At least 50 countries committed to protecting 30% of the planet, including land and sea, over the next decade to halt species extinction and address climate change issues, during a global summit aimed at protecting the world’s biodiversity.
About 30 leaders, government officials and heads of international organizations participated in the One Planet Summit, which was being held by videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic. Top U.S. officials were notably absent, as were the leaders of Russia, India and Brazil.
The summit also launched a program called PREZODE which Macron presented as an unprecedented international initiative to prevent the emergence of zoonotic diseases and pandemics, which is already mobilizing over 400 researchers and experts across the world. The move comes as scientists suspect that the coronavirus that first infected people in China last year came from an animal source, probably bats.
The event, organized by France, the United Nations and the World Bank, took place without top U.S. officials, as President-elect Joe Biden, a strong proponent of climate issues, does not take office until Jan. 20. During his campaign, Biden pledged to better protect biodiversity by preserving 30% of American lands and waters by 2030.
A side conference on Monday focused on investment for Africa’s Great Green Wall project, which involves gigantic efforts to stop the Sahara Desert from spreading further south.
Participants welcomed the creation of a so-called accelerator, which is expected to release $14.3 billion over the next five years to finance the program. Launched in 2007, it aims to plant an arc of trees running 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) across Africa — from Senegal along the Atlantic all the way to Djibouti on the Gulf of Aden.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which was launched in 2019 by Costa Rica, France and Britain to set a target of protecting at least 30% of the planet by 2030, has now been joined by 50 countries.
A 2019 U.N. report on biodiversity showed that human activities are putting nature in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming for over 1 million species of plants and animals.
The one-day summit focused on four major topics: protecting terrestrial and marine ecosystems; promoting agroecology, a more sustainable way to grow food; increasing funding to protect biodiversity; and identifying links between deforestation and the health of humans and animals.