Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

G20 Environment Ministers' Meeting 2021

Speech by

Dr QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General

As prepared

Naples, 22 July 2021


Honorable Ministers,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.         It is an honour to address the G20 Ministerial Meeting on the Environment.

2.         Let me first acknowledge the Italian G20 efforts to put food security and agri-food systems high on the international agenda,

3.         And the G20’s role in fostering collective action for promoting sustainable innovative solutions for the transformation of global agri-food systems.

4.         Enabling MORE efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems is the overriding narrative of FAO’s recently endorsed Strategic Framework.

5.         This will guide our work over the next decade to support Members in achieving the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind!


Ladies and Gentlemen,

6.         Today, humanity faces a triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate crisis and the impact of the pandemic.

7.         Our global challenge is two-fold:

8.         First, we need to meet the growing demand for agricultural products: food, fibre, feed and fuel;

9.         while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from an average of 6 tonnes per capita to zero by 2050.

10.       And second, we need to conserve biodiversity, sustainably manage natural resources including water, and protect and restore ecosystems. We cannot achieve one without the other.

11.       Climate change and the increasing intensity and frequency of drought and floods is exacerbating the levels of hunger in the world.

12.       Water-related ecosystems are critical to sustain livelihoods, food security and nutrition.

13.       However, the lives of over a billion people are severely constrained by water scarcity or water shortages.

14.       To put it in perspective, almost a billion hectares of rain fed cropland and pastureland are severely affected by recurring drought.

15.       Furthermore, over 60 percent of irrigated cropland are under high to very high water stress.

16.       And growing competition for water resources worsens inequality in access to water,

17.       leaving behind the poorest and most vulnerable,

18.       such as small-scale farmers and women, and entire communities such as inland fisherfolk.

19.       We cannot ignore these serious challenges!

20.       We need to increase water use efficiency and foster sustainable water management to address water scarcity and improve water and food quality.

21.       By applying digital innovation and more effective governance mechanisms;

22.       By using conducive investments that contribute to sustainable water management,

23.       nature-positive agriculture, and water infrastructure and technologies;

24.       we can mitigate water shortages,

25.       ensure that water is allocated to secure more efficient use,

26.       protect our natural resource base, and

27.       provide access to water for all of the various uses. 


Dear Colleagues,

28.       To have healthy food, we need a healthy environment!

29.       Biodiversity loss and climate change are interconnected and need to be tackled on all fronts.

30.       The planet is losing biodiversity at an alarming rate.

31.       To shift this trend, FAO is fully committed to mainstreaming biodiversity across food and agricultural sectors

32.       This means scaling up biodiversity-friendly production systems and integrating it into our decision-making process.

33.       From conceiving policies to implementing projects.

34.       FAO Members recently adopted the Strategy and Action Plan on Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agricultural Sectors.

35.       Working closely with Members and partners, FAO is engaged in the process of developing an ambitious and practical Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework,

36.       To support the sustainable use, conservation, and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems within production landscapes and seascapes.

37.       Earlier this month, we co-hosted a high-level Global Dialogue on the Role of Food and Agriculture in the Global Biodiversity Framework.

38.       Bringing together ministers, scientists, family farmers, the private sector and civil society – from all agricultural and environmental sectors.

39.       The Dialogue clearly highlighted that people and nature cannot be separated,

40.       And agricultural sectors offer key solutions to the biodiversity and climate crises.

41.       The outcome of the Global Dialogue will help re-define the role of food and agriculture in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

42.       However, decisive action requires an enabling environment.

43.       This includes institutions, policies and financial backing;

44.       for the small-scale producers, family farmers, and Indigenous Peoples,

45.       who are the true in-situ custodians of our natural resources.


Dear Friends,

46.       For all this, we need the G20 Environment Ministers to work closer with us.

47.       Increasing our cooperation with the G20 countries can have game-changing impacts on the planet.

48.       For instance; the current levels of investment are highly insufficient.

49.       Yet, if we could fully-fund the goal to restore degraded land, the target of halting deforestation could be achieved by 2030.

50.       Reversing deforestation will help mitigate against climate change and reduce the risk of future zoonotic spill-overs.

51.       Reversing biodiversity loss and land degradation can reap 1.4 trillion US Dollars per year.

52.       We need to repurpose agricultural subsidies with harmful effects on our climate and biodiversity.

53.       We need to invest in the long-term Research & Development;

54.       to create the innovation and technologies required for producing more with less emissions and within our environmental boundaries.

55.       The recently launched UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, co-led by FAO and UNEP, is an excellent opportunity to mobilize our collective efforts.

56.       Driven by FAO’s mandate, we will focus on the restoration of ecosystems to enhance food security, transform agri-food systems, address climate change and preserve biodiversity.

57.       The Decade on Ecosystem Restoration coincides with the UN Decade on Family Farming,

58.       reminding us of the knowledge, traditions and best practices of the world’s small-scale producers, fisher folk, livestock keepers and foresters.

59.       This wisdom must go hand-in-hand with modern tools of science, technology and innovation.

60.       To collectively harness the power of nature;

61.       and successfully address climate change, poverty and food security.

62.       FAO is eager to increase its collaboration with you, honourable Ministers, to achieve these noble goals.

Thank you.