64 World Leaders – With Some Obvious Exceptions – Pledge to Conserve Nature

The COVID-19 pandemic and a series of devastating reports have made clear that our “debt” to nature must be repaid, and yesterday more than 60 world leaders, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, pledged to conserve more of the natural world.  They signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, promising to address the climate crisis, deforestation, ecosystem degradation, and pollution as part of pandemic economic recovery plans.  The U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “We must turn these words into action and use them to build momentum, to agree to ambitious goals and targets. We must act now – right now…Left unchecked, the consequences will be catastrophic for us all.”

Why This Matters:  The signatories to the agreement came from all over the world, but there were some notable absences. The presidents of the US, Brazil, and China – Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Xi Jinping – have not signed the pledge, despite China’s hosting and chairing the biodiversity meeting next year. These important nations need to get on the bandwagon. As we reported, two weeks ago the UN announced that the world failed to meet a single 2020 target to slow the loss of the natural world, including goals to protect coral reefs, preserve natural habitats and reduce plastic and chemical waste.

Mainstreaming Nature in International Meetings

The leaders pledged to “join forces in the run up to the key international events and processes taking place throughout 2021, including the G7, the G20, the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the fifth UN Environment Assembly, UNFCCC COP26 and the UN Ocean Conference, aiming to achieve ambitious and realistic outcomes to pave the way for a strong Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework….”  Never before have biodiversity and support for conserving nature made it on to the agenda of the G7 and G20 meetings, so this promise is a huge step forward to addressing the extinction crisis.

We have reported on the series of reports on the extinction and nature crisis in recent weeks, including the WWF and the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Living Planet Report 2020, which found that populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles plunged by 68% across the world between 1970 and 2016.  As Brian O’Donnell, Director, Campaign for Nature said,

“Scientists are telling us that protecting at least 30% of the planet by 2030 is the minimum amount of protections needed to help confront the escalating crisis facing nature. It is encouraging to see a growing list of world leaders embrace this proposal as an essential element of any effective biodiversity protection strategy. For our collective efforts to be successful, we must also ensure that any global biodiversity strategy respects and promotes Indigenous Peoples’ rights and is backed by significantly increased funding.”

To Go Deeper:  See this interview with Justin Kenney of the UN Foundation, on why this can still be the Super Year for the ocean.  The ocean may be vast but it needs to be conserved just as much as land.

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