The Battle for Biodiversity and Human Rights

From the lush Amazon rainforest to the frigid Arctic Ocean, the world’s landscapes — and all the wildlife they contain — are under threat, and the world needs to set aside a third of all land and sea territories to save them, U.N. experts say.

The call is central to the global agreement being hashed out in December 2022 at the U.N. biodiversity summit in Montreal. If approved, governments would be agreeing to set aside 30% of their land and sea territories for conservation by 2030 – the so-called 30-by-30 goal, doubling the amount of land area and more than tripling the ocean territory currently under conservation…

A June 2022 study in the journal Science found, however, that at least 44% of global land area would be needed to protect areas with a high diversity of species, prevent the loss of intact ecosystems, and optimize the representation of different landscapes and species. But more than 1.8 billion people live in these areas

One of the key tension points that has emerged in the 30-by-30 debate at COP15 is whether the target should be carried out globally or at a national level…It is an important distinction, scientists and negotiators said. Some countries are small, without much land to set aside for nature. Others are vast and still contain a high degree of biodiversity, such as tropical forest nations like Brazil and Indonesia. Were such countries to protect only 30% of their territories, that could actually result in a significant loss of nature…Currently, just under 50% of the Amazon is under some form of official protection or indigenous stewardship, so a national pledge to conserve 30% would represent a significant downgrade.

The other dispute plaguing 30-by-30 is over what should count as protection. Some countries might allow people to live within protected areas or promote indigenous stewardship of these lands. Some might even allow for extractive industries to operate under permits and regulation. In other cases, conservation areas are off limits to everyone. The European Union has proposed allowing activities like logging, mining and fishing to be carried out under conservation management for 20% of protected areas, while 10% would be held under stricter protections.

The idea caused environmental nonprofit Greenpeace to accused the EU last week of trying to water down language on 30-by-30, which the EU denied.

Excerpts from Gloria Dickie, Protecting 30% of the planet to save nature is not as simple as it sounds, Reuters Dec. 14, 2022

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