Remarks by President Charles Michel at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

© European Union, 2020, Council of the EU – Audiovisual resources© European Union, 2020, Council of the EU – Audiovisual resources

Good evening everyone.

I’d like to join in the thanks to France and the Mayor of Marseille, and to the organisers of this Congress, which comes at a crucial juncture. Because, as we can see quite clearly, our generation is at a turning point. And the first thing that needs to happen is for us put our trust in the science, in the explorers, so that we make the right choices and take the right decisions.

Some time ago now – in December two years ago – the EU’s 27 heads of state or government took the first step with a decision that was strong, clear and unequivocal, and that many had thought impossible only a few months earlier: we decided to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent.

And we are well aware, as the French President noted and others, too, have said, that the fight for the climate and the fight for biodiversity are in fact one and the same. And it is with the same determination that we must be moved to action at European level. Let me stress just how clear the commitments made by the Greek Prime Minister here just a few moments ago are, which shows how things are moving and starting to accelerate.

Turning to some specific points: our oceans and forests are the lungs of humanity. Our determined action for the oceans has started with a ban on single-use plastic. The next challenge on the table: how can we keep all plastic out of the oceans?

Another extremely important commitment: to increase the coverage of protected areas and achieve clarity about the requirements: what does it mean when an area is protected? And here we come to the key role for the climate that is played by the poles, the Antarctic and the Arctic. In the Antarctic, we in the European Union are very clear that we want to extend the protected areas. When it comes to the Arctic, too, we are perfectly clear: we believe we must ensure that transport is sustainable and takes account of the criteria for respecting our shared humanity, of which every one of us is part.

One last point I would like to make briefly: we will have the opportunity over the coming weeks and months, as we work with great determination to implement the European Green Deal, to make sure we put biodiversity at the heart of our plans, at the heart of our ambitions, at the heart of our efforts.

And it is very much up to Europe to create momentum in order to show the way and lead the way.

Thank you.