A Global Safety Net for Saving Life

Technical Summary of the Global Safety Net

Palmira, Colombia


To conserve enough nature in the right places is urgently required to meet the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate emergency. A recent mapping exercise – the Global Safety Net[1], developed by a consortium of institutions over a two-year period[2], concluded that if 50% of the land ecosystems are conserved this would reverse biodiversity loss, prevent CO2 emissions from land conversion and significantly enhance natural carbon removal from the atmosphere. The most important contribution would come through protecting the world’s remaining intact, wild areas.

As part of Global Deal for Nature, a time-bound, science-based plan launched in 2019[3] with specific targets to save the diversity and abundance of life on Earth including reducing climate change, an in-depth analysis has been undertaken where conservation of the land could have the best effect to save biodiversity, improve the resilience of ecosystems, and secure carbon stocks to stay beyond 1.5oC average rise in global temperature. For conserving biodiversity, it was decided to secure species that are naturally rare, areas particularly rich in species (“hot spots”), landscapes with intact assemblages of large mammals, and the remaining intact wild areas on Earth. The second aim was to secure those ecosystems that store large quantities of carbon, and – thirdly – to ensure that the habitats are connected, which enables better adaptation to climate change and other disturbances.

The analysis shows that 35% added to the15% of already protected land is required to conserve biodiversity, secure carbon storage, and to establish wildlife and climate corridors. By protecting the intact wild areas, 45% of the total need would be met and is by far the most important factor, including conserving carbon. By protecting the biodiversity rich areas, 92% of the carbon storage and drawdown is already covered, underlining the interdependence of carbon and biodiversity and the importance of these lands to achieve the dual goals of biodiversity conservation and climate stabilization. A relatively small percentage of land (4.3%) is required to connect the core areas for biodiversity, with the highest needs in temperate and tropical grasslands, and tropical dry forests, which have been heavily cultivated.

Fifty ecoregions and 20 countries are particularly important. When it comes to the intact wild areas, including the landscapes with intact assemblages of large mammals, Russia, Canada, Brazil, Australia, China and the United States contain almost 75%. Such areas also preserve 36% of the world’s total carbon present in natural habitats.

Indigenous lands overlap extensively (37%) with the Global Safety Net, which underscores the central role that Indigenous Peoples and their land play to preserve biodiversity and regulate Earth’s atmosphere. The potential of restoration is not yet factored in but is seen as important for future iterations of the Global Safety Net, although natural regeneration of ecosystems, especially forests, instead of the proposed “massive tree-planting programs” and restoring nature’s functionality through rewilding should be prioritized. The Global Safety Net would also reduce the future risks of pandemics.

A web-based tool – https://www.globalsafetynet.app – provides a unique opportunity for policy- and decision-makers and practitioners to explore the Global Safety Net at the level of countries, regions and ecoregions for priority setting of future work.

“The Global Safety Net provides us with a new, powerful and practical tool for meeting the challenges of the climate and biodiversity crises. Although the marine environment and wetland/rivers are missing from the analysis, it should be adopted and implemented with the highest priority by governments and other key actors.”says Vance G. Martin, President of the Wild Foundation. 

Says Amy Lewis, Vice President of Policy & Communications: “It provides an important path-way for nature-based solutions to unify the work under the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which should be brought into action as a matter of urgency.” “It’s also rewarding to see that the conservation agenda of the Wild Foundation, anchored in wilderness, rewilding and Nature Needs Half, and our intimate work with Indigenous Peoples over the years, fits with the priorities identified by the Global Safety Net. It will provide a very powerful basis for our Survival Revolution.”

[1] https://www.globalsafetynet.app

[2] RESOLVE, University of Minnesota, Globaia, EarthX, Google, Arizona State University, WWF-Hong Kong, with funding provided by One Earth

[3] https://www.globaldealfornature.org/science/