, with regard to biodiversity and climate change, and looked at the ways that biodiversity can help societies cope with the impacts of climate change. In this light, speakers looked at the ways that both the CBD and the UNFCCC can work together to achieve sustainable development.

The panel was launched by the reading of the IBD message from Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General by Dr. Taïeb Chérif, Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Mr. Ki-moon urged member states to move rapidly and with more determination at all levels, to urgently achieve the goals of these two landmark instruments for the sake of current and future generations. In his message addressed to the international community, the Secretary General emphasized that, “the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is an essential element of any strategy to adapt to climate change.”

Messages from the current and upcoming presidents of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD called for collaboration between the CBD and the UNFCCC.

The president of COP 8 and Minister of Environment for Brazil, Ms. Marina Silva, pledged that Brazil would be “fostering a virtuous cycle that, aside from protecting biodiversity, will allow us to increase synergies with other Conventions and to contribute to the protection of natural resources and the long-term management of ecosystems and environmental services.”

The German Environment Minister, Mr. Sigmar Gabriel, the host of the next meeting of the COP, stated that “nature conservation is climate protection and climate protection is nature conservation.”

In preparation for COP 9, the German government is launching, on 22 May, a National Campaign for Biodiversity. “Today, we will establish a ‘nature alliance’ consisting of prominent people from politics, trade and industry, science, civil groups, culture and media, who will help us to convey our messages and inform and motivate the public.”

These video messages were followed by statements delivered by the heads of the CBD and the UNFCCC, which focused on the inter-relationship of biodiversity and climate change.

Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the CBD, said: “Climate change is indeed an energy and a security issue but is also an environmental issue. Biodiversity loss is an environmental issue but it is also an economic, financial, cultural, ethical as well as a security issue.”

“Addressing both requires the mutually supportive implementation of the Rio Conventions for the benefit of life on Earth. We, in the Secretariat of the Convention on life on Earth, shall spare no effort to achieve such a strategic objective,” he said.

Mr. Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, echoed the call for continued cooperation. “The understanding of the relationship between actions to address climate change and biodiversity loss has increased as the UNFCCC and the CBD have advanced work to meet their respective objectives,” he said.

“The stemming of biodiversity loss and related biodiversity considerations need to be part of climate change adaptation strategies. Collaboration between the UNFCCC and the CBD is increasing and the CBD’s active contribution to further work on the Nairobi Work Programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change is most valuable,” said Mr. de Boer.

Representatives from the three levels of government in Canada participated in this panel as well. Canadian participants included the Minister of Environment of Canada, the Hon. John Baird, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services of Canada and Minister Responsible for the Region of Montreal, the Hon. Michael Fortier, the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, Hon. Ms. Line Beauchamp, and the Mayor of Montréal, Mr. Gérald Tremblay.

Following a short coffee break, a young people from an organization called HabitatNet, read a youth declaration after Mr. Dan Bisaccio, programme director, briefly described the project. The goal of HabitatNet is to enable teachers and students (1) to establish permanent biodiversity monitoring projects around the globe and (2) use telecommunications, via email and web sites, to communicate investigations, findings, and questions regarding biodiversity issues and management.

“We are today’s tomorrow. What happens today does not just affect the future, it is the future. There are plants and animals living today that have not yet been discovered, that may never be discovered, because of our carelessness and thoughtless aspirations. We need to allow for the existence of all species on this planet.” This began their call for governments around the world to hear and include the voice of youth into their work to conserve and sustainably use the world’s biological resources. They challenge governments to take up projects aimed at biodiversity conservation. They call on the general public to support these projects and do what we can in our everyday lives. They call for an increase in education as “the key to understanding the importance of conserving biodiversity.”

This youth segment ended with the presentation of prizes to the winners of the CBD’s Art Competition on “Biodiversity and Climate Change.” Prizes were presented to the 6 winners by Mr. Djoghlaf, Ms. Rachel Leger, Director of the Montreal Biodôme and H.E. Tor B. Næss, Ambassador of Norway.

In homage to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, a panel of eminent Canadians who played key roles in the development of the CBD spoke of their visions for the future. Hon. Clifford Lincoln, former Minister of Environment for Quebec, Ms. Elisabeth Dowdeswell, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme and Mr. Len Good, former Chief Executive Officer of the Global Environment Facility, all delivered a call for the various multilateral environmental agreements to work together to realize synergies.

The last panel of the day included messages from partners to the CBD, including multilateral environmental agreements and international organizations.

Ms. Monique Barbut, CEO of the Global Environment Facility, via video message, expressed her support to the work of the Convention and spoke of the interrelationship of climate change and biodiversity loss and the need to deal with both in a coordinated way.

Representing the Director-General of UNESCO, the director of the New York Office, Ms. Hélène-Marie Gosselin participated in the celebrations and indicated that UNESCO and the CBD would continue to work together in support of the objectives of both organizations.

In his message, Mr. Kemal Derviş, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, stated, “As we mark this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity, it is clear that much needs to be done to address this major environmental challenge facing the world. Both the CBD and the UNFCCC have a central role in driving these timely and urgent agendas forward to ensure that they are at the heart of global efforts to create a sustainable future for all.”

Mr. Robert Hepworth, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species, emphasized the impacts of climate change on a variety of migratory species including birds and populations of sea turtles and also praised the linkages between the multilateral environmental agreements.

Mr. Peter Bridgewater, the Secretary-General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands said, “Wetlands are also critical to mitigating climate change. They have an important and underestimated role in both carbon storage and greenhouse gas regulation.” He added, “increased interactions between the CBD, UNFCCC and Ramsar Convention can lead only to better outcomes for our newly energized attack on the phenomenon of climate change.”

The head of IUCN Canada, Mr. John Herity, also delivered a message of support and stressed the need to mobilize civil society in biodiversity conservation. Ms. Tiina Kurvits, the North American Coordinator of the Polar Program of UNEP/GRID-Arendal, gave a presentation of the four Arctic flagship species.

Prior to the closing remarks and thank you by Mr. Djoghlaf, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between CBD and MKI Travel and Conference Management. Mr. Ronald Greenwood, president of MKI was present for the signing. This was followed by a light reception in the large greenhouse for all the invitees and dignitaries to the event.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme