France, UK seek ASEAN support to protect 30% of biodiversity by 2030

France and the United Kingdom are seeking the support of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in calling for more ambitious international action to protect terrestrial and marine habitats all over the world in response to the unprecedented rate of biodiversity loss facing the planet.

30x30 Target virtual roundtable forum last Sept. 9. (Embassy of France in the Philippines)

The clarion call was made during a virtual roundtable entitled “Better Understanding of the 30x30 Target (Protected and Conserved Area Management) jointly organized by the Embassy of France to the Philippines and Micronesia, the British Embassy in Manila, and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity on Sept. 9.

Speakers from the various governments and civil society groups underscored the urgency of protecting at least 30 percent of the Earth’s lands and at least 30 percent of the global ocean by 2030, known as the 30x30 target, aimed at slowing down the loss of habitats which threatens the existence of at least 1 million plant and animal species all over the world.

“The science-based 30x30 target is an ambitious but achievable goal. While each country is encouraged to set and work towards their own targets, the success of this initiative lies in reaching the common objective of 30 percent of protected lands and oceans by 2030 at the global level, where each country makes a contribution to the best of their resources and capacities,” French Ambassador to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz said during the virtual event.

Evidence cited by experts, including a 2020 report drafted by over 100 economists and scientists, showed how the economic benefits of protecting at least 30 percent of terrestrial and marine habitats would outweigh the financial costs, and could therefore provide benefits for both biodiversity conservation and people.

British Ambassador-designate to the Philippines Laure Beaufils cited the importance of the scientific evidence showing that protecting at least 30 percent of the ocean will help to reverse adverse ecological impacts, preserve fish populations and increase resilience to climate change.

“It was also an important opportunity for ASEAN countries to share their experiences and consider committing to protect 30 percent of the ocean by 2030 through the Global Ocean Alliance,” she said.

Beaufils said the UK, as President of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), believes “ambitious, bold and real-world commitments and actions are needed now on climate change, and nature should be at the heart of them”.

Maldives Minister of State for Environment Dr. Abdulla Naseer and EPCU Coordinator of the Republic of Palau’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and the Environment Gwendalyn Sisior shared their respective countries’ best practices in biodiversity conservation and marine protection, while Dr. Madhu Rao, Senior Advisor at the Wildlife Conservation Society, presented the benefits that the 30x30 target can bring to the ASEAN region.

ASEAN member countries - home to among the world’s richest and yet most threatened biodiversity hotspots – have been encouraged to join nearly 90 countries that have already indicated their support for a global 30x30 target through the Global Ocean Alliance and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature & People.

The ASEAN is comprised of 10 member countries, namely the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Currently, France, the UK, and Costa Rica are leading the call for a global 30x30 target to be included within the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework that will be concluded at the upcoming 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15).

For her part, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Executive Director Theresa Mundita Lim said concerted action from all governments and across all sectors in society is essential in achieving a globally agreed ambitious and science-based 30x30 Target, particularly in ensuring that benefits derived from ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as nature’s contribution to people, are sustained, especially for countries that are most vulnerable.

“Protected areas and other effective area-based management measures can be effective tools to conserve and enhance both the terrestrial and marine biodiversity that underpins our resilience and survival,” she said.