One Planet summit aims to protect global biodiversity | DW

Rodiano Bonacci
Gennaio 13, 2021

A UN-backed summit Monday of political leaders and CEOs pledging to reverse the accelerating destruction of the natural world was long on promises and short on cash.

A global coalition to protect at least 30% of the planet's land and ocean by 2030 has swelled its ranks to about 50 countries, as governments said at a summit hosted by France on Monday that biodiversity loss and climate change should be tackled jointly.

Monday's talks sought to prepare negotiations on biodiversity targets at a United Nations conference on biodiversity in China in October, after it was postponed previous year due to the pandemic.

While Beijing has yet to announce a new date, sources involved in the preparations say it is likely to take place in early October.

"We have been poisoning air, land and water, and filling our oceans with plastic". Now, nature is striking back: temperatures are reaching record highs, biodiversity is collapsing, deserts are spreading, [and] fires, floods and hurricanes are more frequent and extreme...

So far, efforts to protect and restore nature on a global scale have failed spectacularly.

The UN's science advisory panel for biodiversity warned in a landmark 2019 report that one million species face extinction, due mostly to habitat loss and over-exploitation.

Climate change and a lack of care for the environment could have devastating consequences for Saint Lucia's healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity.

Roughly a football pitch of old-growth tropical forest is felled or goes up in smoke every six seconds.

Costa Rica's minister for environment and energy Andrea Meza said he hoped more countries would join the High Ambition Coalition in the run up to the COP25 Biodiversity Summit. "This year, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be innovative in our discussions", he said.

The emerging consensus that protecting nature is also essential for the fight against climate change was a dominant theme at the one-day meeting. "COP26 can not be another missed opportunity", he said, referring to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference set to take place in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

"But we won't achieve a real balance with our planet unless we protect nature as well", he added, speaking from London. During the event, leaders and development banks promised to inject some 14 billion dollars, to build what they call the "Great Green Wall".

The project was launched in 2007, but stalled for lack of funds.

At the same time, with a financing gap of $711 billion per year until 2030 to meet global biodiversity targets, increased and sustained financing will be crucial to transition away from polluting sectors, Guterres said.

Rising temperatures harm wildlife, and deforestation, agriculture and other land uses contribute almost a quarter of global greenhouse gases (23 per cent), but healthy forests and ocean habitats can store carbon and reduce the impacts of climate change.

"Previous expansion of protected areas has meant human rights violations", Joji Carino, Senior Policy Advisor for the Forest Peoples Programme, told AFP.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was one of them, throwing cold water on the Paris meeting in a tweet, under the heading "LIVE from #OnePlanetSummit".

"Bla bla nature, Bla bla important, Bla bla ambitious, Bla bla investments, Bla bla opportunity, Bla bla green growth..."

Among those taking part are UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, World Bank president David Malpass, Britain's Prince Charles, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde and World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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