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‘Climate villains’

Trump and Bolsonaro ‘meltdown’ during UN Biodiversity Summit 
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
'Climate villains'

Images: © Tracie Williams / Greenpeace

As the United Nations met virtually at the Summit on Biodiversity yesterday (30 September), ice sculptures of presidents Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro melted in New York to expose the urgency to act on the nature crisis and biodiversity collapse.

The protest highlights the deliberate failures of both administrations to address the crises being discussed at the Summit, and the fact that no one from the Trump administration was scheduled to address the event.

Activists from Greenpeace USA placed the life-sized sculptures on a pier facing the UN building, where the meeting was originally meant to take place. The activists unfurled a banner with the message: ‘Faces of Extinction: Fueling a planet in crisis’. 

‘As fires rage across the planet from the United States to Brazil to Siberia, the Arctic has reached its second-lowest sea ice extent ever this year. Trump and Bolsonaro administrations are the faces of extinction as they are pushing radical agendas that are destroying nature, driving biodiversity collapse and exacerbating the climate emergency. 

‘Where are Trump and Bolsonaro while the world is burning? They need to wake up to the ecological breakdown and heed science. Leaders need to immediately act to end deforestation, protect at least 30% of our oceans and bring an end to climate-harming emissions.’

Oceans campaigner at Greenpeace US

Anti-environmental agendas

The United States of America and Brazil are among the most biodiverse nations on the planet, with outstanding arrays of climate critical ecosystems, wildlife populations and iconic forests.

However, the presidents of both nations are actively pushing an anti-environmental agenda, fuelling the biodiversity crisis and threatening the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

To date both presidents have no concrete plans and proposals to push forward the protection of nature at the UN Summit on Biodiversity.

This is the first time world leaders have come together to discuss environmental crises since Covid-19 disrupted major conferences on our oceans, nature and climate.

‘Their deliberate plans to actively destroy nature makes both the Trump and Bolsonaro administrations climate villains, Trump has not even bothered to participate in the Summit today. One million species are facing extinction, these sculptures represent two faces now synonymous with a planet in crisis, responsible for the extinction of nature on which humanity depends.’

Oceans campaigner at Greenpeace US

Fires in Brazil

Deforestation and fires skyrocketed across Brazil since Bolsonaro came into power in January 2019.

Satellite images and data show that 2020 is the worst fire season in a decade in the Amazon and the worst ever recorded in the Pantanal wetlands, where over a fifth of the biome has been consumed by the fire.

At his speech at the UN General Assembly, Bolsonaro denied that Brazil is burning, while at the same time blaming Indigenous Peoples and traditional communities for the fires.

US not set to change course

Trump’s absence at this milestone Summit follows in a long history of his administration’s disregard for biodiversity, from gutting protections under the Endangered Species Act to undermining the integrity of the National Environmental Protection Act.

The US is one of only four UN member states that are not party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, and today’s absence sends a strong signal to world leaders that the United States has no intention of changing course anytime soon.

Humanity at a crossroads

The Summit comes at the heels of the release of a new UN report on biodiversity that highlights the inadequate global response to the biodiversity and climate crises. 

The report goes as far as to say that ‘Humanity stands at a crossroads’, attributing environmental destruction and catastrophic biodiversity collapse to unsustainable farming, overfishing, burning of fossil fuels and other extractive forms of development.  

The Summit was meant as a high-level stepping stone between the release of that report and the gathering of all nations at the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, originally scheduled to take place in China this October, but now postponed until 2021 due to Covid-19. 

The meeting set new global targets, including a goal to fully or strongly protect 30% of our oceans by 2030, a goal that scientists call critical for preventing the worst of ecosystem collapse in the oceans and preventing runaway climate change.

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