Negotiators are hammering out a bold plan to set aside 30 per cent of global land and sea area for nature by the end of the decade. But can they succeed – and will it work?
IT IS perhaps inevitably being trailed as a last chance to avert disaster. But when the world gathers in Kunming, China, later this year to finalise a much-delayed global deal on biodiversity, the fate of the universe’s only known biosphere will lie in the negotiators’ hands. “We’re in crisis mode,” says Eric Dinerstein, former chief scientist at conservation group WWF. “We have 10 years before we surpass critical tipping points that would lead to irreversible biodiversity loss.”
At the centre of the deal under negotiation is a new, ambitious target that goes far beyond previous, failed commitments to protect biodiversity. Catchily titled “30 by 30”, it would commit nations to setting aside 30 per cent of Earth’s land and seas for nature by 2030. For many conservation biologists, it is a breakthrough even to see it on the table. But nerves are also jangling. Will 30 by 30 make it through – and if it does, will the world act, and will it be enough?
Biodiversity is important. Even if we cannot bring ourselves to preserve it for its own sake, we should at least do so for selfish reasons. Intact nature provides a range of “ecosystem services”, from life support, such as clean air and water, fertile soils and pollination, to psychological benefits and protection from climate change, extreme weather and natural disasters – not to mention a reduced risk of “spillover” diseases like covid-19. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services lists …