France hosts One Planet summit aimed at protecting global biodiversity

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Protecting the world’s biodiversity was on the agenda Monday for world leaders at the One Planet Summit hosted by France, which was being held by videoconference due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The one-day summit focuses 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.

About 30 leaders, government officials and heads of international organisations were to attend, including UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. China will be represented by Vice Premier Han Zheng.

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The event, organised by France, the UN and the World Bank, is taking place in the absence of top officials from the US, as President-elect Joe Biden, a strong proponent of climate issues, does not take office until January 20. Other notable absences include the leaders of Russia, India and Brazil. 

Organisers hope to merge the fight against climate change and the preservation of biodiversity as experts say the two issues are interconnected and any solutions must be as well.

UK allocates $4 billion for biodiversity protection

“Protecting 30% of the planet will undoubtedly improve the quality of life of our citizens, and help us achieve a fair, decarbonised and resilient society,” said Andrea Meza, minister of environment and energy for Costa Rica, which co-chairs the coalition with France and Britain.

The coalition noted in a statement that humanity’s wellbeing depends on preventing the collapse of the natural systems that provide food, clean water, clean air and a stable climate.

Britain will allocate 3 billion pounds ($4 billion) over five years to projects aimed at protecting and restoring nature and biodiversity, Johnson said on Monday.

“We will not achieve our goals on climate change, sustainable development or preventing pandemics if we fail to take care of the natural world that provides us with the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe,” Johnson said in a statement.

One million species face extinction

So far, efforts to protect and restore nature on a global scale have failed spectacularly. 

The planet is on the cusp of a mass extinction event in which species are disappearing at 100 to 1,000 times the normal “background” rate, most scientists agree.

The UN’s science advisory panel for biodiversity warned in a landmark 2019 report that one million species face extinction, due mostly to habitat loss and over-exploitation. 

Human activity, it concluded, had “severely degraded” three-quarters of ice-free land on the planet.

‘Climate emergency’

The picture on climate change is just as dire.  

Under the 2015 Paris deal, the world’s nations vowed to cap global warming “well below” 2C, and 1.5C if possible.

With just over 1C of warming so far, the world has seen a crescendo of deadly droughts, heatwaves, flood-inducing rainfall, and superstorms made more destructive by rising seas.

The European Union’s climate monitoring service has said 2020 tied 2016 as the hottest year on record.

Guterres warned last month that nations were not doing enough to avoid devastating temperature rises and urged world leaders to declare a “climate emergency” in their countries. 

The UN’s next major climate summit, COP26, was also postponed because of the pandemic and is now due to be held in November.  

Last October, the UN’s biodiversity panel warned future pandemics will happen more often, kill more people and wreak even worse damage to the global economy than Covid-19 without a fundamental shift in how humans treat nature. 

The summit will also launch the High Ambition Coalition — a group of 45 countries led by Costa Rica, France and Britain — which aims to secure a global agreement to protect at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030.  

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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