Nature cannot wait. We must act now to save wildlife habitats

Nature cannot wait. We must act now to save wildlife habitats

Costa Rica is celebrating 200 years of independence this year. It is an opportunity to honor our ancestors and to think of our descendants, and we invite the world to celebrate with us. Those who cannot visit in person should do so while protecting Earth’s lands and oceans, the source of all life.

Specifically, governments, businesses, communities and individuals should commit to conserving at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030. Scientists have determined that this “30×30” goal is the minimum level of conservation necessary to avoid catastrophic loss of nature. and to stem climate change.

But 30×30 won’t happen on its own; it will take time, attention and money. Economists estimate that achieving this goal – by keeping the world’s most important unspoiled wilderness areas and restoring critical degraded habitats – would represent less than a third of the amount governments spend on subsidies for activities that destroy nature. It’s heartening that nine major philanthropic organizations recently pledged $ 5 billion to the 30×30 effort, nature’s largest donation in history.

Others must now follow their example. Up to 60 percent of the world’s terrestrial wildlife populations have disappeared since 1970, and nearly a third of the world’s fish stocks are exploited at unsustainable levels. The destruction of natural spaces also releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

Granted, the cost of protecting nature may seem high, especially as countries grapple with the economic fallout from the global pandemic. But that’s less than 1% of global gross domestic product (roughly $ 87 trillion in 2019) and just over a third of the nearly $ 2 trillion in total military spending worldwide in 2020.

Moreover, this sum is a fraction of what economies would lose if critical ecosystems failed. The World Bank recently estimated that the collapse of three ecosystem services – pollination, food supply from marine fisheries and timber from native forests – could reduce annual global GDP by $ 2.7 trillion.

Because we cannot rely solely on private philanthropists to foot the bill, the necessary global investments must come from a combination of enhanced public and private funding. Each country must commit its share, the G7 in particular leading the way with solid funding pledges.

Governments could free up additional resources by phasing out subsidies that harm nature instead of protecting it. For example, countries are currently negotiating at the World Trade Organization to end $ 35 billion in annual fishing subsidies that support large-scale industrial fleets and have depleted global fish stocks.

A substantial portion of the funds we need should go to low-income countries which are home to most of the world’s biodiversity. Costa Rica, for example, makes up only 0.03 percent of the planet’s landmass, but contains around 5 percent of its biodiversity. In addition, significant funds should be spent on protecting the land rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, who are the best stewards of nature and the most profitable.

Nature will reimburse us many times over for the investments we make. The economic benefits of protecting 30 percent of the world’s land and oceans by 2030, including creating jobs in sectors such as forestry and tourism, would likely outweigh the costs by at least five for a.

Costa Rica’s economy is based on nature-friendly activities such as forest conservation, renewable electricity generation, and biodiversity protection. Since the 1980s, the country has halted and then reversed forest loss, while the economy has grown by around 250 percent in real terms. We now have a system of national parks and protected areas that cover over 26 percent of our area.

Winning one of the very first Earthshot Awards will help us replicate our successes on land in the ocean. Already, an ambitious process is underway this year to expand protected areas from less than 3% of our ocean territory to closer to the 30% promised in our nationally determined contribution for 2020 as part of the Paris Agreement on the climate. My goal is to achieve this massive expansion before leaving office.

The momentum towards 30×30 is growing. The High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, led by Costa Rica, France and the UK, has committed more than 70 countries to support this goal. And 30×30 has become a crucial feature of the most recent version of the Global Biodiversity Framework, which is expected to be finalized by 196 countries at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Kunming, China, in 2022.

But actions speak louder than words. Governments, businesses and society as a whole must commit the financial resources necessary to achieve 30×30.

Nature is the ultimate source of all our fresh water, food, clean air, and genetic resources for medicine and industry. It keeps dangerous pathogens under control and carbon in the soil and generates green jobs. It is an irreplaceable source of human creativity and spiritual and mental health.

Humanity is entangled in nature. Because we are able to destroy it, we have a responsibility to protect it. Let us now decide to invest the necessary funds to assume this responsibility before it is too late.

  • Andrea Meza is Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2021.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors of this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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