One Planet Summit: New ambitions to protect biodiversity

The One Planet Summit held in Paris, 11 January, 2021. (Keystone/Ludovic Marin)

Over 30 heads of state and heads of international organisations gathered at the One Planet Summit on Monday to announce new commitments and initiatives aimed at protecting the planet. If like us, your head is spinning from all the announcements, here's a round-up of the key points.

“Our future and that of our planet depends on what we do here and now,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday as he kicked off the high-level meeting held in Paris, where some participants were present and others attended virtually.

The summit aimed to build up momentum ahead of summits COP26 on climate, COP15 on biodiversity and COP15 on desertification, all three due to take place later this year.

Land and sea preservation. A coalition of 50 countries committed to protecting 30 per cent of Earth’s land and seas.

“Only seven per cent of oceans are protected and only 15 per cent of earth territory is protected at a time when we have an accelerated loss of ecosystems,” said Carlos Alvarado, President of Costa Rica, which is spearheading the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People along with France and the UK. He “called upon leaders not to be afraid, to be brave and to do the right thing.”

Prince Albert II of Monaco also launched a regional coalition to protect the Mediterranean Sea and tackle its pollution problem. The initiative aims to protect 30 per cent of sea territory by 2030, for which responsible financing strategies are essential, he said.

Gilles Simeoni, president of the Islands Commission of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of the European Union, also stressed the importance of including non-state actors such as NGOs and researchers. He said:

“Combating the deterioration of biodiversity is not something only for States to do but also for citizens, especially from the Mediterranean surrounding areas.”

Forests were also at the centre of the discussion, with France announcing that it would allocate $14.32bn to the Great Green Wall African-led project to combat desertification in the Sahel region.

In addition, David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group, said that in the next five years the financial institution would allocate $5bn to improve livelihoods and prevent land degradation in the Sahel, Lake Chad and Horn of Africa regions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her support for the Alliance for the preservation of tropical forests, launched in 2019 after a series of wildfires that devastated the Amazon.

Mobilising businesses. The UK’s Prince of Wales announced the launch of a new roadmap called the “Terra Carta”, or Earth Charter, to encourage businesses to move to a more sustainable future. Alongside the blueprint, he also joined forces with three investment management firms including Switzerland’s Lombard Odier to create an alliance to promote investment in “natural capital”, the earth’s stock of natural resources.

One of the main challenges raised during the summit was mobilising financing for biodiversity. UN secretary general Antonio Guterres warned that there was a financial gap of $7.11bn per year until 2030 to meet biodiversity targets.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the UK would commit at least £3 bn to climate change solutions that help protect biodiversity over the next five years.

On Canada’s part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a contribution of $55 million to the UN land degradation neutrality fund “to support sustainable land projects in low- and middle-income countries,” adding that biodiversity financing would be included in future climate contributions.

Stressing the link between nature and health, the European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen said that in the next four years the EU would devote several hundred million euros to research on biodiversity, animals and health. She added that by the end of the year, new legislation to restrict products in the EU market that pose a risk to the environment would see the light of day. She said:

“If we don't urgently act to protect nature, we might be at the beginning of an era of pandemics.”

QU Dongyu, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization, noted that environmental stability was key to prevent future pandemics.

“2021 must be the year to reconcile humanity with nature,” said UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres.