Nations must commit to protect half of the Earth to avoid massive biodiversity loss and the worst effects of dangerous climate change, according to a new scientific paper entitled “A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding Principles, Milestones, and Targets” published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest scientific society.
Based on the paper, a major petition is being launched by One Earth, a new initiative of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and leading nongovernmental organizations, which asks the public to support the most comprehensive conservation targets yet to halt the destruction of natural habitats and the loss of animal and plant species.
Approximately half of Earth’s terrestrial surface is currently in a natural condition and capable of supporting functioning ecosystems. A new climate model published by Springer Nature in early 2019, Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals (1), shows that we can only meet the target of remaining below 1.5°C in average global temperature rise by ending the conversion of forests and other natural lands by 2030, effectively placing half of the Earth’s lands under permanent protection.
This major conservation effort would need to be coupled with forest restoration and other natural climate solutions to draw down carbon from the atmosphere (aka “negative emissions”) alongside a rapid transition to carbon-free energy, like wind and solar power, by 2050.
The research builds upon the leading conservation priority setting efforts and lays out a time-bound, science-driven plan to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth by protecting natural ecosystems that play a critical function in storing carbon, producing freshwater, and providing food security – the enabling conditions required for humanity to thrive.
The GDN targets 30% of Earth to be formally protected no later than 2030 under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, with approximately 20% in additional lands designated as Climate Stabilization Areas (CSAs), to help the world stay below the 1.5°C threshold and preserve biodiversity (2).
A landmark paper in 2017 (3) by many of the same scientists originally called for a “Global Deal for Nature,” and this new paper provides the rationale for protecting half the Earth, linked to the UN Climate Convention, and adds an analysis of overlapping conservation recommendations and a clear pathway to achieving the ambitious goal (4) with a strong focus on the rights of indigenous communities to steward their own lands for effective conservation.
The GDN aims to highlight a new era of ambitious conservation in which international institutions, governments and people are working together to save nature —
from supporting communal conservancies in Namibia’s Damaraland refuge for lions and elephants, to indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon that conserve key ecosystems and safe havens for jaguars and rare primates, to the last home of the orangutan in indigenous reserves in Borneo, as well as incentives for governments to legally protect intact boreal forests across Canada, Russia, and northern Europe home to so many breeding songbird populations.
Eric Dinerstein, lead author of “A Global Deal for Nature: Guiding Principles, Milestones, and Targets” and Director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife program at RESOLVE, said:
“Pairing a new ‘Global Deal for Nature’ with the Paris Climate Agreement would give us the best chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change, of conserving threatened species, and of ensuring the health of the ecosystems that are so essential for sustaining life on Earth.”
“Nature provides the ecological building blocks of human civilization – from the mangroves and coral reefs that harbor much of the world’s tropical fisheries, to the trees that purify our air and water, to the insects, birds, and bats that pollinate our crops. Simply put, we need wild nature in every one of the Earth’s 846 terrestrial ecoregions, conserved in protected areas representing the complex web of nature upon which we all depend.”
Karl Burkart, Director of Media, Science and Technology at the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, said:
“The math is now clear. We must act with boldness and vision if we are to prevent the worsening impacts of climate change – from sea level rise and extreme flooding to prolonged drought, cataclysmic fire events, and collapsing food systems. Ultimately, we will stay below the 1.5C threshold because we must. And the Global Deal for Nature is a big part of how we do it.”
Thomas Lovejoy, co-author and editor of the book Climate Change and Biodiversity, said:
“The science is telling us that if we go above 1.5˚C we could experience an “extinction tsunami” resulting in the collapse of many key ecosystems. We cannot solve the biodiversity crisis without solving the climate crisis, and we cannot solve the climate crisis without solving the biodiversity crisis. The two are interlinked.”
Launched in 2017 by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the One Earth Initiative seeks to create a vision for the world that is possible in 2050 in which humanity and nature can coexist and thrive. This vision is based on three pillars of action – 100% renewable energy, protection and restoration of 50% of the world’s lands and oceans, and a transition to regenerative agriculture. After a two-year collaboration with 17 leading scientists, the One Earth Climate Model was released by the prestigious scientific publisher Springer Nature. The state-of-the-art climate model offers a roadmap for meeting — and surpassing — the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement, showing that we can solve the global climate crisis with currently available technologies and natural climate solutions.
RESOLVE forges sustainable solutions to critical social, health, and environmental challenges by creating innovative partnerships where they are least likely and most needed. Comprised of a team of collaborative leaders, mediators, policy experts, strategists, scientists, and facilitators. RESOLVE brings a unique combination of expertise to their work: mediation and process design; solutions-focused strategies and programs; and a capacity to create and launch self-sustaining social enterprise. As an independent, nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization (NGO), it works across sectors, borders, and political lines to engage with business, government, foundation, NGO, and community leaders.