In lead up to the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), the United Nations Environment Programme’s North America Office (UNEP North America) hosted a series of six virtual consultation workshops on the theme of “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”
In partnership with MIT Solve, the World Environment Center, and the United Nations Associations in Canada and the United States, UNEP North America convened over 400 North American stakeholders across the Major Groups to explore how nature can be used to help tackle the simultaneous crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The consultations involved diverse stakeholders, including NGOs, the private and public sector, governments, and youth. They ran from May to October 2020.
Results of the consultations are captured in the report Strengthening Actions for Nature in North America: Regional Inputs for UNEA-5. The report contains success stories on how the region is tapping into the power of nature to protect and restore ecosystems – from connectivity science for urban and peri-urban forests in Quebec to adaptive multi-paddock grazing in Arizona. To scale up these solutions, participants in the consultations recommended greater collaboration, investment and engaging with all sectors of society.
“We need to move beyond business as usual,” said Barbara Hendrie, Director, UNEP North America Office. “We have an opportunity and a necessity to adopt more nature-positive business models.”
The stakeholders emphasized the need to strengthen collaboration with policymakers – especially at the local and tribal level, where many environmental initiatives are taking place. During the consultation, participants also discussed the need to place nature at the heart of COVID-19 recovery plans. Managed well, biodiversity and ecosystem services can drive economic growth, safeguard vulnerable populations, provide nutritious food at affordable prices, support green jobs and help humanity transition to a more sustainable future.
With its rich biodiversity and natural capital, there is great potential on the continent to harness the power of nature to address issues such as climate change, air pollution, marine debris, and unsustainable production and consumption.