France, UK seek Asean’s support to protect lands, oceans by 2030

RESPONDING to the planet’s unprecedented rate of biodiversity loss, France and the United Kingdom are seeking the support of the Asean in calling for more ambitious international action to protect terrestrial and marine habitats all over the world.

In the “Better Understanding of the 30×30 Target (Protected and Conserved Area Management)” virtual roundtable on September 9 organized jointly by the British Embassy-Manila, the Embassy of France to the Philippines and to Micronesia, as well as the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), speakers from government and civil-society organizations underscored the urgency of protecting at least 30 percent of the Earth’s lands, and at least 30 percent of the global ocean by 2030—known as the “30×30 target”—in an effort to abate the loss of habitats which threatens the existence of at least 1 million plant and animal species all over the world.

During the virtual event, Maldives Minister of State for Environment Dr. Abdulla Naseer, as well as Coordinator of the Republic of Palau’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Environment Gwendalyn Sisior, shared their respective countries’ best practices in biodiversity conservation and marine protection. Later, Dr. Madhu Rao, senior advisor at the Wildlife Conservation Society, presented the benefits of the 30×30 target to the region.

Experts cited evidence—including a 2020 report drafted by more than 100 economists and scientists—which highlighted ways the economic benefits of protecting at least 30 percent of terrestrial and marine habitats would outweigh the financial costs, and could therefore provide benefits for both biodiversity conservation and people.

‘Ambitious, achievable’

FRANCE, UK, and Costa Rica are leading the call for a global 30×30 target to be included within the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that will be concluded at the upcoming 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15). To raise global support for this target, the UK leads the Global Ocean Alliance of countries in support of a target to protect at least 30 percent of the global oceans by 2030. The UK is also ocean cochair, alongside France and Costa Rica, of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which champions the 30×30 target for both land and ocean.

“The science-based 30×30 target is an ambitious, but achievable goal,” said Ambassador of France to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz. “While each country is encouraged to set and work toward their own targets, the success of this initiative lies in reaching the common objective of 30 percent of protected lands and oceans by 2030 at the global level, as each country makes a contribution to the best of their resources and capacities.”

Asean member-countries—home to among the world’s richest and yet, most threatened biodiversity hotspots—have been encouraged to join nearly 90 countries that have already indicated their support for a global 30×30 target via the Global Ocean Alliance and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature & People.

Ambassador-designate of the UK to the Philippines Laure Beaufils described the virtual roundtable as an important milestone to highlight the scientific evidence showing that protecting at least 30 percent of the ocean will help to reverse adverse ecological impacts, preserve fish populations, and increase resilience to climate change: “It was also an important opportunity for Asean countries to share their experiences, and consider committing to protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030 through the Global Ocean Alliance.”

Beaufils added, “The UK, as president of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, believes ambitious, bold and real-world commitments and actions are needed now on climate change…Nature should be at [their core].”

Land, marine-area protection

“PROTECTED areas and other effective area-based management measures can be effective tools to conserve and enhance both…terrestrial and marine biodiversity that underpins our resilience and survival,” ACB Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said during the roundtable discussion.

Moreover, Lim underscored that concerted action from all governments and across all sectors in society are essential in achieving a globally agreed ambitious and science-based 30×30 target—particularly in ensuring that benefits derived from ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as nature’s contribution to people, are sustained, especially for countries that are most vulnerable.

“Subregional and regional cooperation, …international partnerships and cross-sectoral cooperation, [as well as] adequate financing, however, will be necessary for the effective implementation and eventually, toward the achievement of the global goal for area-based protection,” the ACB official furthered. “This was the clear message that resonated in the panel discussion.”

Citing validated figures from the World Database on Protected Areas and the Asean member-states through the ACB as of August 2021, ACB Director of Programme Development and Implementation Clarissa Arida said they have collectively established the protection for 15.56 percent of terrestrial protected and conserved areas, as well as 3.88 percent of coastal and marine areas. Some countries have actually exceeded the 2020 targets for percent coverage.

“Protected and conserved areas remain to be the foundation of safeguarding biodiversity and helping maintain ecological balance,” Arida averred. “As…Asean’s population of 661 million people are highly dependent on rich and healthy natural ecosystems, protected and conserved areas are important in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

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