Updated Jul 13, 2021

UN to protect third of the world's oceans and land to cut extinction

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has drafted an agreement to eliminate plastic pollution, reduce pesticide use by two-thirds, halve the rate of invasive species introduction, eliminate billions of pounds of harmful environmental subsidies a year and protect at least 30% of the world's oceans and land by 2030.

It has been estimated that each year, governments in large and emerging economies provide £247 bn of potentially harmful agricultural subsidies, and a 2019 report by the Food and Land Use Coalition found that the public provides more than $1m a minute for the overuse of fertiliser, deforestation, expansion of agricultural frontiers and cattle production.

Scientists have warned that humanity is causing the sixth mass extinction on the planet's history, driven by overconsumption of resources and overpopulation.

The draft Paris-style agreement, which follows rounds of scientific and financial negotiations that took place in May and June 2021, aims to help return the planet to its natural state and improve agricultural practices around the world. Alongside those targets, new goals to be achieved by 2050 include:

  • reducing the current rate of extinction by 90%;
  • enhancing the integrity of all ecosystems;
  • valuing nature's contribution to humanity; and
  • providing enough financial resources to achieve these targets.

In the latest set of environmental targets to be negotiated, nature-based solutions, such as restoring peatlands and adopting regenerative agriculture will contribute at least 10 GtCO2e a year to global climate crisis mitigation. Other targets include efforts to restore freshwater and marine habitats, maintain the genetic diversity of wild and domesticated species, increase financial flows to developing countries, improve business disclosures on how the activities damage the environment, as well as respect the rights of indigenous communities in biodiversity decision-making

So far the countries have failed to deliver on previous targets to reduce the destruction of nature over the past few decades, including the targets set out in 2011, also known as the Aichi targets agreed in Japan, which originally aimed to halve the loss of natural habitats and expand nature reserves to 17% of the world's land area by 2020, up from 10% and widening of marine protected zones to 10%, up from a mere 1%.

The final stage of the negotiations has been delayed due to the current pandemic, and it is possible that the summit in Kunming in China will take place in early 2022.