Nature is our home, our food, our comfort, our culture, our health, our medicine, our safety, our recreation, and our inspiration – it is our life support system.
We can no longer tolerate the SAME inequality and injustice of who benefits and who is harmed in all of these activities. And we definitely cannot survive any more of the same excuses as to why we cannot act, cannot change, cannot do better. The time for SAME is over.
We need real transformative change - for humankind to realign priorities, values, behaviours, and actions. Let us reinvent our systems, equitably and sustainably. If our generation is to have hope for a future built on peace and harmony with nature, we need your leadership now.
Today, on International Youth Day 2020, we launch this Open Letter. This Letter outlines priorities that young people feel must be addressed to set humanity on course for achieving the 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature”, agreed by world leaders in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Declare a Planetary Emergency
Address the severity of the ecological crisis, the necessity to act now, and urge all people to recognize the biodiversity and climate crises are inextricably linked. The crises have their origin in our mainstream values and priorities, which are shaping a system that pushes for unlimited and unequitable extraction, production, consumption and disposal and completely undermines the capacity of our planet to support us all. If we don’t invest in nature and build a green and sustainable recovery without taking short cuts, we will jeopardize future benefits from nature and potentially drive us to future pandemics.
Change in values, priorities and behaviours
We call for a real transformative change – we call on the whole of society to realign our priorities, values, behaviours and actions. We urge all governments, the private sector, financial institutions, civil society, academia and all other people in a position of power to reinvent our systems equitably, and sustainably.
Develop strategies for effective biodiversity conservation, restoration, and sustainable use
A healthy and sustainable environment is the foundation of an equitable, functioning society and the basis for prosperity, well-being, security, and stability of human and animal life. We must implement global, national and subnational policies on the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of ecosystems, landscapes, and seascapes, including building cities with nature, through locally adapted, resource-efficient, and just systemic interventions. These must be based on the precautionary principle and follow a global mitigation hierarchy for nature conservation.
In this context we are urging governments to fully utilise the opportunity presented by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of our ecosystems and the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework in order to build a clear pathway to achieve a world in harmony with nature.
Adopt bold, ambitious and binding environmental global goals
Preventing and reducing pollution, including marine and plastic pollution, reversing forest loss, ensuring water security, halting and preventing the loss of biodiversity, restoring damaged ecosystems, reaching land degradation neutrality, are all necessary to combat the environmental crisis and reduce disaster risk.
Guarantee rights-based approaches
Human Rights are not separated from Nature Rights and the urgency of the climate and biodiversity crisis requires a just response centered on human rights, equity, and justice. To succeed, global agreements must defend human rights, protect environmental defenders, recognize nature’s intrinsic value, and hold governments and corporations accountable for activities that degrade natural systems or infringe on peoples’ rights to a safe and healthy environment.
Improve participation in environmental governance mechanisms
We must adopt participatory, bottom-up, and inclusive approaches to ensure the voices, wisdom, and experience of Indigenous peoples and local communities, women, and youth are genuinely included. We must designate spaces for their political participation and support their initiatives via inclusive financial schemes. We must also support those on the frontlines who are most vulnerable to environmental disasters so they ca be empowered and more resilient to address issues of poverty, inequality, racial/gender discrimination, justice, and human rights
Create transformative education
As youth, we believe that a crucial way to achieve Transformative Change is through integrating Transformative Education on biodiversity, climate change, sustainability and cultural heritage in school curricula at all levels and promoting it in formal, non-formal and informal education; as well as by fostering intergenerational learning and interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange. If we better understand the vast and exciting opportunities that focus on climate education and green jobs, we can foster a new generation of leaders.
Ensure Intergenerational Equity
Beyond the need to achieve equity within generations, actions on sustainability must be based on the principle of Intergenerational Equity, reflecting justice between generations. We must respect future generations’ right to a safe, clean, and healthy environment, the same right that we are all entitled to today.
There is a need to move beyond a tokenistic view of participation toward taking more proactive steps in ensuring all generations are meaningfully and equally engaged in policy development and formulation so that intersectional and intergenerational equity can be achieved.
Gender inequalities need to be addressed and eradicated, by fully recognizing women and girls’ contributions and roles in nature conservation and sustainable use; as well as guaranteeing women and girls rights to land, to health, to a life free of violence, and to full and effective participation in decision-making processes.
Ensure responsible Private Sector involvement
The private sector must take greater responsibility for the power they concentrate and for how their operations and supply chains can impact the environment and our society. They must reform their activities to end destructive practices on all levels and processes, from extraction to disposal, to incorporate more sustainable and nature-friendly practices, as well as increase financial support to initiatives promoting sustainable lifestyles and the safeguarding of climate and biodiversity.
Strong means of implementation and enabling conditions
New global commitments cannot be achieved without strong and long-term political will, strict compliance mechanisms and appropriate and measurable means of implementation in place such as targeted capacity-building on all levels, resource mobilization, strategic divestment, elimination of perverse subsidies and a complete reform of subsidies harmful to both climate and biodiversity.
We urge governments to strengthen institutions, to increase efforts to fight corruption and to boost contributions to multilateral financial mechanisms, including the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Fund, and the Global Environmental Facility, among others, and to also significantly increase domestic resources.
Reform the System of Environmental Governance
Lead an inclusive and just path to Stockholm+50, which addresses gaps in environmental governance and where a system which is more inclusive by design is built and moves beyond silo-ed approaches in tackling the planetary crisis.
Take a look at our resources below to see how you can get active with us.
This year, join thousands of youth wave to raise your voice and take action to push for our collective vision of living in harmony with nature at the UN CBD COP15.
Take a look at some of the actions people have been taking.