overnments have been urged to deliver action to restore nature after a “landmark” international deal was secured to conserve wildlife and habitats.
Countries meeting at the UN Cop15 conference in Montreal, Canada, pledged to protect 30% of the world’s lands, seas, coasts and inland waters by 2030 as part of a package of targets to address the catastrophic declines in nature.
Measures agreed also include a pledge to increase the flow of finance to developing nations to care for nature to 20 billion US dollars (£16.5 billion) by 2025 and at least 30 billion dollars (£24.7 billion) by 2030.
In total countries pledged to ensure 200 billion US dollars a year (£164 billion) of biodiversity-related funding by 2030, both domestic and international and from public and private sources.
We applaud negotiators for reaching this landmark deal – now the work begins to turn ambition into action
There are 2030 targets to halve global food waste, excess nutrients and risks posed by pesticides, reduce to “near zero” the loss of areas of wildlife-rich habitat, and reduce by 500 billion dollars (£411.7 billion) a year government subsidies that harm nature.
Countries also pledged efforts to complete or get going on the restoration of 30% of degraded land, inland waters, coastal and marine ecosystems by the end of the decade.
They are among a series of 23 targets in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, as well as four long-term goals to protect the natural world, through measures such as including halting species extinctions, by 2050.
Conservationists described the moment as historic and a landmark deal for nature but warned governments must now deliver on it.
In the UK, environmentalists urged the Government to scale up ambition on environmental targets announced last week and ditch legislation on EU laws that they say could remove legal protections for wildlife and wild places.
Kathryn Brown, from The Wildlife Trusts, said: “This is a historic moment which provides humanity with a north star for putting nature into recovery.”
But she warned governments could not rest on their laurels, saying: “Governments around the world must swiftly develop plans to protect at least 30% of land and 30% of sea by the end of this decade.
“Here in the UK, that also means revisiting the shockingly unambitious Environment Act targets announced last week and scrapping the dangerous Retained EU Law Bill, which could remove legal protections for wildlife and wild places.
“We applaud negotiators for reaching this landmark deal – now the work begins to turn ambition into action,” she said.
Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF-UK, said: “The global ambition agreed at Cop15 to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 is vital if we are to bring our planet back from the brink.
“The tripling of international finance for developing countries, conservation targets to halt species extinction, and the rights of indigenous peoples being placed front and centre are crucial cornerstones of the deal.”
But he said humanity could not save nature without tackling the underlying drivers of biodiversity loss, and the deal left the “job half done”, with “vague and unambitious” targets for reducing the impact of consumption.
“The UK Government must now lead the way at home and abroad with actions that deliver on its promises and make the ambition of Cop15 a reality,” he urged.
While the collapse of nature may be the less well known sister problem to the climate crisis, scientists have warned that up to a million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades.
The natural world is deteriorating faster than ever as a direct result of human activity, including the clearing of forests and other habitats for crops and livestock, pollution, direct exploitation of wildlife, invasive species and increasingly climate change.
Plastic pollution has increased 10-fold in the seas since 1980, fertiliser run-off has caused a “dead zone” in the oceans, land is becoming less productive, and the loss of pollinators puts crops at risk.
That in turn is eroding “the very foundations” of economies, livelihoods, food, health and quality of life worldwide – all of which relies on healthy natural systems, experts warn.
A key target in the new deal is agreement that 30% of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas and oceans would be effectively conserved and managed.
There is an emphasis on areas that are particularly important for nature, and the agreement recognises and respects the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.
Currently, 17% of the world’s land area and 10% of its seas are under protection.
Greenpeace said despite agreeing the 30×30 target and recognising the rights of indigenous peoples, Cop15 failed to deliver the ambition, tools or finance to stop mass extinction.
We need to see properly protected ocean sanctuaries, and large swathes of land managed for nature
An Lambrechts, head of the Greenpeace delegation at Cop15, warned the 30% target was “stripped-down, without essential qualifiers that exclude damaging activities from protected areas. As is, it is just an empty number, with protections on paper but nowhere else”.
Will McCallum, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said governments such as the UK’s which had fought for stronger language within the 30×30 target must lead by example, accusing ministers of weak environmental targets and allowing “destructive” fishing in vulnerable sea areas.
“We need to see properly protected ocean sanctuaries, and large swathes of land managed for nature, to show the world that restoring biodiversity unlocks jobs in rural and remote areas, keeps our food system resilient and makes sure we are all more able to withstand the impacts that climate change is already having,” he said.
The deal had originally been scheduled to be negotiated in Kunming, China, in 2020, but talks were delayed by the pandemic, with a first stage of meetings taking place largely online last year, and the final part of the Chinese-chaired Cop15 conference was hosted in Montreal.
The agreement is the latest set of decadal targets to attempt to tackle the nature crisis.
All the targets set for 2020, known as the Aichi targets after they were agreed in the Japanese region in 2010, were missed.
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