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World leaders urge more ambition on biodiversity protection at One Planet Summit

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a dramatic reminder of the importance of nature for our daily lives and economies. Biodiversity represents the natural capital of the world, yet exploitation, pollution and climate change are bringing irreversible damage to ecosystems.

Heads of State and government, leaders of international organisations, financial institutions, companies and NGOs came together at the One Planet Summit to discuss how to reverse this negative trend in the coming decade and rethink our relationship with nature.

The Summit was organised by France, in cooperation with the United Nations and the World Bank focusing on the complex challenge of biodiversity preservation, including the protection of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the promotion of agroecology, the mobilisation of funding for biodiversity and the link between deforestation, species and human health.

Head of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen underlined that the EU is ready to lead the way by action and ambition at home and hopes that others will follow. The Commission has just announced the launch of an online public consultation on the development of legally binding EU nature restoration targets and to prepare an impact assessment supporting the development of these targets.

At the One Planet Summit, the President of the Commission stated that the EU will invest several hundred million euros over the next four years for research: on biodiversity, animal health, emerging diseases and much more.

She underlined that the Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies are central pillars of the European Green Deal setting out the EU’s ambitions to protect 30 per cent of land and sea areas, in Europe and around the world.

“The new, greener Common Agricultural Policy will help us protect livelihoods and food security – while we protect our nature and our climate,” added Von der Leyen.

Summit co-host, French President Emmanuel Macron said that the current crisis has made all the more obvious that all of our vulnerabilities are inextricably linked.

“Pressure on nature exerted by human activities is increasing inequalities and threatening our health and our security and that’s why we have to transform our development model,” he pointed out.

Macron announced during the Summit 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 per cent of the planet by 2030, has now been joined by 50 countries.

Other leaders participating at the Summit were German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng. However, top US officials were absent, as President-elect Joe Biden, who’s expected to accelerate American commitment on climate issues and rejoin the Paris Agreement, will not take office until 20 January. Representatives of major economies such as Russia, India and Brazil were also absent.

Approximately half of the world’s GDP, 40 trillion euros, depends on nature. The cost of inaction is high as the loss of biodiversity threatens the foundations of our economy. According to estimations of OECD, the world lost an estimated 3.5-18.5 trillion euros per year in ecosystem services from 1997 to 2011 owing to land-cover change, and an estimated 5.5-10.5 trillion euros per year from land degradation.

World leaders will have another chance to show renewed commitments on biodiversity protection in a few months in China, at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) UN conference on biodiversity.

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