Boris Johnson is pledging to keep the natural world at “the top of the global agenda”, with a warning of the “catastrophic” consequences if the delicate balance built over millions of years is destroyed.
In an address to the virtual United Nations biodiversity summit, the Prime Minister says the pace of decline of plant and animal life around the world is “truly terrifying”.
He commits to use the UK’s presidency of the G7 and co-hosting of the COP26 climate change conference to keep up the pressure for concerted international action.
On Monday, Mr Johnson joined more than 60 nations to sign up to a pledge for nature, committing to reverse the loss of wildlife by 2030.
The Government has announced plans to protect 30% of the UK’s land by the end of the next decade, with an additional 400,000 hectares of land in England protected to support the recovery of nature.
In his pre-recorded video address – to be played to the UN event on Wednesday – Mr Johnson says up to one million species of animals and plants are threatened with extinction, from the black rhino and the orangutan to the pangolin.
“I don’t believe any of us would choose to bequeath a planet on which such a wonderfully bizarre little creature is as unfamiliar to future generations as dinosaurs and dodos are to us today,” he says.
“Yet that is what awaits us if we continue down this road. And that’s not just bad news for the pangolins – it is bad news for all of us.
“Upset the delicate balance nature has achieved over tens of millions of years and the consequences could be catastrophic – for the economy, for the climate, for food security, for public health, for all the sustainable development goals.”
However Mr Johnson says that the very fact that the summit – the first of its kind – is taking place is evidence of a growing desire around the world to avert the “looming disaster”.
“As co-host of COP26 and president of next year’s G7, we are going to make sure the natural world stays right at the top of the global agenda,” he says.
“Because the rhinos and the pangolins and all the other threatened species and everyone who relies on that diversity of life – they need more than good intentions.
“They need concerted, co-ordinated, global action. Let this be the day that action begins. And let us leave the next generation a world every bit as diverse and wondrous as the one we inherited.”