More than 50 states promise to protect 30% of the planet’s land mass and oceans — but SA not among them

SA not a member of new High Ambition Coalition for Nature & People

12 January 2021 - 08:00
Below the ice in the Ross Sea, the pristine sea floor reflects biodiversity with its starfish and sea spiders the size of dinner plates.
Below the ice in the Ross Sea, the pristine sea floor reflects biodiversity with its starfish and sea spiders the size of dinner plates.
Image: ©Espen Rekdal

More than 50 countries promised on Monday to protect at least 30% of the planet’s land mass and oceans by 2030 to halt its steep and rapid loss in biodiversity.

The UK, France and Costa Rica chaired the One Planet Summit for Biodiversity in Paris on Monday, where the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People was launched — after a year in which the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on wildlife conservation goals.

“As the natural world continues to disappear at an unprecedented rate, a group of more than 50 countries — which together harbour 28% of global terrestrial biodiversity and a quarter of the world’s terrestrial carbon stores (biomass and soil), and 28% of ocean biodiversity priority areas and over a third of the ocean carbon stores have announced their commitment ... to champion an ambitious global deal to halt species loss and protect ecosystems that are vital to human health and economic security,” the HAC signatories declared.

A dozen African countries, including neighbouring Botswana and Mozambique, have joined the coalition, but SA is not listed as one of them.

Costa Rica’s minister of environment and energy, Andrea Meza, noted that restoring nature benefited human wellbeing as well as the earth by “creating millions of quality green and blue jobs”.

“We have a moral and pragmatic imperative to come together, to take strong decisions that will get us one step closer to halting biodiversity loss and achieving the Paris Agreement goals,” she said.

Making a commitment to conserve nature could boost the world’s economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic, research shows.

A study by McKinsey found that protecting nature could create up to 650,000 jobs and support 30 million jobs in sustainable fishing and eco-tourism.

The benefits of protecting a third of the planet would outweigh the costs by at least 5:1, another analysis shows.

Japan’s minister of environment, Shinjirō Koizumi, identified support for local communities as a way to achieve these ambitions.

“A thriving local community will provide not only solutions to biodiversity issues, but also resilience against intensifying natural disasters caused by climate change and emerging infectious diseases,” said Koizumi.

Scientists said the way to prevent the potential mass extinction crisis was, at a minimum, to protect 30% of the planet by 2030.

The commissioner of the European Commission for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, summed it up saying “our life depends on nature and the planet’s ecosystems”. 

“We urgently need to step up action to tackle the climate and biodiversity crisis. The European Union will continue ... to undertake all efforts for a transformative post-2020 framework at the upcoming 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.” 

As the next co-host of the Climate COP, the British minister for Pacific and the Environment, Zac Goldsmith, said the UK was aware that tackling climate change demanded a “huge increase in our efforts” and was absolutely committed to lead the world’s fight against the loss of biodiversity.

The Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 will be held this year in Kunming, China.

The members of the High Ambition Coalition listed alphabetically are: Angola, Armenia, Benin, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, European Commission, Finland, France, Gabon, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Japan, Kenya, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom.

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