We need to protect at least 30% of the planet by 2030

Despite an increase in policies to support biodiversity, indicators show that biodiversity loss has increased between 2011 and 2020. At the global level, none of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets agreed by Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010 have been fully achieved. Thus, we need urgent action in order to address the on-going global biodiversity and climate change crisis.

As parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are discussing the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to be agreed at COP15 in Kunming next year, there is a strong and growing global support for effectively protecting and conserving at least 30% of the earth’s land, sea and freshwater ecosystems by 2030. This new framework sets out an ambitious plan to transform society’s relationship with biodiversity and achieve the vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050.

Why at least 30%?

As shown by a comprehensive review of scientific literature, the protection and conservation of 30% of the land, sea and freshwater is the minimum target for halting and beginning to reverse biodiversity loss, as well as address the climate crisis. According to multiple scientific studies, we must protect at least 30% of the planet to conserve key biodiversity values, including species at risk, high-biodiversity areas, key migration sites, spewing areas, and ecologically intact areas which protect large-scale ecological processes.

Furthermore, in a recent report on the economic implications of protecting nature, over 100 economists and scientists find that the global economy would benefit from such protection, with benefits outweighing costs by a ratio of at least 5-to-1. Similarly, another study published this year in Nature found that the protection of at least 30% of the ocean in no-take marine protected areas would actually restore and enhance fisheries stocks. According to the study, a substantial increase in ocean protection could have triple benefits: by protecting biodiversity, boosting the yield of fisheries and securing marine carbon stocks that are at risk from human activities. 

All these results, therefore, offer additional evidence that the nature conservation sector is not only affordable, but also drives economic growth, delivers key non-monetary benefits and is a net contributor to a resilient global economy.

What should we protect?

Although reaching a target number of 30% is important, it is not enough; we must consider the quality of the areas protected too. The 30% must incorporate areas that are of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, including Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), and ecologically representative. In addition, the areas should be effectively and equitably managed, and part of well-connected ecologically systems that link protected and conserved areas. Including all these quality elements is key for effectively implementing the 30% target.

Thus, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) suggests the inclusion of only protected and conserved areas in the “at least 30%” figure, as both conservation measures have clear definitions and extensive CBD and IUCN guidance. However, we must combine the protection and conservation of at least 30% of the planet with effective sustainability measures across the remaining 70% of the planet. Wilderness in a crucial element in this. Wilderness represents the widest and last fragments of our planet. It provides a refuge to rare species and benefits to us humans. The European Wilderness Society continues its mission to identify, designate, steward and promote Europe’s remaining Wilderness.

Secure successful implementation

Importantly, to effectively implement the protection of at least 30% by 2030, the recognition, support and leadership of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities is essential. The establishment of protected and conserved areas should, therefore, be equitable and based on full participation, shared and transparent decision-making, rights-based approaches and fair benefit sharing.

The draft Global Biodiversity Framework also notes that successful implementation requires mobilising resources from both the public and private finance sectors, technical and scientific cooperation, and effective outreach, awareness and uptake by all stakeholders.

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