Draft UN plan sets target to protect 30% of planet by 2030

Published by Kayle Crosson on

January 16th, 2020

At least 30 per cent of the planet must be protected in order to tackle the biodiversity crisis in the coming decade, the United Nations said this week. 

Releasing the draft of its potentially landmark proposals to protect global biodiversity over the coming decades, the UN secretariat for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) this week outlined 20 proposals to protect the diversity of plant and animal species by mid-century. 

In addition to calling for almost a third of all land and water to be granted protected status, the Paris Agreement-style proposal t also outlines a desire to half the global use of biocide (chemicals used to control bacteria and other organisms), excessive nutrient use, and plastic pollution by 2030. 

The framework draft also proposes that around one-third of climate mitigation efforts to meet the Paris Agreement targets should be met through nature-based solutions that would include planting native woodlands and rewetting peatlands in Ireland.

The draft also calls for greater conservation of biodiversity within agricultural systems, and for greater use of green spaces for health and well-being, especially in urban areas.

The draft also points to the need for the elimination of subsidies that are most harmful for biodiversity and to ensure that any public and private economic and regulatory incentives are either “positive or neutral for biodiversity” by 2030.

Indigenous peoples and local communities – in particular women and youth – should be central  to decision-making on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity by the end of the decade, the draft also states.

The final plan will be published in October at the 2020 UN Biodiversity Conference in China, the environmental version of the COP climate summits.

Earlier today, the European Parliament voted to call on the European Commission to move away from voluntary biodiversity-protection commitments and to propose an “ambitious and inclusive Biodiversity Strategy for 2030” that sets legally binding targets for the EU and its Member States.

In the Parliament motion on the upcoming biodiversity conference in China, MEPs also voted in favour of an amendment calling for the Commission to support a target to reach at least 30 per cent protected land and marine areas and to restore at least 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems across the bloc by 2030.

All Irish MEPs present voted in favour of an amendement apart from three Fine Gael MEPs – Frances Fitzgerald, Seán Kelly, and Mairead McGuinness – who abstained from the vote. The Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan, Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy and Fine Gael’s Maria Walsh were not available today for the vote.

Extinction Rebellion protest in Dublin April 2019 Photo: Niall Sargent

At a ‘tipping point’ 

Both regionally and globally, biodiversity is facing mounting challenges. Last month, the head of the European Environment Agency (EEA) Hans Bruyninckx warned that the environment is at a “tipping point” in response to Member States failure to protect the natural world. 

“We have a narrow window of opportunity in the next decade to scale up measures to protect nature, lessen the impacts of climate change and radically reduce our consumption of natural resources,” Mr Bruynicnkx said. 

The report, released every five years, indicates that the EU as a regional bloc is set to miss most of its environmental protection targets in 2020, including in air, water and soil pollution as well as species and habitats protection. 

The EEA warned that only two of the 13 specific policy objectives set for 2020 are expected to be reached in full, which are the designation of protected areas on land and at sea. 

The UN reported last May that as many as a million species are at risk of extinction as a result of the climate crisis. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Chair Sir Robert Watson warned that such a scale of loss presents an “ominous picture”. 

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever… We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” Sir Watson said. 

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Kayle Crosson

Kayle is a multimedia journalist focused on climate and environmental issues and contributes to The Irish Times and The Green News.