By Megan Rowling
BARCELONA, Jan 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — A global coalition to protect at least 30% of the planet's land and ocean by 2030 has swelled its ranks to about 50 countries, as governments said at a summit hosted by France on Monday that biodiversity loss and climate change should be tackled jointly.
First launched in 2020, the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People added more than 20 nations, including Japan, Germany, Kenya, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Ecuador.
Its member countries combined are home to an estimated 30% of animal and plant species on land and a quarter of carbon stores in biomass and soil, the coalition said.
Their boundaries also contain 28% of ocean areas that are most important to preserve global marine biodiversity, and more than a third of carbon stocks in the Earth's seas.
The coalition is aiming to ensure that a new global framework to protect the Earth's natural systems, plants, and animals — due to be finalised and adopted at a UN summit in China in May — includes the "30x30" goal.
"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 well-being depends on preventing the collapse of the natural systems that provide food, clean water, clean air, and a stable climate.
A growing body of scientific research has shown that half of the planet must be kept in a natural state to address the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, with an interim goal of a minimum of 30% protection by 2030, it added.
Today only an estimated 15% of the world's land and 7% of the ocean have some degree of protection, it noted.
"We know there is no pathway to tackling climate change that does not involve a massive increase in our efforts to protect and restore nature," Britain's International Marine Minister Zac Goldsmith said in the statement.
The coalition said looking after forests, oceans, and other ecosystems that are vital habitats for threatened plants and animals could also help drive economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The benefits of protecting 30% of the planet are estimated to outweigh the costs by a ratio of at least five to one, said a 2020 report by 100 economists and scientists.
A September study by consultancy McKinsey & Company also found that protecting 30% of the planet's land and ocean could create up to 650,000 jobs and support about 30 million jobs in eco-tourism and sustainable fishing, it added.
The High Ambition Coalition said it had created a task force to promote the expertise of Indigenous people and local communities in the UN biodiversity negotiations.
As recognised protectors of the world's most biodiverse sites, they should be partners in designing and managing expanded conservation areas under a new agreement, it said.
Speaking at the One Planet Summit, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada said humanity must act now to preserve the planet for future generations.
"Today our responsibility as leaders is not only for our citizens and our generation; our responsibility... resides with those who are going to be born," he said by video link.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org/climate)