Conservation news

World leaders endorse ‘Pledge for Nature’ to address planetary emergency

Rainforest rainbow in Sabah

  • In the midst of a planetary emergency, 71 world leaders have endorsed a 10 point pledge to accelerate action to reverse nature loss by 2030 and tackle global warming.
  • Justin Trudeau, Jacinda Ardern, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Prince Charles and Boris Johnson are among those who signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, stating the world is in a “state of planetary emergency.”
  • The pledge addresses sustainable food systems and supply chains, eliminating unregulated fishing, reducing air pollution, integrating a “One-Health” approach, and the participation of Indigenous peoples in decision-making.
  • News of the leaders’ participation, announced Sept. 28, comes ahead of the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity this week.

In the midst of a planetary biodiversity crisis, 71 world leaders have endorsed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.

Jacinda Ardern, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Justin Trudeau, are among those who endorsed the pledge, stating the world is in a “state of planetary emergency: the interdependent crises of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation and climate change” and that this emergency requires “urgent and immediate global action.”

News of the leaders’ participation, announced Sept. 28, comes ahead of the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity this week. It builds upon mounting support for what some have called a “science-based target”: to protect 30% of the planet by 2030, which is included in the most recent draft of the U.N.’s Convention on Biological Diversity as one of its 20 post-2020 strategies. Borris Johnson, for instance, promised to increase UK protected areas to 30% by 2030.

“I call on all leaders to commit to protecting at least 30% of the planet by 2030. It is a goal that is firmly grounded in scientific evidence,” Frans Timmermans, executive vice president of the European Commission, said in a video statement. “The 30% target backed up by strong financial support for nature is at the same time an environmental imperative and a great opportunity to improve our health and help our economies transition to a sustainable economy … We have one chance and once chance only to get it right … It can be done. It should be done.”

Earlier this month, a report by the Convention on Biological Diversity noted that none of the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity targets, aimed at slowing the ongoing sixth mass extinction and protecting the world’s plants and animals, were reached in their entirety.

An Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) cub. Less than 100 individuals remained in 2002. Now there are around 400. Image by Ex-Situ Conservation Program of the Iberian Lynx via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0 ES).

“It has never happened in history, that so many Heads of States…could come together and agree on a common approach and commitment to urgent action on climate and biodiversity, recognizing the state of planetary emergency,” Elise Buckle, a U.N. adviser and president of Climate & Sustainability, told Mongabay

The 10-point Leaders’ Pledge for Nature addresses the development of “an ambitious and transformational” global biodiversity framework that will be adopted at the 15th Conference of Parties of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. This framework will include commitments to address the drivers of biodiversity loss and halt human-caused extinctions, as well as to dramatically increase the protection of global land and oceans.

The pledge addresses sustainable food systems and supply chains, eliminating unregulated fishing, reducing air pollution, integrating a “One-Health” approach, and “shifting land use and agricultural policies away from environmentally harmful practices for land and marine ecosystems.”

Leaders also committed to developing frameworks that include “the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in decision making and recognition of their rights, as acknowledged in relevant national and international instruments.”

Some are opposed to the 30% sweeping targets without safeguards for Indigenous people in place. “We urge you to drop the 30% target unless and until there are cast-iron safeguards for indigenous peoples and other local communities that will apply to all new and existing Protected Areas,” the NGO Survival International writes in a petition to UN, European and UK officials. “Ownership rights of tribal and indigenous peoples must be respected.”

“We need to act in concert together to protect biodiversity,” Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, said in a video statement released Sept. 27. “That’s why Canada has signed onto the leadership pledge and the high ambition coalition. It means we are committed to protecting 25% of our land and 25% of our ocean by 2025 and hitting the 30% target for each by 2030. The way we are going to do it is by working with Indigenous Peoples who are our partners in protecting the land and who understand how important it is to be good stewards of the lands and waters that sustain us.”

The announcement by Trudeau is significant, Brian O’Donnell, director of Campaign for Nature, told Mongabay, because Canada is one of the world’s largest countries with “vast areas of intact forests, which are critical to conserve to meet climate goals.”

Many of the leaders involved in the U.N. biodiversity summit have done exemplary work toward biodiversity commitments, including Bhutan, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Canada, according to Buckle. She said the EU Commission, Kenya and Colombia “are doing the right thing already, and this needs to be scaled up,” but highlighted India, China, Brazil and the U.S. as being notably missing.

Costa Rica has increased forest cover and domestic sources of financing for conservation as well as increasing conservation areas, O’Donnell says.  Forest conservation is included in the constitution of Bhutan. Gabon has made progress towards biodiversity goals and Canada has “taken the Aichi conservation targets seriously and has increased land and ocean conservation significantly in recent years, primarily through Indigenous-led conservation.”

“Bhutan was always guided by the far-sighted conservation visions of our kings. That is why today, our biodiversity and natural heritage, are pristine and intact.” Dr. Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister of the Kingdon of Bhutan, said in a video. “Our kings have set very high standards for us. We have pledged to remain carbon neutral at all times to come and keep at least 60% of the country under forest coverage. As of today, we have about 72% of the country under forest coverage, and most of it is protected by law as either national parks, biological corridors or wildlife sanctuaries.”

“Something about our collision course with nature feels inevitable, but it is not,” Henrietta L. Moore, founder and director of the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, said in a statement. “It is a result of the dominant vision of what prosperity is, and how we deliver it. A new story of a more expansive prosperity delivered by redefining our relationship to the natural world is possible.”

Banner image of a rainbow over the rainforest by Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay.

Liz Kimbrough is a staff writer for Mongabay. Find her on Twitter @lizkimbrough

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Correction: A previous version of this article stated that 64 world leaders had endorsed the target to protect 30% of the planet by 2030. Though several leaders voiced support for this target, the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature does not include this target specifically.  The number of leaders who endorsed the pledge was also updated from 64 to 71 to reflect the most recent number of participants as of September 29, 2020.  We regret this error.