Leaders Set a Course For a New Plan to Safeguard Nature

Photo credit: Brian O’Donnell

Photo credit: Brian O’Donnell

The 14th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity came to a close this week in Egypt, with world leaders leaving the meetings with a detailed approach for developing a plan to safeguard the planet’s natural resources and biodiversity. The plan – a New Deal for Nature – is slated to be considered in two years, at the 15th Conference of Parties, which will be held in Beijing.

The primary outcome from the Egypt meetings was an agreement on a process, with the most significant progress being the creation of a new working group charged with conducting a series of stakeholder meetings during the next two years in locations around the globe. The working group will encourage broad-based and inclusive engagement across the process as the New Deal for Nature is developed. Additionally, the Conference of Parties is looking to engage heads of state, bringing their platforms and thought leadership to bear as part of the U.N General Assembly in the lead-up to the 2020 Beijing meeting.

No doubt putting an inclusive and effective process in place is absolutely critical. Now, the important work of developing a substantive and effective plan must take place. That means the global community coming together and committing to expand our ambitions for protecting the Earth’s lands and waters, placing nations on a path to protect at least 30 percent of the planet by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050. It also means committing financial support for protecting and managing both new and existing conservation areas.

Headlines from newspapers across the globe frame what’s at stake for our planet, propelling the global community into action:

  • The Guardian: “Humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, report finds”

  • Washington Post: “'Hyperalarming' study shows massive insect loss”

  • CNN: “This is the 'last generation' that can save nature, WWF says”

  • Daily Mail: “The worrying state of Earth's species in numbers as scientists warn the sixth mass extinction is here and wildlife is in a 'global crisis'”

Coming out of Egypt and as the negotiations intensify, leaders are looking toward 2020 with a sense of purpose. Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, argued that, while incremental changes are important, the global community needs to adopt a plan that transforms how the globe protects biodiversity:

“We must move from the very real incremental change that we have created to a model that continues to push incremental wins while also fundamentally reaching for transformational change.”

Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility – the U.N. body which helps fund protected areas – offered a similar call to action:

“Nature and people deserve a new deal. 2020 offers one last opportunity for the global community to get its act together - let's not miss it!"

It’s now on all of us to take this energy and translate it into action. NGOs, philanthropists, governments, and business leaders are ready to engage in an open dialogue between now and 2020. While the headlines are frequently doom-and-gloom, the global community has a real opportunity to protect the Earth’s remaining wild places and turn the tide on wildlife loss.   

The first opportunity to put forward bold ideas to be included in a New Deal for Nature is currently before us. The Convention on Biological Diversity is accepting preliminary ideas and comments with a deadline of December 15th. This is a critical chance to make the case to world leaders that now’s our opportunity to think big and significantly increase the percentage of our planet that is safeguarded through protected areas and other effective conservation measures.

Protecting 30 percent of the planet by 2030 is an ambitious but realistic first step.

Greg Zimmerman