Global leaders unite to tackle environmental challenges at One Planet Summit in Paris

Nations led by France’s Emmanuel Macron attempt to boost efforts stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic

epa08931802 French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the end of One Planet Summit, part of World Nature Day, at the Reception Room of the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, 11 January 2021. The One Planet Summit, a largely virtual event hosted by France in partnership with the United Nations and the World Bank, will include French President, German Chancellor and European Union chief.  EPA/LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL  MAXPPP OUT
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Global leaders have come together to warn of the global climate dangers and the urgent measures needed to combat them.

The One Earth initiative driven by France’s President Emmanuel Macron is an attempt to bring the global community together to tackle environmental challenges while Covid-19 rages.

Mr Macron decried the environmental targets that had been missed in preventing species from extinction and cutting pollution. “We have to face up to this failure, and to learn its lessons,” he told the One Planet Summit for biodiversity in Paris.

If you compare Earth's history to a calendar year, we have used one third of its natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds. We have been poisoning air, land and water and filling oceans with plastic and now nature is striking back

He announced key priorities for action to protect land and maritime species for regeneration. “This is all the more important because unless we preserve ecosystems, we won't be able to shoulder our climate commitments.” In reference to Covid-19 he added: “One of the things that the pandemic has taught us is that our planet's health is very much linked to the health of humanity.”

A $14.32 billion investment will be used to build a "Great Green Wall" between 2021 and 2025 to help contain the advance of desertification in the Sahel region and the Sahara desert in northern Africa, Mr Macron said.

The environment-supporting United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who diplomatic sources suggested on Monday would apply for a second five-year term, gave a stark warning on the fragility of the planet, urging humanity to "reconcile with nature".

“Until now we have been destroying our planet. We have been abusing it as if we have a spare one. Our current resource use requires almost two planets, but we only have one.

“If you compare Earth's history to a calendar year, we have used one third of its natural resources in the last 0.2 seconds. We have been poisoning air, land and water and filling oceans with plastic and now nature is striking back. Temperatures are reaching record highs, biodiversity is collapsing, deserts are spreading, fire, floods and hurricanes are more frequent than the extreme. And we are extremely fragile.”

He highlighted the devastation caused by Covid with almost two million dead and decimated economies. "For the first time in this century poverty is increasing and inequalities are deepening and as we rebuild we cannot revert to the old normal."

He called for an end to coal-fired power plants and to place higher taxes on fossil fuels users. “We also need to integrate the carbon neutrality goal in all of our economic and tax decisions,” he said.

Mr Guterres urged that the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, the COP 26 summit in Britain in November, "cannot be a lost opportunity".

China’s representative, from the country that has the world’s highest number of coal power plants producing 57 per cent of its energy, called for a “clean and beautiful planet”.

“To build a shared future for everyone alive on our planet, we need to work together,” said Han Zheng, First Deputy Prime Minister. He suggested that more money needed to be made available to developing countries to help tackle climate issues.

He claimed that “China has brought about remarkable things” and was implementing “major conservation projects for biodiversity”.

“We will pursue quality development and continue to improve the environment, so as to build a beautiful China,” he added.

Prince Charles, who earlier on Monday announced plans to set up a new biodiversity project called 'Terra Carta', said some progress had been made in "forging consensus on the direction humanity must take". He hoped that the milestones required would be set out in detail at the COP 26 summit.

"However, consensus and intention and targets are only the first steps," he said.

“The next step, although long overdue, must be an extraordinary practical effort to mobilise the financial resources, technical ingenuity and institutional innovation required to pursue them. A sustainable future is the way for us to ensure growth in our era, but it's up to us to seize the opportunity.”